Penn Quarter Sports Tavern's 6-Pack of Questions

Penn Quarter Sports Tavern's 6-Pack of Questions
October 18, 2013, 6:00 am
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Capitals look to improve after loss to Rangers

Penn Quarter Sports Tavern Six Pack of Questions

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.

@Robostop10 Why does Majo/Laich continue to get time when Erat deserves a shot at 1L and 2L?

This, by the way, was the most-asked question of the week. As @Hittchrism4 pointed out in a recent tweet, Marcus Johansson has just three shots in seven games this season, a big reason he remains without a goal. The top line of Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin has combined for just three even-strength goals this season and as a unit they are a combined minus-12. That’s a problem.

Marty Erat’s ice time is a completely different issue, but one that could be resolved with a few tweaks to the forward lines. The simplest fix would be to move Erat to the top line and drop everyone else down a notch, putting Johansson with Mikhail Grabovski and Troy Brouwer; Brooks Laich with Eric Fehr and Joel Ward; and Jason Chimera with Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson.

I’m not entirely sure if those combinations work, but some questions below may lead to other combinations.

@RCG_412 Wilson is a young player and a possible 1-2 line winger. Why are the Caps only letting him play on the fourth line getting 6 minutes?

This is another popular question. You may disagree with me, but here’s my take on Tom Wilson. Like Adam Oates, I don’t think you can have enough players like him. Like Oates, I think his development might actually be slowed by returning to the OHL Plymouth Whalers. And, like Oates, I believe the 6 and 7 and 8 minutes Wilson is getting now will eventually increase to 9, 10 and 11 minutes later in the season. So to answer a question you didn’t ask, I think Wilson should stay.

Here’s the issue: As long as Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer are healthy, they are your top two right wings. If we can assume Wilson remains on the right side – and anyone who has followed Oates knows he will – he and Joel Ward are your bottom two right wings. In all fairness, the line of Chimera, Fehr and Ward has probably been the Caps’ best line this season and Oates doesn’t want to break them up. That’s left Wilson in a similar predicament as Erat, getting fourth-line minutes. Eventually, I see Wilson replacing Ward as the Caps’ third line right wing.

@CapsYapp Defense: Green, Alzner & Carlson excellent top 3D, but bottom 3D shaky. Who would you put on bottom 3 D?

Ah, yes. This might be the question that keeps Oates and assistant coach Calle Johansson up at night. While all three have had their struggles this season, Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson are the three defensemen who “drive the bus,” as Oates likes to say. I’m sure Oates and Johansson have kicked around the idea of reuniting Carlson and Alzner but that would reduce Green’s ice time and the Caps don’t want to do that.

The bottom three D presents quite a dilemma. John Erskine is rugged and provides a much-needed physical presence back there, but his off-season knee surgery had him playing catchup during training camp and it’s limited his mobility. Ideally, the left-handed Erskine would be a nice fit on a third pairing with righties Steve Oleksy or Connor Carrick. Lefties Alex Urbom and Nate Schmidt are good stop-gaps for now, but both could use some time in the AHL. Barring a trade, I’d pretty much go with what they have right now, using Erskine/Urbom with Carlson and Schmidt with Oleksy.

Kevin Powell [Facebook]: Why has Mcphee not drafted a top-notch defenseman in his tenure?

Let’s be fair. Mike Green [29th overall, 2004], Karl Alzner [fifth overall, 2007] and John Carlson [27th overall, 2008] were all invited to participate in their respective countries’ Olympic camps, so they’d all qualify as top-notch defensemen. Since Carlson, the Caps’ top defensive picks have not panned out. Dmitry Orlov [55th overall in 2009] looked like the real deal two years ago but has struggled. Connor Carrick [137th overall in 2012] looks like he has excellent NHL potential. Truth is, the Caps’ have used most of their first-round picks on forwards, taking  Marcus Johansson [24th in 2009], Evgeny Kuznetsov [26th in 2010], Filip Forsberg [11th in 2012], Tom Wilson [16th in 2012] and Andre Burakovsky [23rd in 2013] with each of their last five first-round picks..

@HookEmHoos Did the Caps ever consider shipping the more expensive Erat instead of Perreault?

Good question, but I don’t think so. As soon as Oates started experimenting with Fehr and Erat at center the writing was on the wall for Perreault, who came at a reasonable cap hit [$1.05 million] for the Ducks. By the way, Perreault has 2 goals and 3 assists and is averaging 14:21 in his first six games in Anaheim  As for Erat, when I asked him if he considered asking for a trade he said, “No, not yet.” He is not happy with his playing time but he’s been a true professional, helping out youngsters like Tom Wilson and Michael Latta. That said, I think the Capitals would consider parting with Erat if they could get a solid fourth defenseman in return. Erat still holds a lot of value around the NHL but his $4.5 million cap hit is too much for at least half of the NHL’s 30 teams.

@Jim51680 What can we send Edmonton for Yakupov? #getmeagoalscorer

No one will argue Nail Yakupov has off-the-charts talent. It’s why the Oilers drafted the Russian right winger No. 1 overall in 2012. With that in mind, it would be smarter for Dallas Eakins to find a way to use him effectively than it would be for the Oilers to trade him. But if you asked me what, theoretically, it would take to get Yakupov in Washington, you’d have to start with a right wing and that would mean Troy Brouwer. That’s just not happening. I don’t see the Caps having any interest in adding Yakupov, especially with Evgeny Kuznetsov expected to join them later this season. Now if you’re talking defensemen, that’s a different story.