Browsing all articles tagged with Brooks Laich

George McPhee Owns the NHL: Washington Capitals 2011 Offseason

George McPhee has sent a message to the NHL and to Caps fans – the time to win is now.

It’s been an exciting offseason for the Capitals. After another playoff disappointment, a lot of fans were looking for the team to make major changes. Most were hoping the changes would start with head coach Bruce Boudreau. I was not of those fans. I’m glad to see coach Boudreau get another year. But I also know this is his last shot to take this team deep into the playoffs.

General Manager George McPhee went out this offseason and used free agency to help get Boudreau and the Caps get over the hump. McPhee’s nickname is the Undertaker but after this offseason should it be changed it to Yoda? The guy pulled off the biggest Jedi mind trick in history.

It was pretty obvious that goalie Semyon Varlamov was not going to be re-signing with the Capitals. His agent was making it clear that Varly would rather play in the KHL then backup Michael Neuvirth. So McPhee got on the phone and somehow convinced the Colorado Avalanche to give the Capitals a first and second round draft pick in 2012. If the Avalanche fail to make the playoffs that first pick has potential to be a lottery pick. The Caps received these picks for an unproven goalie that hasn’t played a full season in his short, injury-riddled career. As details of the trade made their way around the hockey community, Twitter exploded with comments on how McPhee had hoodwinked the Avalanche into a terrible trade.

The beauty about the Varlamov trade is that it took away the market for Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun to the Capitals had been rumored for nearly two years and when he finally became a free agent, the Capitals were there to sign him. Trading Varly to the Avalanche eliminated all other teams in need of a goaltender. The Capitals were then able to sign Vokoun to a meager one year deal worth only 1.5 millions dollars. Vokoun is an obvious and instant upgrade at goalie and gives the Capitals one of a top five NHL goaltenders.

The additions of defenseman Roman Hamrlik and right winger Troy Brouwer bring Stanley Cup experience to the team. But the Capitals didn’t need to completely overhaul their line-up. They’re still the winningest team in the regular season over the last 3 years. They resigned center Brooks Laich to a six year deal. The offensive core of winger Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom, and Laich will be around for a while. Consistency is key if you want to be a cup contender for years to come. The team also signed former captain center Jeff Halpern to a one year deal. Long time Caps fans loved that signing but nearly as much as the team bringing back former goalie Olaf Kolzig as an associate goalie coach.

This offseason the Caps kept their core roster intact while adding Stanley Cup experienced players and upgrading the goalie position. George McPhee improved what was already one of the best teams in the NHL. Will it translate into a Stanley Cup Championship? I hope so.


Episode 52 – The Lockout Is Over

Jake and Bryan talk about the Washington Capitals offseason moves. Then Bryan tries to upset Jake in a game of Washington Redskins fantasy football.


Washington Capitals Free Agent Signings

Washington Redskins Potential Free Agent Signings


Washington Capitals – Post All Star Break Outlook

If you’re a Capitals fan this season has been frustrating and even disappointing for some. Whenever I go out in public rocking the red someone always asks, “What’s wrong with Caps?” While the team is in the top eight in the Eastern Conference and is only three points out of first place in the Southeast division, the offensive juggernaut fans have come to expect over the past couple of years seems to be gone. It’s time for for Caps fans to change their ideas on what the 2010-2011 team should look like.

The Caps have put up two of their best performances this season in back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins. In both games the team was clicking on all cylinders, managing to find the net often in the game against the Lightning and getting solid defensive play against the Penguins. Against Tampa the Caps big guns were rolling as Nicklas Backstrom scored twice, Alex Ovechkin found the net on the power play, and Brooks Laich scored a sweet backhand shot that beat Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson.

The Caps came out skating well against Tampa Bay and for the first time in a while put together a complete sixty minute game. They were physical, put pressure on Roloson, took advantage of the power play, and in turn played one of their best games of the year. They continued to skate well against the Pittsburgh which added up to  consecutive  victories. For the first time this season they looked good in two straight games.

Despite what most would consider a terrible season for last year’s President Cup winner, the team has improved on defense and the penalty kill, their biggest flaws last year. Coach Bruce Boudreau’s offseason commitment to change the team’s game plan and make the Caps  more defensive-minded has paid off big time. General Manager’s George McPhee’s move to bring defender Scott Hannan to DC has helped solidify a much improved defensive unit.

We all knew last year that  defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner were going to be a strong pairing playing full time in DC  but I don’t think anyone thought that they would step up and be the number one defensive line. While Jeff Shultz has struggled this year and hasn’t come close to his play from last year, when he led the league in plus/minus, other Caps have improved. Mike Green continues to develop his game, he’s becoming a solid defender and not just a goal scorer. The biggest defense shock has been the play of John Erskine. While he’s struggled a little lately, John Erskine was a player that made fans cringe when he hit the ice last season. This year, whether teamed up with Tom Poti or Hannan, Erskine has been a stable and hard-hitting blue liner.

The teams other bright spot has been the goaltending from all three of the Caps netminders. Michael  Neuvirth started the season off hot and shutout the Penguins in his first start back from injured reserve. Semyon Varlamov started the season on injured reserve but as been strong since his return. Braden Holtby struggled early this season and spent a couple months in Hershey. But he was able to come up when Neuvy and Varly were hurt and deliver 2 stellar games for the Caps.

Hockey experts will argue that the Capitals goaltending situation isn’t as solid as it looks. The Capitals goalies have faced the least amount of shots for a team this season (a tribute to the teams solid defensive play) and there two goals a game average isn’t very good for the amount of shots their seeing. It might be a fair point but I’ll take 2 goals a game this season over the three and four Jose Theodore would give up last season. And yes, Varly and Neuvy have given up some soft goals this year (Varly giving up a goal on the first shot he saw against Tampa), but I’m not concerned about their goaltending situation going forward.

The Caps have a tough road ahead of them – they play San Jose twice and end their season on the road against the Penguins. They have a five game road trip in February and a six game road trip in March in which the team will play the Red Wings, Flyers, and the Canadians twice. The Caps haven’t been a good road team this year and and by the time the playoffs roll around, this team will have been tested.

But the past two games we’ve seen Backstrom, Ovechkin, Laich, and Mike Knuble pick up their games and find ways to score. The team is crashing the net and just throwing the puck towards the goal and it’s starting to pay off. The bounces are starting to work in the Caps favor. Sooner or later the team is going to get  left wing Alexander Semin back, who before his first stint on IR was the teams best forward.  Most fans are optimistic that a fully recovered Semin will be back to where he started the season.

The future is bright for the Capitals. I would agree with most fans that this team hasn’t yet reached their full potential and with players getting healthy, the team should make a strong push in the last two months heading for the playoffs. This is still a playoff a team and one that should be taken seriously.