Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Roundup/Gamenight: Caps @ Thrash

[AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]

One can safely assume that during and perhaps after Wednesday night's debacle in Chicago, Bruce Boudreau did for the Caps via tearing what German doctors mistakenly did for this woman via surgery. That disaster behind us (no pun intended), the Caps head to Atlanta desperate - which is when Bruce Boudreau's Caps have often been at their best.

In Atlanta, they'll find the League's worst team. Maybe not by record (though theirs is certainly nothing of which to be proud, and they do have a League-low 16 wins in regulation and haven't won an intra-Conference game of any type since the night after Valentine's Day), but just look at the mess this franchise is. They can't score. They can't keep opponents from scoring. They have the worst goals for/goals against differential in hockey. They have two defensemen whose plus/minus ratings are in the minus-twenties and eight forwards who are double-digit minus players. Their top line is an Ovechkin-wannabe Ilya Kovalchuk, Bobby Holik and Chris Thorburn and they don't have a goalie on the roster with a GAA under three.

Pretty sweet, ain't it?

Make no mistake about it, either - this is not the Caps or Pens of the past few years or the Kings or Hawks of this year. There isn't much help on the way in Atlanta. Thrashers GM (and current head coach) Don Waddell could write a book on how not to build a franchise, and three-quarters of it could focus on the blueline. For example, back in 2003, Donny Wads probably knew that he wanted to draft a top rearguard, having taken three forwards and a goalie with the franchise's previous four first round picks.

By the time Atlanta's pick (eighth overall) was up, Ryan Suter was gone, basically leaving Waddell with a choice between a pair of blueliners out of the WHL - Braydon Coburn and Dion Phaneuf. The Thrashers took the former - a decision that, at the time, didn't seem horrendous, given that Coburn was Central Scouting's top-rated defenseman overall, a couple of spots ahead of Phaneuf.

Anyway, Coburn played in all of 29 games for the Thrashers before Waddell shipped him to Philly for Alexei Zhitnik last February, and just over a year later, well, here's what everyone's got:
Ouch.

The following year, 2004, Waddell went D-drafting again, this time taking Boris Valabik (a fairly by-the-book pick)... 13 spots before Andrej Meszaros, 17 before Jeff Schultz and 19 before Mike Green. Valabik made his NHL debut Wednesday night and was on the ice for all five goals the Thrash surrendered.

Bottom line: if you're looking for a reason that Atlanta's defense is so awful, look at the guy putting the team together and his inability to evaluate talent at the position. In nine drafts, I count exactly three NHL defensemen (not counting Valabik) - Garnet Exelby, Coburn (a no-brainer) and the gem that is Tobi Enstrom, taken with the 239th pick in that 2003 draft - and little in the system about which to get excited.

By contrast, over the same nine drafts, George McPhee has drafted six blueliners who have seen NHL minutes this season and other prospects with promise aplenty (let's just not revist that 2003 Draft in too much more detail, okay?).

So here's to Don Waddell - may he keep his job as GM in Atlanta for many years to come.

And while it's certainly enjoyable to revel in the Thrashers' suck, it has been costly to the Caps when you consider how generous Atlanta has been this season to the teams with whom the Caps are fighting for playoff spots. They've given Carolina 11 points in seven games on the campaign, nine in six to Florida, eight in four to Philly, six in four to Boston, five in four to Buffalo... and eight in seven to the Caps.

If the Caps can't turn that last stat into ten in eight tonight, they're going to be in a very difficult spot indeed.

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

Happy 42nd Birthday to Al "Bald Wild Thing" Iafrate.... Count Jim Kelley in the "he can be MVP without making the playoffs" camp.... Crazy Ron, however, is on the other side.... Mike Brophy's cold streak continues as he praises Chris Rooney for having a "solid" season. I tend to disagree.... GMGM was on this team (though I'm not sure I see him in that team pic - could that be him in the back right?) and he's griping about the length of the Caps' current road trip? Heh.... Speaking of firing up the Wayback Machine, Rink Reader Buddy reminded me the other day of a Glen Hanlon nugget that no doubt will win you a beer in a bar someday.... Matt Pettinger has three goals for Vancouver, and they're lovin' him. Good for Princess.... Say what you will about Georges Laraque (no, really... please do), but there can be no denying that he has a way with words (near the bottom; h/t Hockeyfights.com).... Ranger fans can be unfriendly? Get out.... Finally, one year ago today we got fantastic news from across the pond, almost equally fantastic news from The Big Apple, and previewed that night's Caps/Sabres game (which featured the Caps' first meeting with "former Cap" Dainius Zubrus), and two years ago today we recapped another Caps loss, but it wasn't just any loss - it was the "Ovechkin Benching" game (and the kid's been nothing but trouble since).

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Alexei Kovalav (2G, including the game-winner, A, +3, 6 SOG)
  • Ross: Alexei Kovalev, Shane Doan, Peter Mueller (3 points each)
  • Norris: Tom Preissing (2G, 3 SOG, 2 hits)
  • Vezina: Cam Ward (36 saves on 37 shots against in shootout win)
  • Richard: Alexei Kovalev, Tom Preissing, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Radulov (2G each)
  • Calder: Peter Mueller (3A)
  • Aiken: Nick Boynton (0 points, -3)

14 comments:

WufPirate said...

In addition to the trainwrecks that you listed above about ATL, Holik & Boulton had to be separated on the bench during the Flyers game the other night.

I hope DW hangs around down there for as long as possible too!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just read that the Panthesr were on a 7 game win streak (franchise high)... I didn't realize they had won that many in a row. Carolina is beating anyone and everyone now a days, regardless if their opponent is playing well or not.

Wow.

NS said...

on a random note - at least Boston lost in regulation. Go Habs! If the Caps get the 8th seed, I really hope the Habs don't get the first. They're my #2 team and I would hate for Huet to have to face his old crew. Thats just fucked up after how well he played for them.

Anonymous said...

holy linkarhea

b.orr4 said...

The Caps don't have to win every remaining game, but they absolutely have to win tonight. Lose to the Thrashers and you can start breaking out the golf clubs. And I would say Waddell has to have some photos of the owner with farm animals to keep his job, but do they even have a real owner in Atlanta?

JmF said...

We've got ATL, TB twice, FLA twice - IMO we need all of those 10 points - then we have the make or break games with CAR (2wice).....if we get those 10 points and squeak out an overtime game or a win, we should wrap this up with a playoff appearance, right?

I'll be happy to make it and face any team in our conference - except the one from western PA - I've had my heart broken too many time by them....

JmF said...

Oh and yea, JP, let me do the reason's why the Thras win tonight....

Because you've highlighted how bad they are and have now jinxed us.

Good thing I'm not superstitious....

Anonymous said...

F that! bring on Pittsburgh we showed them last game that we can 7 games. That would be glorious. As for the Atlanta HAHAHA does anyone still "Believe in Blueland" ahhahaha losers

dmg said...

Waddell is an idiot. I don't care what CSS said, anyone who knew anything about Phaneuf should have drafted him ahead of Coburn. Or maybe I am just bitter than I don't have the chance to see him on a regular basis...

anyhow, to build on what you were saying about this being the worst team in the NHL, Thrash in the last 10 games:

* Won one game in regulation, won one game in a shootout, lost twice in overtime and lost six times in regulation.

* Allowed an average of 35.6 shots per game against and averaged 26.1 shots for.

* Were outshot six times, outshot their opposition three times and matched their opponents once.

* Went 6 for 35 on the powerplay (17.1%), but scored powerplay goals in only three games.

* Killed just 29 of 40 shorthanded situations (72.5%).

* Saw their goalies post a combined .896 save percentage.

Josh said...

Come on man, Kovalchuk is sick in his own ways. He's no wannabe.

Anonymous said...

Another completely absurd comment from good old Damien Cox...you gotta take this one JP.

Burnside: I think the league would benefit from having Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps in, plus it would take away the issue of whether to give Ovechkin the Hart Trophy if Washington doesn't make it. I know we're not talking trophies, but do you think coaches should be considered for the Jack Adams Award if they don't make the playoffs just as players are handicapped if their teams don't make the playoffs?


Cox: Yes. To me, making the playoffs is a minimum for consideration for major awards unless we're talking about some incredible, mind-blowing performance. I mean, you could, in theory, argue that Patrick Kane deserves the Hart because he has been so instrumental in the revitalization of hockey in Chi-town. Or that Ilya Bryzgalov deserves it. But you gotta make the playoffs. Otherwise, to me, it means you just haven't been as valuable, 'cause any team that misses postseason play should deem their season a failure.

Anonymous said...

Kane...Bryzgalov...REALLY, are you lumping AO in with them cause his team falls JUST SHORT of the playoffs and has played 101pt hockey since the coaching change. Ugh...

hotdog88gt said...

So does Cox have a vote for NHL awards?

jh said...

Cox does have a bit of a point. But, his mistake is suggesting that Ovie's season would only be ordinary if the Caps don't end up getting in. The first guy to score 60 goals (if and when he does it) in over a decade can't be denied. Seriously, who deserves MVP if you only give the award to guys on playoff teams? Malkin is the closest, and he hasn't had to carry his team all season long.

The column just brings up what happens every year. "What exactly is the criteria for MVP?" Is it numbers mostly, or the actual value of a player to his team? Guess what, Damien Cox? Alex Ovechkin fits both! Most people refer to that as a no-brainer!