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Japers' Rink Mailbag: Derek Roy, Coach vs. GM and Waivers

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A potential 3C solution, waivers, the power-play, lipstick on a pig and much more in this week's edition of "you ask, we answer."

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It's just about go time, but before that... let's 'Bag:

We've talked about Barry Trotz's apparent desire to have a "shutdown" third line in the past, and it's hard to see Derek Roy being in the middle of that. But whether he's here as insurance for Nicklas Backstrom's injury or a fourth-line center or a wing somewhere, Roy is likely to need some sheltering to be effective. Can Trotz shelter a line with Roy on it while also potentially protecting lines centered by Evgeny Kuznetsov and possibly Andre Burakovsky and giving Alex Ovechkin enough offensive-zone opportunties? Someone's gotta take the tough assignments... so I'm leaning towards Roy as Backstrom insurance, but wouldn't dismiss his chances of making the club regardless.

No, that would be John Carlson (who led the defense in power-play minutes in the playoffs last year, even with Mike Green on the roster). More on Carlson and the power-play here.

They're all allowed to play there. But per war-on-ice, the only guy on your list that would need to pass through waivers to do so is Stanislav Galiev (though I'd add Philipp Grubauer, Chris Brown and Justin Peters to the list of non-waiver-exempt notables). That said, it's hard for me to see any of Kuznetsov, Burakovsky or Grubauer not making and staying with the Caps.

Shots and goals went in the Caps' favor with Michael Latta on the ice last season, and he had the best goals-against rate at fives of the team's 13 qualifying forwards (for more on those stats, check out his Rink Wrap). Granted, he was mostly playing against opponents' weakest players, but if Latta can continue to develop the defensive side of his game - and especially if he can become a reliable penalty killer - he can be a contributor to this team. But the reality is that he's on the fringe right now, and needs to bring something to the table other than his pugilistic talents. (And rest assured that he knows it.)

Washington (figure I've got about a 50/50 chance on this one). But Manhattan's always a decent bet, and Tampa and St. Louis are my longshots.

Injuries, an improved Metro Division, a leaky penalty kill, a predictable power play that finally gets "solved," and bad puck luck. It could happen.

Oates.

Speaking of coaching, our next question is a bit of a thought exercise that Rob and I were discussing, so let's just consider this an abbreviated (and largely unedited) Two Dudes:

Do you and your staff at the Rink think a GM makes a good coach or does the coach make the GM look good.. I know it comes down to the players on the ice.. But here is what I’m thinking.

McPhee for years tried to build this team with what he thought were good players… I know he left our defense and 2nd line center position go untouched for too long.. However his drafting (got better) and some FA and trades were decent later on in his tenure.. Never mind Cassidy and Hanlon.. Caps were in rebuild mold anyway.. Although you could say Cassidy had a decent lineup and blew it.

However.. Under BB Caps were great in the regular season and we all know the playoff results.. But was this a case of the coach making what he had on the ice, Did it make McPhee look like a good GM or was this McPhee making Bruce good due to the players he brought in?

Current state of the team now. It seems both Trotz and MacLellan are on the same page and the Caps had a good year and a decent playoff run.. Do you think this was Trotz’s coaching, Or was it b/c Mac went and shored up our D so that Trotz could coach the way he wanted too.. Or both.. And now Mac went and got two top 6 players and this now gives Trotz more to play with.

Maybe it’s a stupid question...

- DB

To start off with, DB, there are no stupid questions - only stupid people. That said, here's where Rob and I came out on this question:

JP: I think it's a bit of both, but if you asked me whether I wanted a great GM or a great coach, give me the GM - even the best chef can only do so much with crappy ingredients, but a mediocre cook can do more with the best components (plus, if he takes quality products and it still tastes like crap, it's usually easier to get rid of the chef than to go shopping again... which is where the metaphor breaks down).

Rob: At the same time, the two best ingredients George McPhee had basically fell into his lap, and Bruce Boudreau made him look much better by getting the rest of those ingredients to come together to form a dish that at least seemed appetizing, even if it was made out of a large dose of spam.

JP: Right, that's what I'm saying - even a great coach like Bruce could only mask the roster flaws so much and was exposed when the shit got real. Give me a decent coach with last year's Blackhawks roster over Babcock with Toronto's this year every time.

Rob: Yeah, but would the GM make the coach look good in the CHI example? Babcock might make Shanny look better. BB definitely made GMGM look better (and Oates made him much worse). CHI is loaded, and they still almost lost a couple/few series.

JP: Dunno. Who gets a crappy roster competitive quicker and longer - Quenneville with a crappy GM or Stan Bowman with a crappy coach?

Rob: Bowman, because a good GM isn't leaving a disaster coach in for much longer (but that's cheating).

I'm with you, talent makes it work more than the coach. A great coach can make a mediocre roster competitive (Lemaire in MIN), but there's a hump you can't get over without talent. When was the last time a team competed for a cup without a really, really strong roster?

JP: Devils against the Kings, maybe? How good were the Rangers against the Kings? Common thread, I guess, is a good goalie might be able to put even more lipstick on a pig than a coach or a GM... but that's awfully hard to rely on. (Also, Brodeur wasn't great still, but they had a good system, so I guess that's the coach.)

Rob: And Brodeur was hot at the right time. But that Devils team is as close as you'll get to a mediocre contender, and they still had Kovalchuk and Parise. Rangers were really good in that playoff run, but again, Lundqvist. So the goalie is the fairy dust that can make everyone look good, I suppose.

JP: Or bad. Great roster + great coach + goalie who gets cold at the wrong time = recipe for instafail. So I think the answer here might be that goalies can swing things further from "true talent" than GM or coach at times, and coaches can do quite a bit to make a bad roster look good (or a good roster look bad), but at the end of the day, to truly contend it's about the roster that the GM puts together - more great rosters with mediocre coaches have won than great coaches with mediocre rosters. So a GM can make a coach look good to a greater extent than vice versa. Agreed?

Rob: Agreed.

I haven't had tickets for a number of years. What do you guys think?

How many picks did the Caps have to trade to move up to draft you?

Soon. Hang in there - we've almost made it.

***

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.