One of the best things about SBNation (besides all the whores) is that we can coordinate projects among all the different blogs to do some pretty cool things. To escape the summer doldrums, someone had the bright idea of asking a few questions of a team you're not familiar with to share with our readers. I was excited to get a team I didn't know too much about, to read about a team that usually gets passed under the radar.
I got the Capitals.
I sent a few questions over to Japers' Rink, a blog far more professional and scholarly than our own ridiculous sideshow, and they were gracious enough to answer my questions. Japers' Rink is one of the big boys in the blogging world and have been doing some great stuff this off-season: here you can read an excerpt from Caps coach Bruce Boudreau's upcoming book about his time as Manchester Monarchs coach, and here you can read a discussion on the secondary assist. Basically, they run a great blog and it's embarrassing they had to talk to me.
Do you worry that the Caps' offensive style won't work in the playoffs? Are the Caps the NHL's Phoenix Suns?
In a word: no. The Capitals offense is built on three pillars: outstanding high-end talent, a lethal powerplay, and solid secondary scoring.
The guys who comprise the high end talent - Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and Alexander Semin, the "Young Guns" as they're known in D.C. - are all fierce competitors who have shown a willingness to confront the tough-as-nails nature of the NHL playoffs head on, sometimes to their detriment, as was the case with the injured Green this past postseason. The powerplay is effective enough that it can score against anyone and while refs have a reputation for swallowing their whistles come April the effect isn't nearly as significant as most people might think; even if the referees are a little more lenient, the Capitals will get their chances and make their opposition pay. Finally, the team's scoring depth was solid last year and should get better with the additions of Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison and the continued development of the Young Guns and guys like Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, and David Steckel.
How is David Steckel doing? I can't decide if I'm happy he ended up making good or pissed that he's not doing it for the Kings.
Quite well. He's firmly established himself as the team's third line center by being great on the dot, killing penalties effectively, playing solid defense, and chipping in on offense and he's become a fan favorite in the process. He's 27 so there may not be a ton of room for growth left, but the team's happy to have him - especially at $725,000.
Obviously you can't necessarily assume a guy develops in the same way in a different setting, but quite frankly I think the Kings made a mistake in letting him go.
(Note: Steckel was drafted by the Kings and played 4 years at Manchester before signing with the Capitals as a free agent. His coach at Manchester? Bruce Boudreau.)
Who is one player on the Capitals that I wouldn't know that I should? Here are the people I know: Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Green, Varlamov, Alzner, Brashear, Nylander, and Theodore.
If I were going to pick just one more to add to that list, it'd be Brooks Laich, the left wing/center the Capitals got back (along with a second round draft pick) when they traded away Peter Bondra in 2004. Laich's not the most skilled player in the world but he gives an honest effort on every play every night, kills penalties, hits, does the dirty work in the corners, and camps in front of the net. To top if off he's a great locker room guy and he gives a hell of a quote, describing his philosophy thusly: "If you want money, go to the bank. If you want bread, go to the bakery. If you want goals, go to the net."
In short he's a poor man's Dustin Brown.