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Japers' Rink Mailbag: What to do with Tom Wilson and Predicting a GM Hire Date

Two questions about Tom Wilson, two answers (it's complicated), and using some serious statistical analysis to determine when the Caps will announce their new GM.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We have a couple of related questions dropped into the mailbag...

We have a couple of answers, too.  At the moment, the Washington Capitals have, if not an embarrassment of riches, then at least depth at right wing that they do not have elsewhere on the roster.  Their depth chart looks like this:

  • Alex Ovechkin
  • Troy Brouwer
  • Joel Ward
  • Tom Wilson

To that one might add Eric Fehr, for whom right wing is his natural position and to which he might return under a new head coach.

That is a lot of right wings, and if the Caps are to do any trading it would seem that undoing this traffic jam is where they might start in assembling a trade package.  It is not as simple as "eeny-meeny-miney-moe," though.   The key to any moves the Caps might make might be in how they evaluate the rookie season of Tom Wilson.  That is not an easy task.  There were 56 rookie forwards who played in at least 20 games this season.  Wilson finished 52nd among that group in average ice time and was, for the most part, stapled to the fourth line.

There were not a lot of opportunities to see if Wilson could blossom with more productive performers on offense, and that is the part of his game that would have to emerge if one of the other right wings is moved.  This is where the two questions intersect.  The Caps almost have to move a right wing to give Wilson an opening, but slotting him on the second or third line qualifies as a leap of faith, given his lack of work in the role he will be asked to play.  He could play himself off the second or third line if he is slow to fill the role, and in the worst case he could play himself off the parent roster to Hershey.

You might think at this point that in such a worst case scenario - say, the Caps trade Brouwer or Ward, and Wilson is skating for the Bears in November - the Caps would have gone from an embarrassment of riches to a hole at right wing.  This is where Eric Fehr enters the picture.  In that worst case scenario the Caps would still have a lineup of Ovechkin, either Ward or Brouwer, Fehr, and a fourth liner yet to be named, who might be picked up sometime between July 1st and the start of the season.

I think it likely that the Caps will do two things.  First, one of Troy Brouwer or Joel Ward will be moved to create an opening for Wilson.  Second, unless he has an abysmal training camp, Wilson will be given an opportunity to play himself off the roster.  He will not be assumed off the roster by virtue of his relative inexperience or demoted because an opening is lacking.  After that it will be up to Wilson as the Caps cross their collective fingers that it works out.  But it will not be as if it is entirely a leap into the dark. Cheerless, do you have an opinion on this?

Yeah...what's the rush, cuz? Ward has one more year on his deal, Brouwer has two. Both are coming off career years, even if you think that might have been a product of Adam Oates.  You might have another opening on right wing, too.  Alex Ovechkin is at the top of your depth chart on the right side, but he only played a season and a half worth of games there.  The next guy behind the Caps' bench might just move him back to left wing.  That might not be a bad thing unless you think the output from the left side was good last season.  Even if you have Evgeny Kuznetsov over there for the full year you didn't have him for last year, you've got two solid performers, at least on paper.  And that creates some options for how you deal with Marcus Johansson, who didn't look like a first-line scoring winger last year.

And there is another "worst case" scenario to think about. If Mikhail Grabovski leaves, are you going to leave yourself with the possibility of Nicklas Backstrom and Jay Beagle as your only returning full-time centers because you are moving probie center Eric Fehr back to right wing? Are you going to stick Kuznetsov or Johansson in your center slots and create holes elsewhere? Really? Just to create an opening for Tom Wilson? The kid just turned 20, and he still has two years on his entry deal. What is the harm in easing him into a new role with more responsibility instead of throwing him into the deep end of the pool when he's barely learned to dog paddle? And, to give him that role you might have effects up and down the roster if it doesn't work the way you laid it out.  You could even test drive him in Hershey in a bigger role over more games to see how he handles the responsibility.

Next up, one that we'll let J.P. answer:

Statistical prediction, eh? No problem!

First, let's look at the list of current NHL general managers. Based on their hire dates, the average GM gets hired 150 days into the year, or May 30. But we can toss out in-season hires, because they're a different animal than what we've got here, and that leaves us with... 145 days. May 25. Take it to the bank. (Of course, a couple more Wizards wins and all bets might be off.)

Do I get my own blog at The Post now?


Agree? Disagree?

If you've got something on your mind, go ahead and ask it here on the site, on Twitter (use #JapersMailbag), via email or on Facebook, and we'll try to get to them. As always, there are always a lot of question marks around this team... so let's talk about as many of them as we can.