Green: 'I'm just getting into my prime'

Green: 'I'm just getting into my prime'
July 16, 2012, 9:50 pm
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Mike Green seems to understand that with great expectations come great responsibility.

After agreeing to a three-year deal worth 18.25 million on Monday the 26-year-old defenseman says he plans on delivering both.

Asked in a conference call with reporters if he believes he can get back to being the player who delivered back-to-back seasons of 70 or more points in 2008-09 and 2009-10, Green didnt hesitate.

A hundred percent, he said in a conference call with reporters, and itll be next year.

Injuries the past two seasons limited Green to just 30 points in 81 games, a far cry from the 149 points he produced in 143 games the previous two seasons. Asked if playing in a more offensive system under new coach Adam Oates might allow him to get back to those totals, Green backed up his previous statement.

Absolutely, theres no question about it, he said. I feel like Im just getting into my prime.

Green said negotiations on his contract extension actually began early last season. But when an ankle injury was followed by a groin tear that led to abdominal surgery to correct a sports hernia, negotiations were put off until after July 1.

Green said he actually wanted a two-year deal, which under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement would have allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent at age 28. But when the Capitals offered as much as they did over three seasons hell make 6 million in each of the next two seasons and 6.25 million in 2014-15 Green agreed to the third year.

I want to be in Washington, he said, and when they offered three, I had no problems signing another year because I love it there.

Caps fans will love having Green for three years if he can get back to the defenseman he was three seasons ago when he led all NHL defensemen with 19 goals, 57 assists and 76 points. By comparison, Dennis Wideman led all Capitals defensemen last season with 11 goals, 35 assists and 46 points.

In fact, Green would have led the team in scoring last season if he produced 76 points.

Green acknowledged that his offensive game suffered last season because of his recovery from abdominal surgery and the suffocating defensive style of former coach Dale Hunter. He said he didnt feel 100 percent physically until the middle of the Capitals 14-game playoff run, which ended with a Game 7 loss to the Rangers in Round 2.

What Dale expected was kind of a grinder, chip-in, chip-out kind of game, Green said. I respect him as a coach and I played that way and played hard for him. But at the same time Im excited that Adam is here actually, really excited.

From what I heard, how he likes to coach fits my style of play and hopefully a lot of the other guys.

Green said he has not yet spoken with Oates but plans on giving him a phone call to introduce himself. He said he thinks the additions of center Mike Ribeiro and winger Wojtek Wolski should help the Capitals power play, which finished 18th in the NHL at 16.7 percent while also allowing 10 shorthanded goals.

Most importantly, Green said he is looking forward to playing a full season without setbacks due to injuries.

Personally, for my own mental state its important that I get back to that and almost prove to myself I can do it, he said. Its been unfortunate over the past two years. I ran into injuries that caused a fallback in that points department. I know Im able to do it and its just a matter of me being healthy and going out and doing it.

As for the financial commitment made to him by the Capitals, Green said he plans on earning every penny.

They know what Im capable of, he said. I think I got the injuries all out of my system. I think as happy as I am, theyre happy and they know Im committed to the hockey team. Its a win-win for everybody.

Can Mike Green return to being the NHL's top-scoring defenseman? Your thoughts?