Tag:Washington Capitals
Posted on: August 29, 2011 4:50 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 4:50 pm
 

Vokoun talks about joining Caps, leaving Cats

By Brian Stubits

Tomas Vokoun has had an interesting couple of months. He went through the free agency freeze, expecting to be coveted to waiting around a few days for an offer. The frustration of that was offset by going from a perennial loser with the Panthers to an annual power in the Capitals.

There he will battle with Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, but that's another story altogehter (which Adam Gretz already covered!).

Vokoun only spent four years in Florida, but he made no secret how much he enjoys living in the area. So it's no surprise that he was working out at the Panthers team facility in Coral Springs, Fla. on Monday when Miami Herald writer George Richards caught up with the goaltender.

In their nearly 15-minute interview, the conversation runs the gamut from Vokoun playing for a contender and the possibility of pressure joining him. Plus they talk about the frustrations of July 1 and the relationship with former Panthers coach and now Devils head man Peter DeBoer.

Above is the first of three parts in the interview. Click here for Part II and click here for Part III.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 29, 2011 2:26 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Eastern Conference spots seem set for some time

By Brian Stubits

Sometimes simple and obvious things just hit you. Things you had realized before but for some reason they jump to your attention again. It tends to happen a lot more often during the lazy hockey days of summer.

That's exactly what happened when I began to think about the makeup of hockey markets/organizations, particularly in the Eastern Conference. What popped into my head was the fact that the contenders this season are likely to be the same as they were last season, and for the most part the same they were the season before that. And it's likely they will remain the contenders for the season after next, too.

At that moment I realized the NHL is starting to resemble the NBA in a way. And that's not good. One of the biggest reasons the NBA is in a lockout that seems to have no end in sight (Ken Berger and the Eye on Basketball guys have that covered) is the very issue that only a handful of teams enter every season with a chance to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Everybody's favorite stat about the (lack of) parity in the NBA is the simple fact that since 1984, only eight different organizations have won the championship. That's eight teams in 28 seasons.

Now look at the Eastern Conference in hockey. The Capitals have been atop their division for four straight seasons. The Penguins and Flyers are perennial contenders. Same goes for the Bruins while the Rangers, Canadiens and Sabres are regulars in the 5-8 range in the standings.

Of course that leaves teams like the Islanders (four-year playoff drought), Maple Leafs (six-year drought), Jets/Thrashers (one appearance in franchise history), Hurricanes (perennial contender for first runnerup these days) and the Panthers (10-year drought) to fend at the bottom.

So where do these teams fit? When you have a team like the Islanders seeming ready to step up and compete for the playoffs, who are they going to surpass? The Eastern Conference is full of traditional hockey markets in the American northeast and Canada, big markets either in hockey-crazy cities and ones with rich histories. The West has a few of those as well -- namely Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago -- but not as many as the East.

But have a look at the chart below detailing the past four seasons. Five teams have made the playoffs in each of those seasons and four teams have failed to advance beyond the regular season even once.

Last four seasons
Team Average finish (Eastern Conference) Playoff appearances 2011-12 payroll (capgeek.com)
Capitals 1.75 4 $65,190,128
Penguins 3.5 4 $62,737,500
Bruins 4.5 4 $56,682,976
Flyers 5 4 $64,124,761
Devils 5 3 $58,429,167
Canadiens 5.75 4 $59,770,510
Rangers 7.25 3 $62,935,334
Sabres 7.5 2 $67,895,357
Hurricanes 8.75 1 $49,775,000
Senators 9 2 $51,845,834
Lightning 11.5 1 $59,326,083
Maple Leafs 12.25 0 $59,115,000
Jets/Thrashers 12.25 0 $48,284,166
Panthers 12.25 0 $49,882,042
Islanders 13.75 0 $45,970,166

You get the feeling that at least five spots are locks in the East this year with two more almost assuredly the same. In the lock category you start with four of the five teams that have been staples: The Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and Bruins. Add in the up-and-coming Lightning for good measure. Hard to imagine any of those five not making it this season. In the next two spots I think you can add the Rangers and Sabres. With new owner Terry Pegula, the Sabres seem destined to become another playoff regular. These are teams that all improved (or in the case of Boston, didn't have to improve, but more or less stay in tact after winning the Stanley Cup) and were already playoff caliber.

By my stellar mathematical abilities, that leaves one spot essentially up for grabs. Among the group fighting for it will be the Canadiens (the other team to make it each of the past four seasons), Devils and, well, the rest of the conference. Outside of the Senators who are building for a few years from now and maybe the Jets, every team in the conference looks to be better now then they were at the end of last season.

And here's the thing: I don't see how it will be easy to unseat these teams at the top of the conference. Sure, you will have the occasional team slipping through like the Lightning. To extend the analogy back to the NBA, that's like the Oklahoma City Thunder building after years of struggle to a competitive level. But they still have to fight through the Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs, all of which are almost guaranteed to be in the hunt. It's hard to imagine a time when the Lakers won't be contenders, and when they have been (post-Shaquille O'Neal) they rebuilt in a hurry and won the title shortly thereafter.

That's what I'm seeing for the Eastern Conference, that kind of perennial favorite similarity. It makes sense, obviously. The best free agents will want to go to the best teams in the best hockey cities and the biggest pay checks. That's to be expected. And that's a huge reason why these teams are able to stay above the equator. It doesn't hurt to have the infrastructures they all have at their disposal, too. From fan support to smart organizational minds and moves, they win more often than not. Success begets success. It's no coincidence that these are also the teams most heavily featured on national TV.

Let's look at the Capitals. Owner Ted Leonsis has been mentioned his 10-to-15-year plan ... not a plan that calls for 10-to-15 years to win the Cup (although it's starting to look that way) but instead to keep the Caps a Cup contender for that time. And because Washington D.C. has shown itself to be a strong hockey market and is appealing to free agents, it's easy to see how the Caps can sustain that. You have a young Alexander Ovechkin on your roster? Lock him up! Just throw a 13-year contract in front of one of the sport's best players and he's aboard for the long haul. Try and do the same when you're in Tampa Bay and you have a situation where you are only able to secure Steven Stamkos for five seasons.

The reasons are obvious, much the same as the Yankees in baseball (and now the Red Sox). You can pen each of those teams into the playoffs before the season even starts and you are most likely going to be right. But this isn't supposed to happen in hockey, not with a supposedly game-evening hard salary cap. It's just the inherent advantages are too tough for a lot of teams to compete with. Essentially, the margin for error is razor thin for the lesser markets/organizations.

Toronto is the exception (sorry Leafs fans) to the big-market success model. It is probably the best hockey market in the NHL, has an incredibly devoted fan base and has not been afraid to spend. But even the Leafs are struggling these days to break that glass ceiling and butt their way into the playoffs. They couldn't beat out the Rangers for Brad Richards' services in free agency.

Now this is why they play the game. You can't lock in these teams to the playoffs. After all, who saw that Devils season coming last year? You still have to earn your way into the postseason. But if you are a fan of one of the bottom-feeders in the East, I'd suggest you cool your jets. The East's upper echelon is pretty well full of NHL aristocrats. The competition will be better and the spots will likely be more fiercely fought for, but it will be hard to break through.

In the West you can hear the mid-level teams saying "welcome to our world."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 25, 2011 7:08 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 7:21 pm
 

Can Neuvirth push Vokoun for starting job?

NeuvirthBy: Adam Gretz

Not that we know these things before even one game is played during the 2011-12 season, but the Washington Capitals addition of free agent goaltender Tomas Vokoun on a one-year, $1.5 million contract has the potential to be one of the best deals of the summer.

For the past four years he's been the proverbial big fish in the small pond, quietly going about his business as the best player -- and one of the best goalies in the NHL -- on one of the worst teams in the league. He's finished in the top-10 in save percentage in each of the past five seasons, including four finishes in the top-five, all while usually facing over 32 shots per game.

His addition was just one part of a busy summer of activity for the Capitals, which included the additions of forwards Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer, defenseman Roman Hamrlik, as well as the trade of one of their young goalies, Semyon Varlamov, to the Colorado Avalanche for a future first-round pick. It's already been assumed that Vokoun will be the Capitals' starting goaltender when the season begins, which means last year's No. 1, Michal Neuvirth, will be pushed to backup duty. Still, that's not stopping him from enterinng camp with the intentiions of taking back his starting gig, as he told Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post on Thursday.

From the Post:
Coach Bruce Boudreau has said he anticipates that Vokoun will start the season as the Capitals’ No. 1 option in net. But Neuvirth said Thursday that he's conceding nothing.

“Tomas might be one of the top three goalies in the league,” Neuvirth said. “So it's a big opportunity for me to show I can be as good as this guy or even better. Obviously, I want to play the most games and I still want to be the number one goalie.”

Reminded of Boudreau's comments, Neuvirth fired back, “It's still summer. We still have three weeks until training camp. Whatever Bruce is saying, it doesn't bother me. We'll see what happens in training camp. Obviously, Tomas is a great goalie and I respect him.”
Neuvirth is certainly right about one thing: it is still summer and, at this point, starting jobs are most certainly still up for grabs, but it's going to be difficult for him to reclaim his No. 1 job this season, if that even matters.

Whether he has the "No. 1" role or not, Neuvirth is still going to get his share of playing time this season (even if it's a decrease from last season), and it's important to keep in mind that he's still only 23 years old and represents the future of the position in Washington (and don't forget, the Capitals still have Braden Holtby in the system as well).

If there's a concern for Vokoun at this point it could probably go back to the part about him playing the past four seasons on one of the worst teams in the NHL and not having to deal with the pressures of postseason hockey. Despite playing 12 years in the NHL with the Predators and Panthers, the 35-year-old Vokoun has appeared in just 11 playoff games. Though, it's also worth pointing out that he's played well in those games -- all with the Predators -- recording a .922 save percentage.

A little competition at this point in his career shouldn't hurt Neuvirth, and there's not a team in the league that is going to worry about having too many good goaltenders that can start for them, especially when they're only taking up a combined $2.6 million salary cap space.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: August 22, 2011 10:12 am
 

Daily Skate: Anybody like Alex Semin? Market talk

By Brian Stubits

EVERYBODY HATES SEMIN? With such vilified D.C. sports Stars like Albert Haynesworth and Gilbert Arenas no longer in town, it's time to wonder who, exactly, is Washington's most hated athlete? That's the question being presented by Capitals Outsider with the conclusion being that it might very well be recently maligned Caps forward Alex Semin. While he's still in the minor leagues, I have a feeling that Nationals prospect Bryce Harper might be on that list some day, unless Gregg Doyel can change minds.

MARKET VIABILITY: Since the Thrashers moved, the Islanders lost their vote on a new arena and the Coyotes have been on the block for seemingly a decade, the idea of relocation is constantly floating around the NHL. One go-to destination is always former NHL home Quebec City. But according to a Business Journal study (h/t to Puck Daddy) Quebec is way down the list of markets capable of hosting. Granted, this is a study that folks solely on the monetary aspects, that's why Honolulu and Atlanta are "more viable" destinations, but it's interesting to see nonetheless, even if it's not very practical.

U.S. LADIES LOSE: In the rubber match of their Women's Under-18 Series showdown, the American women lost a 3-1 first-period lead to the Canadians and dropped the final game by a score of 6-4. Women's hockey doesn't get much attention, but USA-Canada is good in any hockey match and provides for a very equal matchup in the women's side.

FANS SEEING RED: The Florida Panthers have had a massive renovation this offseason, much of publicly on the ice. But they have done a lot off the ice for to reach the fan base as well and among the ideas was to create a couple sections of super seats. The Panthers' home arena, the BankAtlantic Center, is a year-round facility that hosts numerous concerts and shows in addition to hockey. SO the idea seemed smart enough: sell some seats that are yours for whatever event is happening at the arena. The only problem? Long-time season-ticket holders sitting in those seats are going to be forced to pay a substantially higher price or forced to relocate, or even give up their tickets. Litter Box Cats has more.

JERSEY JUGGLE: Having a hard time keeping up with the different sweater changes this summer? Me too. Thankfully icethetics has the rundown of all the new sweaters and the tweaks we will see this season, such as this one.

Photo: Icethetics

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 18, 2011 7:32 pm
 

National TV schedule is out; light on Predators

By Brian Stubits

So the national television game schedules were released by the NHL on Thursday, and all in all it's what you would expect. It features a lot of the Red Wings, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers, Blackhawks, Rangers and Penguins -- the usual suspects.

It's clear why they are on the tube so much. They have earned it with their play on the ice and the fan support off it. It's only smart business for a league that is the lowest of the USA's four major sports leagues in interest and viewership.

But how about the teams making the fewest appearance? It's some of what you'd expect. The Columbus Blue Jackets, at this point, will not grace the networks of NBC or Versus (or whatever the station will be named this season), not even once. The Florida Panthers will be seen nationwide on one occasion -- a date with the Penguins. Those are pretty understandable. It would be nice to see a little more of them, but it makes sense. They are rebuilt rosters, but have been bad for some time and don't exactly have large followings (we're being kind).

Next on the list, though, is the Nashville Predators. The Preds will be seen on national TV just twice. The only thing against the Preds is that they are in a small, southern market. But the quality of the team warrants a few more games than this. It's possible they will get flexed onto national coverage late in the season, but either way, it's a shame they are being left out save two games. After all, the Predators did make it into the second round of the playoffs last season, hockey's equivalent of the Elite Eight.

While upset, the people over at the Section 303 blog, a Predators destination, aren't surprised by the stiff.

Staying in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild will get quite a bit more air time despite not making the playoffs for the third straight season last year. In all, the Wild will be broadcast from sea to shining sea 10 times.

Here are the U.S. channel schedules, starting with NBC. I hope you like the Keystone State battles. (Source: NHL.com)

NBC schedule
Day Date Visitor Home Eastern time Notes
Fri. 11/25 Detroit Boston 1 p.m. N/A
Mon. 1/2 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia 1 p.m. Winter Classic
Sat. 1/14 Chicago Detroit 12:30 p.m. N/A
Sun. 1/22 Boston Philadelphia 3 p.m. N/A
Sun. 1/22 Washington Pittsburgh 3 p.m. N/A
Sun. 2/12 Washington N.Y. Rangers 3 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 2/12 Philadelphia Detroit 7:30 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 2/19 Pittsburgh Buffalo 12:30 p.m. N/A
Sun. 2/19 San Jose Detroit 12:30 p.m. N/A
Sun. 2/19 St. Louis Chicago 3 p.m. N/A
Sun. 2/19 Boston Minnesota 3 p.m. N/A
Sun. 3/4 Boston N.Y. Rangers 3 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 3/4 Philadelphia Washington 7 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 3/11 Los Angeles Chicago 7 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 3/11 Boston Pittsburgh 7:30 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 3/18 Pittsburgh Philadelphia 3 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 3/18 Washington Chicago 7 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 4/1/ Boston N.Y. Rangers 3 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 4/1 Philadelphia Pittsburgh 7:30 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sat. 4/7 Buffalo Boston 3 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sat. 4/7 Washington N.Y. Rangers 3 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sat. 4/7 Philadelphia Pittsburgh 4 p.m. NBC/VS Flex
Sun. 4/7 Chicago Detroit 4 p.m. NBC/VS Flex

Now here's the full schedule for Versus/NBC Sports Network.

Finally, here's how it will go on the NHL Network.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 17, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: August 17, 2011 4:06 pm
 

Matt Bradley calls out Alexander Semin

SeminBy: Adam Gretz

Matt Bradley, one of the Florida Panthers many offseason additions, appeared on TEAM 1200 radio in Ottawa this week and spent some time talking about his former team -- the Washington Capitals -- and what went wrong in the playoffs last season, particuarly why they were swept in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 33-year-old Bradley said there were a few players that didn't show up in the playoffs, and that the locker room may have been a bit too nonchalant and undisciplined. He also added that some of the players that weren't playing well were getting the majority of the ice time.

His strongest words went in the direction of the supremely talented Alexander Semin, basically saying that he doesn't care to be one of the best players in the world (which he certainly has the talent to be).

Said Bradley, “I don’t mind saying Alexander Semin’s name because he’s one guy who has so much talent, he could easily be the best player in the league, and for whatever reason just doesn’t care. When you’ve got a guy like that you need him to be your best player, or one of your best players, and when he dosen’t show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia. That’s tough to win when you’ve got a guy like that who’s supposed to be your best player not being your best player. Or one of your best players."

After scoring 28 goals in 65 regular season games for the Capitals last season, Semin scored three goals in the Capitals five-game series with the New York Rangers in the opening round, before being limited to just one goal and an assist in the four-game series with Tampa Bay. He had just two assists for the Capitals during the first-round exit in 2009-10, but was also a point-per-game player in the playoffs during his first two postseason appearances in 2008 and 2009.

But the focal point of Bradley's comments were last season, where he was also asked if coach Bruce Boudreau maybe stuck with some of his star players a bit too long.

"There were a lot of guys who played well that didn’t probably play as much as they needed to," said Bradley. "But I love Bruce and Bruce is a great coach. He was in a very tough position there because in Washington our top guys are definitely the Stars and the guys that people want to see on the ice, so I totally understand. That just doesn’t happen on our team, it happens on a lot of teams. When you’re paying your top guys a lot of money and those guys carry you through the whole season, and if one of them isn’t going, it’s very hard not to play them. And I understand that’s tough. But I think in the end if you want to win, sometimes you have to sit some of those guys down and maybe send a message and try to get them going."

It wasn't all bad, however, as Bradley said he never worries about Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and insisted that he's "all in" as far as winning. He did add that Ovechkin may need to grow up a little in terms of taking care of himself (perhaps he was referring to this?), but that he also simply wants to win hockey games.

You can listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking here.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: August 16, 2011 10:25 am
 

Daily Skate: Ovie endorsement; Isles under review

By Brian Stubits

I'M KIND OF A BIG DEAL: Alexander Ovechkin is always endorsing something. He and Sidney Crosby are undoubtedly the NHL's endorsement Kings. The latest for Ovie? His face being plastered (alexovetjkin.blogspot.com) on the Canadian candy bar Mr. Big Deal. Underneath a smiling Alex is the slogan "Be a big deal like me."

REPLAY REVIEW: The Islanders' plan to have a viewing party to re-watch the game against the Penguins that erupted into the Royal Rumble has drawn a lot of attention across the hockey world. Apparently it caught the NHL's eyes, too. Kevin Allen at USA Today writes that the NHL is "looking into" the promotion, with deputy commissioner Bill Daly saying "We do not approve of the use, based on what we know."

R.I.P. RIPPER: The tragic news came down late Monday that Winnipeg Jets enforcer Rick Rypien was found dead in his home. There is still a lot more to come out on that story. In the meantime, remembrances are pouring in all over Twitter of the player affectionately called the Ripper. Here's an example from Mike Commodore: "RIP Rick Rypien. He was a warrior. Hit me so hard my eyes couldn't focus for 30 secs. Not sure if it was a left or right. #hitmewithboth" USA Today offered up a photo gallery of Rypien's career.

PENS IN DEMAND: The Penguins continue to sell tickets like hot cakes. The team announced this morning that they are again capping the season-ticket sales at 15,000 for the season. That just continues the run in Pittsburgh where the Pens have sold out the last 210 games, which includes every game for the last four seasons.

SMAHSVILLE CELEB SHOW: The game isn't the only attraction in Nashville when you talk Predators hockey. The games are a hotspot for celebrities, too, mostly from the country music world. Nashville is, after all, the home of country. So in further embracing the city's country music roots and promoting the team, the Preds put together (Section 303) a bit of a montage of the scene at games in Nashville.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 15, 2011 10:10 am
Edited on: August 15, 2011 10:24 am
 

Daily Skate: 2012 free agents; bald man's hero

By Brian Stubits

FREE AGENT OUTLOOK: This year's free-agent class hasn't even taken to the ice, but Kevin Allen at USA Todayis already taking a look to next year's class. This summer, the Devils' Zach Parise was one of the higher-rated restricted free agents to be had, and next year he'll go through the process again after getting a one-year contract in New Jersey, but this time he'll be unrestricted. On Allen's list for next year, he sits second among the available, behind Predators defenseman Ryan Suter ... the other big-time blue-liner in Nashville.

BALD IS BEAUTIFUL: Mark Messier is a hero, according to Bald Celebrity (hat tip to Puck Daddy). That's the site that dubbed the former Oilers and Rangers star a bald hockey hero, eloquently writing this: "It takes a real man to handle the pressure of leading a New York sports franchise; a real bald man. It takes an even manlier, and an even balder man though, to have led the 1994 New York Rangers NHL Team to a Stanley Cup Championship. Does this epically manly and epically bald man exist? Yes, yes he does; and his name is Mark Messier."

CAPITAL WEDDING: There is always one piece of advice I give to guys who are engaged, and it's not run away or anything like that. Instead I say tell the wife-to-be that you want a wedding theme based on your favorite sports team, or Star Wars. Stick to your guns and you get out of the planning process. But that wouldn't work for this guy as he and his wife went all out with a full-on Capitals theme at their wedding, even having festivities at the team's practice facility and getting the Caps P.A. announcer to introduce them. Pretty impressive.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com