Chimera: "It was nice to get a couple goals"
Welcome to our weekly edition of Penn Quarter Sports Tavern’s 6-Pack of Questions, where we aim to keep it real while answering your most pressing questions regarding the Washington Capitals.
Let’s get started.
@Nogoodtrying138: What are some available top 4 D the Caps could look to feasibly trade or sign before the deadline?
Nothing like getting right to the point. For those wondering, the NHL trade deadline is March 5, 2014, one week after players return from the Olympics. While I like what rookie Nate Schmidt has done on the back end in his short time with the Caps, the team’s most pressing need is a hard-hitting, left-handed No. 4 defenseman who would allow John Erskine to play a role better suited for him on the third pairing. Identifying defensemen who would fit that role is a lot easier than finding teams willing to part with them. Someone like Rob Scuderi would have been a perfect fit, but the Penguins re-signed him over the summer and good luck trying to get George McPhee and Ray Shero to make a deal. In Edmonton there’s Ladislav Smid, a big, minute-munching D-man who would be a nice fit if the Oilers get desperate for a goalie. Mark Stuart is a solid 6-foot-2, 213-pound lefty in Winnipeg who could fill the void. Anaheim’s Ben Lovejoy would be another good fit, but he’s a righty and unless the Caps are willing to give up a right-handed defenseman they’ll stay away from anyone with a right shot.
@r_yorkdale: What are your thoughts on Martin Erat's play lately?
Ask any player and he’ll tell you the more he plays the better he plays. That was certainly the case with Erat, whose minutes jumped from 6:20 in a 2-0 loss to the Rangers on Oct. 16 to 17:49, 18:52 and 14:46 in wins over Columbus, Winnipeg and Edmonton. If you ask Erat, he’d prefer to play on the right wing, but because he’s a left shot on a team loaded with right wings and coached by Adam Oates, there’s little chance of that happening. Erat’s ability to play both ends of the rink is extremely valuable and his trade value would be high as the deadline draws near. I found it interesting that Erat spoke with George McPhee earlier this month, when he was getting fewer than 9 minutes a game. Remember, Erat asked the Predators to trade him, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
@DonOvefan8: Can we really justify [Mike] Green’s 6 million a year for his scoring when he can't play defense?
Ouch. Through 10 games, Green has no goals on 24 shots and has five assists, all of them on the power play. That means he has zero even-strength point and is a minus-4. Not a good start for someone who want to be on the Canadian Olympic team. Green was benched by Adam Oates in the third period of the Caps’ shootout win in Winnipeg Tuesday but bounced back with a plus-2 in 22:40 of work in Edmonton Thursday night. Calle Johansson juggled the defense pairings by reuniting Karl Alzner and John Carlson and putting Green with Nate Schmidt, but it’s clear Green could use a reliable partner capable of logging 22 minutes a night. That said, I would be surprised if Green’s overall play does not improve dramatically in the next 10 games.
@Tpr04: What is the turmoil in the locker room about? [Nicklas] Backstrom, [Martin] Erat, [Troy] Brouwer, and [Braden] Holtby have all said that there is a "work ethic" issue and/or problems with prep. Who are they talking about?
Good question. Players tend to overreact after losses, especially lopsided ones and several players were angry after the Caps lost five of their first seven games. That said, their starts this season have been less than inspiring. That can be attributed to a lack of intensity, especially in the defensive zone. The top line could set an example with a few strong shifts in their own end once in a while. But the Caps also were not getting key stops early this season and that can kill a struggling hockey team. I found it interesting when Troy Brouwer said guys were shooting high in practice, something goalies believe should be left for game nights against opposing netminders. Overall, however, I’m not concerned about a lack of effort being a long-term problem.
@GregJoly: What do they see in Laich on the wing when he can help this team as 3rd line center?
Another good question. Adam Oates sees Laich as a left wing. Laich sees Laich as a center. But if you gave Laich the choice between more minutes as a second-line left winger or fewer minutes as a third-line center, he’d probably take more minutes. Let’s not forget Laich played just nine games last season and is still adapting to what Oates wants. Laich is a valuable penalty killer and would probably like to see some time on the power play. In my opinion, if Laich is your third-line center you’ve got a solid top nine that can play with just about anyone. Eventually, I’d like to see Laich and Tom Wilson on the same line. But that’s just me.
Reza Ansari: Why couldn’t we have both [Ribs & Grabo] and get rid of mo jo instead?
First of all, the Caps never could have afforded both Mike Ribeiro [four years, $22 million] and Mikhail Grabovski [one year, $3 million] and if you asked me at the start of a playoff series who I’d rather have, I’d probably take Grabovski. For some reason, Marcus Johansson has taken a lot of heat on message boards this season. And while he’s still looking for his first goal, the guy’s got 10 assists in 10 games and is tied for second in the NHL in that category. Could he shoot more than once a game? Absolutely. Could he show a little more grit along the wall in his own end? Yes. But he serves the role of “slasher” very well on that top line and is on pace to become the first player in NHL history to record no goals and 82 assists. So he’s got that going for him.
Once again, great questions and keep them coming at @ChuckGormleyCSN. We’ll do it again next week.