If you think Matt Cooke intentionally injured Erik Karlsson or not, is entirely immaterial. there are a couple possibilities as to where things go from here. Before this latest injury to an already depleted squad they were treading water. In sixth place, but with two more games played than seventh and eight place. also on the shelf are Latendresse, Regin, Spezza a lot of talent and money are out of reach of the head coach.

In such a short season, calling it in the rest of the way wouldn’t be hard, and with prizes Seth Jones this year, and McDavid in 2015, moving out some players in exchange for probably high picks, and in theory pushing the team closer to the lottery could be very, very favorable long term. If for example Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson are found new homes that’d clear up nine million in salary space this year, and four and a third next year. I can’t see trading them out for any package that doesn’t include at least one first round pick. Both players are the type that can push a middling team from bubble to firm playoff position.

If they decide to stock up, there are certainly teams that are in need of turning over their roster. They can look due south to the other capital city in the NHL. Mike Green has a six million dollar a year contract, and is very similar to Karlsson in playing style. The Capitals aren’t doing anything even with his returned health and 26 minutes a night. The Columbus Blue Jackets have a new sheriff in town and both Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski might find themselves redundant in the Jarmo world order, as might former Philadelphia Flyer R.J. Umberger, the highest paid forward on the Columbus roster.

Even without blowing up their roster, the Colorado Avalanche could happily unload Ryan O’Reilly for the right price to fill the Spezza roster spot for the nonce. There race for the playoffs is going to be rough and brutal between the compressed schedule and the arms war for complimentary parts as teams like the San Jose Sharks make what could be the last play for the current core at a Cup, the Dallas Stars vie for a return to the playoffs, and the Nashville Predators hope to woo fans turned off by the loss of Suter. And lest we forget, their plight, career right wing Jarome Iginla is probably the teams best faceoff man, meaning Zack Smith could return some nice assets if fired off before his next birthday, indeed a strong faceoff man for the top two lines for the Flames has more value now than later because more puck possession will give them time to climb back into the playoff picture.

The Avalanche are in the midst of yet another signing saga. At present they’ve spent the past eight months holding their leading faceoff man and leading scorer from last season by the choke chain known as “RFA status”. The other marks in O’Reilly’s favor are nothing to sneer at. He had two overtime tallies, led the team in assists, won 53% of his faceoffs, potted four powerplay goals, played in all situations and generally contributed to the teams success.

The level of the teams success sheds a different light on his accomplishments, so does the fact that it was his third season and one where he more than doubled his careerĀ  assist and points totals on a team that finished 20th in the NHL. Anyone who doesn’t see the potential for steady growth for the 22 year old 200lb center is probably convinced we’ve seen the best from Taylor Hall and John Tavares. I don’t think anyone puts the ceiling for O’Reilly quite that high, but the chance for growth is coupled with one regression as well. He could just as easily turn into a half hundred other forwards like Peter Schaefer who got some ice time, got lucky and then fell apart when he had to repeat it.

If the Avalanche are determined not to give into his teams demands, where else he could land is a matter of finding a GM who sees O’Reilly continuing to get better, and has the assets and the inclination to go after him. Kent Wilson of FlamesNation thinks the Calgary brass must make a play for him. While it is unarguable that the Flames are a bit cool at the pivot position, what they have to offer up isn’t much. The Flames farm system is rated 23rd best in the entire league. Would a package of Jankowski, Seiloff and a 2nd round pick do the trick? And would that package actually be good for either team?

The Florida Panthers are currently underwater on faceoff win percentage, 23rd in the NHL in goals, and almost as poorly off in the east as the Avalanche are in the west. It’s highly unlikely any talks around the Panthers actually include Jonathan Huberdeau since the rookie is currently leading the team in goals, but perhaps Kris Versteeg is due for his sixth jersey since draft day and draft pick or two could accompany him back to the western conference. O’Reilly and Huberdeau could arguably be the best 1-2 punch at center in the Southeast division in a couple years.

Assuming Washington wants to make a shakeup, and they probably should, Backstrom and O’Reilly as a the moving points of the offense for the Capitals could actually get the team out of the lottery even before the seasons end, like Backstrom who Ovechkin has played longest and best with, O’Reilly is a left handed shot. Going back could be any number of pieces, ideally Carlson, although that would prove what just about everyone should suspect about McPhee, but Yevgeni Kuznetsov is a very attractive piece, if they can woo him across the pond, in some combination with Tom Wilson, Filip Forsberg and or picks should seal the deal.

It’d be nice to include the Wild in this list but there problem isn’t talent on the ice. The system in Nashville prevents offensive stars, and I don’t see the new GM in Columbus looking to take on a big contract for someone who seems likely to want to wrangle over it ever time. There are other teams who might make a move to juice their line up, but the Panthers, Flames, and Washington top the list of teams O’Reilly, at the right price makes sense for.

The Washington Capitals are in last place in the NHL. The Columbus BlueJackets who shipped out Rick Nash over the summer are ahead of them. The New York Islanders who struggle to hit the salary cap floor are in playoff position. The Washington Capitals with one of the highest salaries in the NHL have the worst goal differential, sit in last, and worse do so in a division that has been widely regarded as the weakest division in the NHL for a decade.

Current General Manager George McPhee has been with the club since 1997. During that time, despite numerous high draft picks, the Capitals have not achieved as much under his leadership as they did in the past. Since McPhee took charge of the team they have never made it out of the Conference, most years they don’t even make it past the first round. This despite having had incredibly potent offenses year in and year out.

Over the sixteen years of GMGM’s tenure six coaches have been named. Ron Wilson who has had success elsewhere, Bruce Boudreau who probably spent more time trying to figure out the fastest way to get to his new office than he did looking for a job when he was relieved of his duties in Washington, Dale Hunter of major junior’s model franchise the London Knights, who after sixty games and a playoff round won bid sweet adieu to McPhee’s house of madness.

In drafting they’ve had both good and bad, but the bad certainly outweighs the good. Under McPhee, they’ve cashed in on can’t miss first round talents like Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, John Carlson, Carl Alzner and Nicklas Backstrom. It’s hard to say that that missed on the top end of the draft. Sure things that any of them were, its not hard to see how this could be conflated with general draft success. But taking a look a bit deeper in the draft shows the McPhee administration has done little more than cash big checks made out in their name and delivered by courier directly to their hands.

Real draft success isn’t just what you get in the first round. Take a look at the Vancouver Canucks, like the Caps nearly all their most impactful players are from the first round. When they faced off against the Bruins, they had little in the way of grit, plenty of skill but aside from Bieksa and Kesler, nothing and no one who knew what adversity was or how to overcome it. The Washington Capitals have added players who have both grit and ability, but no impact players with it.

The Los Angeles Kings, like the Pittsburgh Penguins before them, turned to Rob Scuderi to help out their blueline, and the delivered to the tune of nearly 22 minutes a night through the playoffs. Where’s the gritty cornerstone for the Caps? More importantly, where’s the stability behind the bench to point out that person as a rock and roll model and take push other players to be more like them.

Coaches aren’t alone in being run out of town on a rail. Alex Semin spent two years in the KHL, likely in part to avoid the scapegoating for all the teams ills that became the norm that saw him depart the team for a second time, on this occasion signing with division rivals the Carolina Hurricanes. Then Captain Chris Clark was traded during the 2009 season, in fact he was dumped to the bottom feeding Columbus BlueJackets. Then Captain Jeff Halpern was allowed to walk away in free agency. In all there have been seven captains of the Washington Capitals during the reign of George McPhee. In the same time period the Los Angeles Kings have had three, the Montreal Canadiens have had three, and even the Boston Bruins who are on their fifth general manager since McPhee took office have only had three captains.

What has taken place for many of the last sixteen years in Washington has been shuffling the deck chairs as the ship sinks. The guys on the ice don’t play like a team. Sure Chimera and Ward are guys who get it done and leave nothing on the ice unless it’s blood and teeth, but they’re not going to get the team to a championship by themselves.

Ovechkin who has been played on his off wing is the current scapegoat. People are saying he doesn’t care (after years of complaining he enjoyed goals being scored too much) and yet in addition to his thirty plus goals a season, he puts his body on the line to well over 200 hits a season a number about 50 higher per than Shea Weber and eclipsing Zdeno Chara as well. Additionally, year over year his blocked shots count has climbed steadily. While it is doubtful that Ovechkin will be shortlisted for the Selke award anytime soon, it is worth noting his blocked shot totals have been comparable to Jonathan Toews, who plays a lot more short handed than does Ovechkin, meaning that Alex is doing more at five on five than he’s being given credit for in some circles.

The question for Ted Leonsis isn’t what player or coach is failing him. The question isn’t even if the person currently assembling all the bits and bobbles is capable of creating a winner, that answer is readily apparent. What the Capitals owner needs to query himself and his advisors over is what to do with the man who has had far longer than most general managers to produce and not only failed to do so, but failed to recognize the underlying problems with his own system. Whoever follows McPhee, and for Caps fans, may it be soon, will have a huge task to shoulder.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Players:

  • that with almost a quarter of the season gone, Rick Dipietro would have played more games than Phil Kessel had goals…
  • that Thomas Vanek would not only have a three point lead in the points of Steven Stamkos, but be in sole possession of first place in the points race…
  • that Tobias Enstrom of the Winnipeg Jets would be the only defenseman in the top 30 points producers in the NHL
  • that Teemu Selanne (age 42), Saku Koivu (38, discarded by the Habs back in ’09), and Daniel Winnik (9th round draft pick in 2004) would be three of the Ducks top five scorers and Anahiem would be in playoff position
  • 26 year old Leo Komorov of the Toronto Maple Leafs would lead the league in hits at almost 4 per game, on just 13 minutes of ice time a night and still find time for 2 assists, 10 shots, and 7 blocked shots
  • the Washington Capitals best player, Indiana Ice of the USHL alumni John Carlson would lead the league in blocked shots with 30 in ten games
  • Ryan Clowe of the red hot San Jose Sharks would lead the entire league in penalty minutes with 56 minutes through 10 games
  • Craig Anderson the American goaltender for the Ottawa Senators would be first or second in every goaltending category

Teams:

  • the San Jose Sharks would be the best goal differential in the west, and no one would be picking them for the Cup
  • the phrase “Stanley Cup hangover” had yet to be run into the ground anew despite the Los Angeles Kings being a 500 hockey team in the bottom third of the league for goal scoring (again)
  • the Edmonton Oilers would be tied for the 11th best defense in the NHL, in playoff position, and not have anyone notice
  • the Avalanche would prove to be more stubborn than smart by failing to resign their leading scorer from last season even though at the quarter pole they were a bottom third scoring team but only -2 in goal differential overall
  • with one fifth of the season gone, the Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning would all be in playoff position
  • last years Cup winners the Los Angeles Kings, the New York Rangers an eastern finalist, the Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers would all be out of the playoffs if the season ended today
  • the Tampa Bay Lightning would have an eye popping 4.44 goals for per game
  • the Washington Capitals who finished the playoffs 5th in goals allowed would be 27th in goals allowed
  • the NHL’s 5th best powerplay would belong to the leagues 29th place team, the Calgary Flames