Caps clean out locker room to officially end season
Outside Kettler Capitals Iceplex hangs a very large banner of defenseman Mike Green.
It is a reminder of the time he was one of the faces of the franchise, a Young Gun with a limitless future.
Now, that future is cloudy with a chance of relocation.
Green’s ninth season with the Capitals ended with him on the injured list with broken ribs, the result of a collision during the Caps’ game against the Islanders on April 5.
It also ended with the Capitals out of the playoffs with 90 points, 31 fewer than they recorded four years ago when Green and Alex Ovechkin were 24 years old, Nicklas Backstrom was 22 and they were the toast of D.C.
On Monday, Green was asked if that era of unbridled optimism had passed.
“As far as being the young guns, maybe,” he said. “We’re getting older. But the commitment to win a championship here has never changed.
“Has it passed? I don’t think so. We still have unfinished business here and as long as we’re all here together I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
If there are major changes to the Capitals’ roster this summer, Green is the most likely candidate to be moved. He has one year and slightly more than $6 million remaining on a three-year contract.
Green led all Capitals defensemen in assists  and points  but he also finished a minus-16, worst among Caps blue liners.
Green said on Monday that some of his inconsistencies this season came from playing alongside more defensemen – at various times he was paired with Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt, Jack Hillen, John Erskine and Karl Alzner -- than ever before in his nine-year career.
“It was frustrating at times throughout the season,” he said, “but as a professional you have to be strong and get through it. It definitely took me a while to get there.”
Adam Oates acknowledged Green’s point but added his own thoughts on the 28-year-old veteran.
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“He’s had a lot of partners, but he’s also supposed to be the guiding light,” Oates said. “He’s the veteran. He’s the guy we count on. He’s supposed to take care of them, not the other way around.”
Unlike previous seasons, Green was not significantly slowed by injury this season, playing in 70 games, his highest total since 2009-10. But Oates said he’s still trying to tap into Green’s strengths.
“He’s an enigma,” Oates said. “Greenie’s that guy that down the stretch last year had that month that was fantastic. People want that [scoring] every night from him and I’m trying to fight him back.
“’No, we just need you to be a solid player. The league is too good. You’re not going to score a goal every single night. It doesn’t work like that. I need him to be a consistent hockey player. The more we can get him to understand that will be good for us.
“If he’s cheating to get 30 goals that’s a terrible message. We’re trying to do the same thing with Ovi. ‘You got 30 goals [Green had 31 in 2008-09], great. But I need you to play correct.’ He’s got magical skills, we know that. But we need him to be consistent every night.”