With Green out, Jay Beagle steps up on defense
When he met with members of the media on Wednesday, Capitals general manager George McPhee touched on a lot of the topics that were discussed at the NHL general managers’ meetings in Toronto, but he also shard a few thoughts on his own team.
Here’s a quick synopsis:
On signing Jason Chimera to a two-year, $4 million contract extension: “I think he’s playing the best hockey of his career and I think it’s neat that a veteran guy can learn new things and add more to his game. He’s become a really good penalty killer this year. We approached him even before the season began. With what he brings with his size and speed and offense, we wanted to keep him here. He wanted to stay here and we got it worked out.”
On keeping 19-year-old rookie Tom Wilson: “I really like his play. He’s the kind of guy you win with. He brings a lot to this team, a great teammate. As I mentioned, I don’t love having teenagers around, but sometimes you get someone who’s really mature and who’s ready for this. And it makes your team better and it makes the player better. We’ve done it with Ovi, and Nick and Johannson. I think it’s watching and projecting ahead, but the bottom line is does it make your team better and in this case it does, and is he getting better and in this case we think he is. That’s why he’s here. We knew when we did this it might be 5 minutes a game, 6 minutes a game, 8 minutes a game. But we still think under those circumstances he could still develop. You can still develop at practices at this level, too. You have to think, you have to be focused. I think we’re really happy at this point and we think this is good for his development.”
On Marty Erat beginning the season on the fourth line: “It was for the team. That’s what training camp is all about. You experiment with different things. We know where he can play, but we were trying different things with Eric Fehr at the time and with other players in different positions. That’s what training camp is for, to come up with different lines and see if you can develop chemistry. We tried different things, but the experimenting is over and he’s wound up pretty good.”
On Joel Ward scoring nine goals in his first 19 games this season after netting just 16 in his first 112 games with the Caps: “Joel came in lighter this year, leaner, and it’s really showed in his performance. He’s been really good. That line [Chimera-Mikhail Grabovski-Ward] has been terrific and he’s been really good around the net, too. When a player can play as well as he did in the  playoffs [7 goals, 6 assists in 12 games for Nashville] in the most difficult time of the year, you’d think he’d be able to get to the regular season and get even more performance and we’re finally getting it from him. We haven’ been disappointed in him [before this season], but we thought he was capable of doing this a while ago. It looks good on him. Players try different things in the summers to improve their game. Sometimes the way they train really benefits them and sometimes it doesn’t. It looks like whatever he did this summer is working for him and that’s probably what he should stick with in the future.
On the state of the Capitals at they approach the quarter pole of the season: “It depends how you look at it. We started slow and played better and I like that. I just wish we didn’t start as slow. I really think there’s been a lot of growth with a lot of players, not only young players – we’re playing four rookies – but some of the veteran guys have really played well. I think we have a lot of guys who are playing really well right now – a couple that aren’t – but it isn’t very often that every player is playing well. If they are, you’re undefeated.”