Tag:San Jose Sharks
Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:05 am
Edited on: February 17, 2012 11:13 am
 

Don't get too excited about that 2nd round pick

Shea Weber is the exception, not the rule for 2nd round success (Getty Images)
By: Adam Gretz

The most popular piece of currency that gets passed around (or is rumored to be passed around) the NHL this time of year is the second-round draft pick.

On Thursday alone we saw two deals go down involving such a pick when San Jose picked up Dominic Moore from the Lightning, and the Flyers acquired defenseman Nicklas Grossman from the Dallas Stars.

It's pretty much the going rate for a veteran rental that can provide some depth, and if your team is one of the ones that ends up coming out of the trade deadline season with such a pick, it's probably best to keep your expectations within reason. Because there is a pretty good chance that it will turn out to be nothing. Or next to nothing.

Just taking a random 10-year sampling of NHL drafts, there were over 340 players selected during the second-round between 1995 and 2005. Of those players, 122 of them never played a game in the NHL. Or, in other words, over 35 percent. That, of course, doesn't count the players that did appear in the NHL but never established themselves as regulars. There were another 122 players that made an appearance in the league but have played fewer than 100 games.

Add those two groups together and that's roughly 70 percent of the players that were selected in the round over a full decade. Not exactly great odds, especially when you consider that the picks exchanging hands in these situations are more often than not near the middle or back end of the round. Most of the impact players that were chosen during the stretch I selected here (guys like Shea Weber, James Neal, Patrice Bergeron, Derek Roy, just as a few examples) were picked within the first 15 picks of the round.

If you think your team is a contender, the thought of giving up a mid-to-late second-round pick shouldn't be much of a concern or stop you from making the move, which is probably why you see so many of them moved every February.

So why would the team on the other side be so willing to accept it? Well, that's simple. If you have a player like Moore that's set to become a free agent, and you know you're going to lose him in the summer, and you know your team is going nowhere for the remainder of that season, it's better to get an asset that gives you a chance (even if it's as low as 30 percent) of finding a future NHL player than losing an asset for absolutely nothing, which of course gives you a zero percent chance of finding a future player.

Also at Eye On Hockey

Moore traded to Sharks
Grossman traded to Flyers
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For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 16, 2012 7:39 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 8:47 pm
 

Lightning trade Dominic Moore to Sharks

LightningSharksBy: Adam Gretz

The Tampa Bay Lightning are not wasting anymore time when it comes to starting their pre-deadline trading.

After it was revealed earlier on Thursday that defenseman Pavel Kubina has been asked to submit a list of teams that he will accept a trade to, the team traded center Dominic Moore, as well as a seventh-round draft pick, to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a second-round draft pick before the two teams faced off in Tampa Bay (Moore won't be playing against his former team).

The Lightning entered play on Thursday night in 13th place in the Eastern Confernence, 10 points out of the No. 8 seed and would need a miracle finish to have even an outside shot of qualifying for the playoffs. This move gives them, as of right now, three second-round selections in 2012.

Moore has four goals and 15 assists this season in 56 games for the Lightning, and will give the Sharks a reliable presence in the faceoff circle (he's winning over 55 percent of his draws this season) and penalty killer. The Sharks now have (as of Thursday's leaderboard) three of the top-15 faceoff percentage leaders in the league with Joe Pavelski (No.1), Joe Thornton (No. 12) and Moore (No. 14).

He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and will cost the Sharks about $303,000 against the salary cap over the remainder of the season.

Moore, 31, will be playing for his eighth team since the start of the 2006-07 season, having also spent time with the Lightning, Canadiens, Penguins, Sabres, Panthers, Wild and Maple Leafs. This is also the fourth time he's been traded near the trade deadline, usually moved for a second or third round pick. He also spent two years with the New York Rangers during the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons.

If nothing else, he's starting develop a collection of team issued luggage that might one day match Mike Sillinger's.

Also at Eye On Hockey

Kubina to sit while Lightning explore trades
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For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:24 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 1:44 pm
 

Nash reportedly down to five possible teams

Nash reportedly has a wish list of five teams. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Look what the Columbus Blue Jackets started. Now every few hours there is a new Rick Nash update after word leaked they'd consider trading their captain.

Then again, we can thank them for what they jump-started, too; the NHL trade deadline.

Nash is available at the right price ... for a couple of teams. Five to be exact. Because of his no-trade clause, the Jackets had to ask Nash for a list of team's he'd waive it for to approve a deal. Who's on it? Would he put any big-market teams on there considering he's seemed to enjoy playing in the smaller Columbus market?

Thanks to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch who has been all over this story like the league's discipline offices on Matt Cooke, we have the teams that are believed to be on the approved side.

Boston, Los Angeles, the Rangers, San Jose and Toronto are believed to be on the approved list for Nash — he would have to waive a no-movement clause in his contract before he could be traded — but the return the Blue Jackets seek could vary widely from club to club.

The Rangers and Kings have been the first two teams mentioned with Nash since the rumors began. So it's interesting they're on the list. The Maple Leafs are involved with every big name available in some capacity, so this will only stoke that fire. The Sharks have good friend Joe Thornton. And the Bruins? Well that'd just be unfair.

It goes without saying that this is just one small step for the man. There is still a giant leap or two to go.

It's going to take a lot to get Nash from the Blue Jackets. The good news for the suitors: there isn't really a position the Jackets couldn't use help at. A goalie will be at the front of all the talks, but they need defensemen and help scoring, particularly if they trade Nash and Jeff Carter. Plus, you can never really have enough scoring regardless.

Portzline speculated on what it would take to get the GM Scott Howson to trade Nash, looking specifically at the top two contenders.

The Blue Jackets are said to want at least one young roster player along with a combination of top prospects and quality draft picks. Using that criteria, the Rangers seem to make the most sense, and the New York Post reported on Tuesday that the two sides have had preliminary discussions.

The Rangers have a player the Blue Jackets have pursued for years in forward Brandon Dubinsky, but they’re also stocked with young defensemen — Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh and Tim Erixon, among others — and forward Chris Kreider, currently playing at Boston College.

The Blue Jackets play on Sunday at the Rangers.

Los Angeles could provide something the Rangers cannot — a top goaltending prospect. Jonathan Bernier, the No. 11 overall draft pick in 2005, has spent the past two seasons as the seldom-used backup to Jonathan Quick. However, the Kings don’t have young prospects to match the Rangers.

Well it sure sounds like a certain President's Trophy contender is in the cat bird's seat here, now doesn't it?

My concern about the Rangers trading for Nash -- aside from the heavy cost -- is the fit. Not that I would foresee any problems with Nash jelling with the Rangers, it's just being wary of messing with a good thing. Obviously the Rangers have that part down pat. They have the best points percentage in the league and are seven points up on everybody else in the East while no team has played fewer games than them.

No doubt adding a little more scoring would help the Rangers this season. If they have an Achilles' heel, it's probably still the offense. I'd just be leery of fixing something that's not broken.

More from Eye on Hockey

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Updating NHL Trade Deadline rumor mill
Full 2012 Trade Deadline coverage

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

Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:32 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 3:29 pm
 

How would Seattle fare as a hockey market?

An old Seattle Thunderbirds sweater. (Seattlehockey.net)

By Brian Stubits

With the news coming out of a plan in the works to build a new, state-of-the-art arena in Seattle, the conversation that was just talking for talking's sake about the NHL in Seattle has become a lot more real. All of a sudden it looks like an NHL-viable city.

I get the sense from reading my Twitter timeline, talking to other media members and seeing fan comments that the majority of people are excited about hockey moving to Seattle, that it'd be a fantastic place for the NHL.

However there are skeptics. The hockey community seems excited at the idea of Seattle having a team, but is Seattle excited? The apple of its eye with the new arena is getting the NBA's SuperSonics back. That's priority Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

While the man talking about building the new arena, Seattle native Chris Hansen, is focused on the NBA and has reportedly not talked to the NHL at all, that doesn't mean there isn't other interested parties who would like to work together. There's interest elsewhere according to Chris Daniels of King TV in Seattle.

So the question remains: Would Seattle be a good hockey market? 

Before I go any further I must disclose that I call the Puget Sound area home. I grew up 30 miles south of Seattle in Tacoma and know the region's sports passions and teams. I grew up a fan of the Mariners, Seahawks and Sonics.

With that out of the way, back to our regularly scheduled reading program.

The Puget Sound area, despite its proximity to Canada, is not a hockey hotbed. Although Seattle does have the distinction of being the first American city to hoist the Stanley Cup when the Seattle Metropolitans did it in 1917, it has never been home to an NHL franchise. It came close during the expansion era of the early 1990s, but obviously that didn't happen.

What it does have, though, is an appetite for hockey. Seattle has long had the Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. Tacoma has seen a couple of teams come through over the years in the WHL's Rockets and the Sabercats of the WCHL, which folded operations. Everett, to the north of Seattle, has a nice new arena that's home to the WHL's Silvertips.

Let's start with them, shall we? In the 2010-11 season, the Thunderbirds -- who now play in the suburb of Kent instead of Key Arena in Seattle -- averaged 4,096 fans per night. The Silvertips a short ways north of the city averaged 5,807 fans per game. That's a combined nearly 10,000 patrons per game for the local junior teams, assuming there's little to no overlap. That's not a bad start, especially for junior hockey, which isn't going to draw as much interest as the NHL.

Furthering the already established hockey presence in the Puget Sound area, Chris Peters of United States of Hockey mentions that the state of Washington already has a pretty strong rec hockey presence, and that's without any NHL roots. Plus, it's the 12th biggest media market in the USA.

Also, the state of Washington has more of an established hockey culture than most of the Sunbelt states the NHL expanded to in the 1990s. A lot of that is thanks to hockey’s nationwide growth in popularity over the last decade. So timing may also be in Seattle and the NHL’s favor in terms of projecting success.

There are nearly 8,000 USA Hockey registered hockey players (PDF) in Washington. It’s not a huge hockey-playing population, but it has consistently grown over the last 20 years. Since 1991, Washington’s USA Hockey player membership has grown by 234.1 percent. There has been a particular spike in growth at the 8 & Under age levels in the last five years, which mirrors what’s been happening across the country.

While the Silvertips are still new to the scene having really only Peter Mueller to speak of from the alumni list, the Thunderbirds do have some notable alumni who have gone on to the NHL. Chief among that group is San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, drafted out of Seattle with the No. 2 overall pick in 1997. He still has some impressions of playing in Seattle.

"Oh I loved it there," Marleau told CBSSports.com with a smile overtaking his face. "I think they'd probably grasp it, take it and run with it. I think they have some great fans there."

But what kind of market would it be for the NHL?

"You never really know until it happens but I think there's definitely a market there," Marleau said. "There's definitely a lot of hockey that goes on there, minor-league hockey. A lot of teams close to the Canadian border too. Everything looks like it would work."

We've seen it in action and on a one-time basis recently and that worked out well. Prior to the 2009-10 season, the Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning played an exhibition game in Everett. The arena was packed with 7,281 fans excited to see NHL hockey.

Fans take in the Coyotes and Lightning in 2009 in Everett.

Everett GM Doug Soetaert -- a former member of the New York Rangers -- has little doubt hockey's top level would go over as smooth as freshly zambonied ice in the arena.

"In the right location, in a brand-new building, it would go very well," Soetaert told the Seattle Times in 2009.

There are some hockey fans on the Sound's south side. I attended a lot of games at the Tacoma Dome watching the Sabercats, that's where I fell in love with hockey. My dad and I would always just walk up and buy tickets to the game and walk in, no problem.

I remember one day in 1998 that was a lot more difficult than normal when the lines outside the arena were into the parking lot. That night more than 14,000 fans were in attendance for live hockey in the Puget Sound area. Minor professional hockey. I didn't enjoy my normal seats a couple rows up from the ice being relocated to the upper deck, but it was an experience. And a sign, I thought, that hockey fans do exist.

At their peak the Sabercats averaged 4,878 fans per game but the numbers did dwindle down to below 3,000 and the team folded before some of their WCHL brethren joined the ECHL (for those who are curious, the Idaho Steelheads, Alaska Aces and Bakersfield Condors were the survivors).

In general, Seattle is a good sports town. Not a great one, but a good one. It has taken soccer and run with it, just check out a Seattle Sounders game on TV. You'll think it's an English Premier League game until you watch a couple seconds of the on-pitch action.

I know a lot of people who swore off the NBA when the Sonics left town. They began hoping for a hockey team to take hold of. Some say they'll never go back to the NBA if Stern is still around, that's how deep the hatred was over the loss of the Sonics. No matter the reason, hockey has a chance to be a rebound. Some fans are just sitting in the unmanned crease waiting for the push.

Even still, hockey would be down the list of Seattle sports. It's possible it could be the sixth or seventh most popular ticket in town with the Mariners, Seahawks, Sonics 2.0, Sounders and University of Washington's football and basketball teams.

In reality, though, I don't think that means it couldn't work. There are few if any cities in the USA where the hockey team is the most popular. It doesn't mean it's not a good market for hockey. For example: the Red Sox, Patriots and arguably Celtics are all bigger than the Bruins in Boston. But would anybody even think of saying Boston isn't a good hockey market?

As Marleau said, we'll never know how well it would take to NHL hockey unless it happens and we can see it in action.

There are probably more hoping Seattle gets a team outside of the region than in it, particularly on the left coast.

"It'd be nice to have another West Coast team," Marleau pointed out. I bet the people of Seattle would agree.

As for what to call a team in Seattle? Join the converstaion on Facebook to check out some ideas.

More from Eye on Hockey

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

Posted on: February 14, 2012 10:11 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 10:41 pm
 

Wings set new record with 21 straight home wins

RedWingsBy: Adam Gretz

With their 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night the Detroit Red Wings made NHL history, setting a new mark (and one that looks like it will continue to grow based on the way they're playing) by winning their 21st consecutive home game, breaking the record that had previously been owned by the 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers and 1929-30 Boston Bruins.

It's an incredible streak, and shows just how much the Red Wings have dominated their opponents at Joe Louis Arena this season, pushing their home record to 24-2-1. They haven't lost a home game since dropping a 4-1 decision to the Calgary Flames on November 3. The only other losses at home this season were against  Minnesota (a 2-1 shootout loss on November 1) and San Jose (a 4-2 loss on October 28).

What makes it so amazing isn't just the number of wins, but also the manner in which many of them have been achieved.



Some quick facts on the current streak:

-- The Red Wings have outscored the 21 teams they've knocked off by a total margin (as of Tuesday) of 87-31.

-- 10 of the wins have been by a margin of three goals or more. Three of the wins have been shutouts, five involved the Red Wings giving up just one goal, and only two saw them give up more than two. No team has scored more than three goals against them.

-- In typical Red Wings fashion, they have completely controlled puck possession and have out-shot their opponents by an average margin of 32.8 to 25.4 on a nightly basis.

-- And, finally, yes, three of the wins did come by way of the shootout.

My Eye On Hockey colleague, Brian Stubits, rattled a few cages by pointing this fact out on Sunday night when the Red Wings tied the record with a win over the Flyers.

You can put whatever level of significance on that fact that you choose (you can put an asterisk next to it, or you can ignore it, it doesn't really matter), but there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing it out, and it doesn't mean that by doing so that you can still can't marvel at the record -- because it is darn impressive, and worthy of being celebrated.

But these events from one era to another don't take place in a vacuum. The league that the 2011-12 Red Wings play in is vastly different from the league that the 1975-76 Flyers played in, for a number of reasons. It might as well not even be the same sport when compared to the league that the 1929-30 Bruins played (In 1929, for example, there were still limitations on when you could advance the puck with a forward pass). You wouldn't look at a 30-goal scorer in today's NHL the same way that you look at a 30-goal scorer in, say, the 1980s, because it's a completely different era with different rules and a different style of play.

None of this makes one streak better or worse than the other as all three teams had advantages and disadvantges when compared to the others, but it's still worth mentioning the differences. You have to (well, you should, anyway) take everything into account when comparing teams and players from different eras.

No matter how you look at the streak, the Red Wings are setting themselves up to be the favorites to take the Western Conference. After Tuesday's game they sit on top of the West (and the NHL, for that matter) with 80 points, and still have seven of their next 10 games on home ice where, again, they've only lost three games this season, and only two in regulation.

The schedule does get a bit tougher as they have upcoming games with Nashville, San Jose, Vancouver and Chicago at home, but that hasn't really mattered much this season, as nearly every team that's entered Joe Louis Arena has left in defeat, regardless of record.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 14, 2012 1:22 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 1:33 pm
 

Pavelski, Sharks continue to perform under radar

Pavelski's 22 goals are tied with Marleau, one behind Couture for the team lead. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- The San Jose Sharks are kind of like that team they got their head coach Todd McLellan from, the Detroit Red Wings. They are there every season now. The only difference -- and it's the big one -- is getting to and winning Stanley Cups.

But like the Wings, the Sharks have that whole organization stability and continuity thing down pat. They are well on their way to a playoff berth in the eighth consecutive season and 13th in the last 14 seasons. They have won the Pacific Division every season since finishing second in 2006-07.

They have franchise stalwarts, too. Everybody knows the guys like Jumbo Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and last year's rookie star (and this year's All-Star Draft Mr. Irrelevant) Logan Couture. Guys like Douglas Murray, Ryan Clowe, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and now Dan Boyle have been there some time, too.

Oh, and Joe Pavelski. You can't forget Joe Pavelski, although it seems sometimes that people do.

Heck, he was even an afterthought in the 2005 NHL Draft. It took until the 205th overall selection -- that's the seventh round, folks -- for Pavelski's name to be called. That's when the Sharks took the University of Wisconsin star despite him being a better than a point-per-game player for the Badgers.

He's only been a key piece of their puzzle in the last half-decade or so. Particularly this season.

Pavelski had himself a game on Monday night in Washington, recording four points with two goals -- including this rather remarkable tally in the first period. It brought his season totals to 22 goals and 22 assists. He's creeping up on his career high of 25 goals with a whole lot of season left to play.

"Heck of a year," McLellan said.

McLellan has a way with words and that's as succinct and appropriate a way to put it as any.

I'm not saying people in hockey don't know who Pavelski is. That'd be rude to underestimate the knowledge of hockey fans, which is know is second to none. It's more that he just doesn't seem to get his full due. He comes down the list of names mentioned when people talk about the Sharks.

But he deserves more, particularly with the increased scoring production he's showing this year. He seems to be on his way to easily eclipsing the 30-goal mark this season.

Considering there aren't a whole lot of new faces in San Jose this season -- Brent Burns on the blueline is fresh as is Martin Havlat, but he's having a down and injury-plagued season -- it has been more about getting the chance than anything else. Kind of like just getting a chance after being drafted so late.

"Last year he spent a fair amount of time on our third line just with the way our team was built," McLellan said. "On the power play this year he's benefitted by playing with some better players -- some more creative players, pardon me, not better but more creative maybe."

He's playing more this season than he ever has, averaging 20:52 of ice time per game. It's led to increased responsibilities at both ends of the ice, not just when it comes to scoring.

"Pav is a very reliable guy at both ends of the rink," McLellan said. As much as he's reaching a career high in goals he's doing some real good things defensively as well."

Everybody's favorite stat in hockey -- plus/minus -- says that's true. He's a plus-15 this season, better than any season before. He's never been on the negative side. But you can't put too much stock into plus/minus, as we know it's a flawed statistic, doesn't really say much about the individual player.

An advanced metric that's a bit more telling is Corsi (for an explanation, here you go), and there Pavelski is a 12.93, the second highest among forwards in San Jose behind Thornton.

"I'm not surprised. He plays in all situations," Boyle said. "He kills penalties, he's a power-play guy, big-minute guy. Does a little bit of everything."

With the Sharks embarking in a nine-game, cross-continent road trip, they'll rely on all of his tools. It's the kind of stretch that will determine how the Pacific Division will play out as the Kings and to a lesser extent Coyotes and Sharks continue to lie in the weeds. If it's a struggle, the race is on.

"It's really important for us, you don't want to go 0-2 to start a road trip," Pavelski said of Monday's 5-3 win that followed Sunday's 2-0 loss in St. Louis. "You see what can happen with Chicago. It can just keep snowballing. It never gets easier on the road so you take the wins when you can get them.

"It never gets easier. That next game gets that much bigger."

The goal now for Pavelski and the Sharks is to get to that game where the stakes can't possibly be any bigger.

More from Eye on Hockey

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

Posted on: February 14, 2012 1:42 am
Edited on: February 14, 2012 1:55 am
 

A Caps goalie beaten from center ice ... again

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- The scouting report is out on the Washington Capitals. It doesn't matter which goalie is in net, just fire the puck from the red line. Chances are you are going to score.

For the second time in as many home losses -- 5-3 to the Sharks -- an opponent scored from center ice. Well that's not entirely accurate from Monday night, Dan Boyle's shot was deflected by Joe Pavelski around the blue line and bounced toward Braden Holtby, starting for the first time this season with Tomas Vokoun under the weather.

Holtby was left looking more like a first baseman picking a short hop than a goaltender.

"Just tried getting my stick out," Pavelski said. "You see it bouncing and you hope when you're that far away that something stupid happens."

Something stupid happened.

"I don't think I've ever been a part of anything like that," Boyle said. He's played in more than 900 NHL games so that's saying something.

"You could probably change a few things," Holtby said of the goal. "I'd probably liked to have been out further, but at that point I'm trying to make sure I'm in the right position, in case he rims it I [can] go and stop it. It happend pretty quickly to me, I wasn't expecting that so I'm not really sure what my positioning was."

It's just going that kind of way for the Caps right now.

Go back a few days when the Winnipeg Jets were at Verizon Center. They were trailing the Caps in the closing minutes 2-1. Just 12 seconds after scoring their first, Dustin Byfuglien hammered the puck into the offensive zone, only the puck went off Karl Alzner and Vokoun couldn't recover in time.

"I saw it, I was on the line. I can tell you, it's really hard for the goalies," Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec said. "It hit the guy's stick -- absolutely no chance for Vokey there. Absolutely no chance. I saw it. It's just bad luck, hit the guy's stick and goes straight to the net. Buff did a good job, shot the puck as hard as he can and the puck find a way."

That's two goalies. What about the third, backup Michal Neuvirth? Yes, he has been victimized in recent weeks by the red line shot, too.

His came in one of the month's critical matchups against the Florida Panthers and Mikael Samuelsson.

Three goalies, three red-line goals.

What do they say? Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence and three times is a trend? Well we're not going to call this a trend. It's not like teams are going to begin launching shots from the red line all the time on the Caps. It's not exactly a fool-proof strategy.

But it has made the Caps goalies look a little like fools, even if they weren't the easiest saves in the world to be made.

More from Eye on Hockey

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

Posted on: February 13, 2012 10:58 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 1:27 pm
 

Is the Capitals' season slipping away?

The Caps might be losing their grip on this season. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- This season began with such promise for the Washington Capitals. They beefed up in an attempt to finally get over the Eastern Conference semifinal hump and hopes were high that this was the team.

It is starting to head toward an end of such despair.

Now granted, there is still time -- and a trade deadline to go -- but this team just isn't the contender so many saw. If you want, blame it on the injuries. It's tough for a team to play without its No. 1 center (Nicklas Backstrom) and No. 1 defenseman (Mike Green). But they aren't the only team dealing with injuries. That's not going to garner much sympathy.

But fact of the matter is they are slipping and are running out of games to pick it up. Depending on what happens with the Panthers take on the Senators on Wednesday night, the Caps could find themselves down by as many as six points in the Southeast Division. Adam Gretz already explained pretty well that that's obviously the worst division in hockey. So being six points back of the worst division leader isn't a good sign.

They have been tough to beat at home. Not for the San Jose Sharks, they weren't. Not on Monday night. The Sharks came in after a tough loss in St. Louis 24 hours ago and beat the Caps down, walking away with a 5-3 win (Caps scored a couple late to make it closer). It was Washington's third loss in a row, second at Verizon Center.

"I don't think we are frustrated," Alex Ovechkin said. "One [game] we have to win, but we didn't win. Everybody's trying. I can't say nobody's trying, nobody's playing 100 percent."

This is why things are hitting critical mass. They have been good at home for almost all of the season and pretty dang bad on the road. Washington's next four are on the road starting with Friday's massive game against the Panthers in Florida. That will follow with dates in Tampa Bay, Carolina and Ottawa too. Not exactly Murder's Row but for a team that struggles on the road, anything is tough.

It's not a stretch to say that they probably need six out of the eight points on that trip. They can't afford to fall any further behind Florida or the rest of their Eastern counterparts.

The good news? There is some. Ottawa is falling harder than the Caps right now, not making the bottom of the East out of reach.

It's pretty safe to say that the Caps need to do something at the trade deadline. They will be active no doubt. Tonight in Washington 12 scouts were on hand including two from the Blue Jackets, ex-Ducks coach Randy Carlyle (now a scout for Anaheim) and Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier. It's worth noting that this weekend in Columbus two Caps scouts were present.

"The determination is there -- I think -- in this room,” Matt Hendricks said. “I think the focus is there. The execution just isn't there right now."

This coming road trip is a crucial a stretch as any this season. It really could be the season for the Capitals after their recent swoon.

More from Eye on Hockey

Holtby beaten from center ice
Recap: Sharks 5, Capitals 3
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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