From Alzner to Wideman, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2010-11 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2011-12. Next up, Mike Knuble.
#22 / Right Wing / Washington Capitals
Jul 04, 1972
$2,000,000 cap hit in 2011-12; UFA summer 2012
'09-'10 Rink Wrap: 8.00
Key Stat: With just six goals in the regular season, Knuble posted his lowest single-season goal total since his rookie season back in '96-'97, when he appeared in only nine games.
Interesting Stat: Half of Knuble's goals on the season - and a third of his points - came in the final month of the regular season.
The Good: Like the team, Knuble started the season red hot, impressing many right from the start of training camp and scoring seven points in the first eleven games (including his first goal of the season against his favorite nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins). He would eventually cool off - and would see less and less of his former top line buddies - but still ended the season with 18 points on the year, 13 of which came in Caps wins (as did all 3 of his playoff points).
He finished the season almost as strong as he started, too, with three goals and six points in the final month of the regular season and his three points in the three April games tied for second-most on the team over that span. And while he wasn't lighting the postseason on fire, he did assist on one of the bigger goals in recent history with his apple on the series-clinching overtime winner against Boston.
His offensive production may have been on the decline, but Knuble never lacked for heart or the little things that can win games. For example, despite being almost forty, Knuble still finished with the tenth-most blocked shots and eighth-most hits on the team. He also continued to play a big role on the penalty kill, averaging a little over a minute a night 4-on-5 while being on for the fourth-lowest power play goals-against in the regular season among forwards. That defensive ability continued into the postseason, as Knuble was on for the lowest GA ON/60 on the team in the playoffs, was one of only three players on the roster (and the only one to appear in at least 5 playoff games) to be on for only one goal-against, and was a plus or even in all eleven playoff games in which he appeared.
But of course any discussion of Knuble's season has to mention the huge milestone he would hit on December 20 against the Nashville Predators, when he would become the 269th player in NHL history to play in at least 1000 games. A good, long career - we salute you, Sir Knubs.
The Bad: Despite an impressive start and a decent finish to the year, there's no question that from an offensive standpoint, Knuble's season was incredibly disappointing - especially when compared with what fans have grown accustomed to seeing over the course of his career (let alone the past two years here in DC). He may have blown everyone away in training camp, but he also seemed to have lost a step when it came to the actual games and found himself bounced off the first line for the majority of the season... which in turn contributed to his offensive output declining.
For the first time in nine seasons, Knuble failed to crack the 20-goal mark, a run that had put him in an exclusive club that included stars like Jarome Iginla, Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin St. Louis. And it wasn't just that he barely missed it; for just the fifth time in his career (and the first time since 2001-02), he didn't even crack double digits in goals and posted his third-lowest point total. In fact, from November 5 to March 11 - sandwiched in between putting up seven points in the season's first eleven games, and six points in the last twelve - he scored exactly five points (and just one goal) in 47 games. His possession numbers were atrocious (take a quick gander at the only teammates ahead of whom he finished), he couldn't draw penalties, and his power-play time was cut in half to just 1:08 per game (which wasn't necessarily his fault, of course, but did result in his first power-play-goal-less season in a decade... very un-Knublian).
The Vote: Rate Knuble below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: After taking a significant step back in his production this year, do you think Knuble's lack of production was a result of not being utilized the right way, of simply losing a step or two, or a combination of both? If he were to return next year, where do you see him fitting in the lineup - is he still a top-line passenger, or is he now a better fit for third- and fourth-line duty? Should he re-sign here, what type of contract would you be comfortable giving him? And finally, if Knuble takes one more tour of duty with the Caps, what will it take for him to earn a "10" in 2012-13?