Ribeiro, Brouwer, the playoff race, the trade deadline and more in this week's edition of Capital Ideas - debate, discuss, enjoy!
- After a rough start to the season, how nice is it to look at the team stats and see a few more "top-six forwards" in the top six scorers? Mike Ribeiro has been up there all season, as has Troy Brouwer, but the recent appearance of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom among the team's leaders is just another representation of just how good those two have been of late. As it should be, naturally, but nice to see nonetheless.
- Ribeiro recently told the press that he was looking for a long-term deal to provide stability for his family and himself. Not surprising, considering this is likely the 33-year-old's last big contract, and it'll be interesting to see how this situation plays out. Rumor has it that Ribeiro turned down the Caps' first offer of a three-year, $14 million deal (looking for closer to 5-6 years), but it sounds like he wants to stay and the Caps are at least somewhat interested in keeping him. Whether the two will meet in the middle - or how close they are by next week - will determine whether George McPhee decides to take a gamble and hang on to Ribeiro past the deadline or not.
- There's no question that Ribeiro is the best forward on the rental market this year, especially with Jarome Iginla heading to the (*sigh*) Penguins late last night. If 34-year-old Brenden Morrow, with his 11 points, yields a top prospect and pick in return (albeit with a pick going the other way, as well), what kind of return could someone like Ribeiro bring?
- All that said, it's getting very hard to fathom a situation in which the Caps become sellers at the trade deadline. With 15 games remaining, including some huge ones in the next week or so, the Caps find themselves just four points out of the playoffs and will have at least a game or two in hand on teams around them once they get back on the ice on Saturday. If they see themselves as having a legitimate shot at the playoffs (and at this point they should), why would they trade away a guy who has been their best player all year?
- The big news out of Raleigh a few days ago was the contract extension signed by Alexander Semin with the Hurricanes, a five-year, $35 million deal that will keep him at his current salary/cap hit through his 34th birthday. Is he worth it? ...no comment.
- The Caps currently find themselves in the middle of a four-day layoff, matching their longest of the season and a rarity in this lockout-shortened campaign. Hard to say whether this will help or hurt the team, to be honest - on the one hand, it's a good time to rest up after a long (but productive) road trip and a chance for some injured guys to get back to 100%; on the other, the team was playing very well heading into the break but now has four days to dwell on the one bad game that immediately preceded it. With some huge games against Buffalo, Carolina and the Islanders coming up, they'll need to shake off the rust quickly and get going on another winning streak.
- How huge was that road trip, by the way? Winning three of four, including two against the Jets and one against a Rangers team they're trying to catch, all on the road was probably the last thing any of us saw happening when the schedule first came out - but it's exactly what they needed to do. Drop even one of those and they're six points out. Drop the Rangers game and they're eight points out. Huge, huge outcome for this team.
- On the flip side, losing Tuesday night to the Islanders at home after rattling off three straight wins away from Verizon was a huge blow - a perfect example of just how tight things are right now and how quickly the standings can change. A win would have propelled them into ninth (thanks to a Carolina loss on the same night) and kept them just two points away from the Rangers and 8th place. Instead, the Islanders were able to jump into 10th and push the Caps down a rung, a Rangers win puts the Caps four points out of 8th and because it was Winnipeg beating the Canes, the Caps are now seven points out of the division lead. One step forward, two steps back...
- We've already mentioned how big the next four games are, but it bears repeating. Starting Saturday the Caps face Buffalo, Philadelphia, Carolina and the Islanders - all winnable games, all against teams within 3 points of the Caps. It seems like every other day we're saying this game or that stretch is the most pivotal, that the season hinges on this game or that stretch... and it continues to be true. The perils of being a fringe team and digging such a deep hole so early, to be sure.
- Lost in the continued production of Ribeiro and the renaissance of Ovechkin and Backstrom is a quietly excellent season by Troy Brouwer. Brouwer currently has 12 goals on the season, which is 10 shy of his career high; he has 10 assists and 22 pts, 9 and 18 shy of his career highs respectively. And he's done all that in just 31 games, 47-48 games fewer than he had to establish those highwater marks. He's also producing consistently - only once this season has he gone more than three games without a goal, a 6-game stretch between March 7-17 which he followed up with three goals in four games.
- The situation with Jeff Schultz is pretty intriguing. Or frustrating. Schultz is currently signed to a deal that will pay him $2.75 million/year through the 2013-14 season, a deal that maybe didn't seem so bad at the time (compared to some of the exorbitant going rates for defensemen) now looking like a bit of an albatross. It's clear that Schultz doesn't fit into Oates' plans, and he's seen his spot go to Hershey call-up after Hershey call-up. Now with John Erskine and Tomas Kundratek getting healthier (as Chuck Gormley notes), roster moves need to be made to clear up space - would the Caps place him on waivers or is there someone out there willing to make a trade for the big blueliner?
- The Caps have lost 107 man-games to injury this year, 5th-highest in the League behind the Red Wings, Senators, Flyers and Panthers. It's not surprising that all of those teams have struggled to stay in playoff position or even get there, and teams like the Senators were able to build up a bit of a points cushion before losing some of their key guys (although they've played fairly well since, too). Also not surprising that teams like Pittsburgh, Boston, LA and Anaheim are among the League's best right now. It's not just talent that keeps a team high in the standings; health and a little bit of luck, particularly this year, are key.
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 1: Ovechkin shares the joys of being a hockey player...
It's hockey ))) hahaha twitter.com/ovi8/status/31…— Alex Ovechkin (@ovi8) March 28, 2013
- "Overheard" on Twitter, Part 2: ...and the joy of stitches. Sexy.
After hockey!! 22 stitches hahaha ))) twitter.com/ovi8/status/31…— Alex Ovechkin (@ovi8) March 28, 2013