Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Boogard, Rypien, Belak

I hope that there's not a link between enforcers and dangerous habits and mental illness. I hope that this doesn't mean that a major role in this sport, taken up by dozens of players, puts them directly in danger of depression and substance abuse.

I hope that the players that come to mind when I think of "enforcers" are safe and healthy in all possible ways.

I hope that the fighting and the kind of physicality that defines this sport isn't destructive to a point that it does need to be completely overhauled. If there is a choice between fighting and keeping these young men safe and healthy, I wouldn't choose fighting; I hope that they're not mutually exclusive, but I want to know if they are.

I want answers. I know I am not entitled to them, but after three young, unnecessary deaths, I'm concerned, and the whole hockey community is concerned. I'm concerned bordering on terrified. I want someone who is in a position to make a difference to explain what's going on, and what is going to be done about it.

I want John Erskine and DJ King to be safe. I want Matt Hendricks and Matt Bradley to be safe. I want their minds to be safe, I want them to know that they are important to the team and the fans, and that they would be missed by the fanbase and by family and friends if anything was ever to happen to them.

I want summer to be over already and for nothing else bad to happen. I want those who are injured to recover; I hope to see a clean, skilled game and I hope not to see anyone take career-ending or life-threatening injuries this year. I want there to be easy answers and I know there's not, but mostly I want all of these players to be okay.

There's a month to go. October can't come soon enough.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

people i really want to like: Tomas Vokoun

Boy, was he ever a pain when he played for Florida. But now he's OUR pain, so that's different.

To me, part of a GM's job when a team has a disappointing season is to somehow find something for people to get excited about again--the team, the fanbase, the everyone. Jedi McPhee blew that out of the water this year--he didn't break up the core like some people thought he would, but he got us some Grit, he got us some Playoffs Thunder, and most importantly he got us a really amazing goalie. 

And there he is stopping us from scoring a goal. NOW HE WILL DO THAT TO OTHER TEAMS. Isn't it great? 

Reasons to like him: 
  • He's got some of the best stats this side of the lockout, in fact he has the best save percentage since the lockout with the exception of Tim Thomas--by 0.00002 of a point. Considering the difference between the teams they've played on? Yup. There are 29 other teams that should be worried right about now. 
  • He's cheap as hell--we all heard the stories. Jedi McPhee. We never should have gotten a goalie that good at that price. Except we did. RUN WITH IT. 
  • He's Czech! Which means you can officially call our goaltending duo Czechmate :| know. If you wanted to. Seriously though--all the mentoring going on here. 
  • He's hungry--He knows that his success this year is largely going to determine the rest of his career, plus he has been dying to play for a contender for some time now. That would be us. Let's make some magic/babies/Stanley Cups. 

Possible flies in the ointment of my dreams: 
  • His stats last year were a slight downslide from what he's been doing for most of his career. Slight--and easily attributed to maybe him getting sick of playing for a bottom-feeder team and seeing the new-contract light at the end of the tunnel. 
  • Age. Older goaltenders certainly haven't been an issue lately, though, have they? 
  • One-year contract--if we can't win with him this year, chances are we can't hold onto him. 

A quote: 
“I don’t think we anticipated being this fortunate."  -- George McPhee. 

Best case scenario: 
Stanley Cup. 

What? You expected me to say something else? We're stable in goal in a way we haven't been since Kolzig, which was one of the huge questions from last year. We're all going to sleep better without a goaltending controversy, and honestly, we've seen what Vokoun can do. Now we get to see what he can do when there's a real team in front of him! Scary. In a good way. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

pessimism/optimism: what i am worried about, and why i don't care

I'm a Caps fan--that means I'm equal parts horrifyingly jaded and stupidly optimistic. You wouldn't think it with where we ended up in conference standings, but a lot of things did not...really........WORK. Last year. There were a lot of parts that weren't clicking. There are a lot of parts that still may not be clicking.

But fuck it. Look at this team, they are amazing. Look at what they've done--barring some kind of slump year again, it's much more likely that they'll regress back to the statistical mean. Things will be okay. Things will be somewhere on the scale between okay and amazing.

That doesn't mean that I'm not stressing about some things--partly out of boredom, partly out of having to leave some issues cold in March and not being able to get any answers to our questions until October.

Mostly boredom, though. It's the offseason. Time for some fucking LISTS. So here are some concerns, and some reckless banishment of them, PART ONE.

1. Center center center center.

ALL THE QUESTIONS IN THE WORLD LIE HERE. Is Backstrom going to have a bounce-back year? Pessimism says: no. 2009-10 was a career year, and he will never reach those point totals again.

Optimism says: well actually, yes. Seriously let's see a season where he doesn't have a broken thumb. Backstrom is a TALENT, he's one of the top playmaking centers in the league. Still. He drove me so crazy so many times last year but maybe not all of that was his fault. I want him to show me something this year, he is on notice--but I think he will. Optimism says 20 plus goals, 60 plus assists. You hear that, universe?

Is Marcus Johansson capable of shouldering a 2C role?

Pessimism says: no. He often seemed a little lost last year, got pushed around by other players physically, and had a little trouble adapting to North American hockey. He's still very young and he's not ready for it.
Optimism says: yes. He got better the more the season went on, and he's starting to show signs of real chemistry with Semin. I'd like to believe that he can do it, if only because that would be really fucking convenient.

2. Ovechkin.

Well what about him, then? Is HE going to have a bounce-back year?

Pessimism says: no. Powerhouse scorers normally have their best years in the beginning of their careers. It's not that 25 going on 26 is OLD--it's just that other than the occasional outlier such as Yzerman, superstars normally win Stanley Cups for their teams in their first five seasons, or not at all. HELP. I HATE SEEING THESE KINDS OF STATISTICS, THEY ARE ALARMING. There's no way he's on the downswing, there is no way. However: last season was scary.

Optimism says: yes. Because Ovechkin is not a normal player. He's a generational talent, he's already the most prolific scorer in the post-lockout era, and the only truly consistent power forward of the past five years. A lot of the issues with his production last year are easily identified: lack of proper conditioning. Lack of help from his number one center. He has every reason to be better this year than he was last year--he may be on the downswing as a scorer, but he's coming right into his prime as a player. Hell, I don't need 60 goals from him. I'll take 50. I'll take 40. I just want to see him blow my mind again.

hockey's coming

You know it is. You can feel it. Training camps are going to be starting soon, preseason games are in less than a month, and we can pretend those are real hockey, right? All summer long we've been subsisting on rumors and Youtube Ovechkin breakaways, we're so close to having some real substance again.

But we're not there yet.

And what do you do when there's no real news?

LISTS. That's what. So here, have some.