Wednesday, April 30, 2008

2007-08 Rink Wrap: Steve Eminger

From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every player* who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. Next up, Steve Eminger.

Contract Status: RFA; 2007-08 salary of $1M
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 24
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 4+
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 20 games played, 0 goals, 2 assists, -4, 8 PIMs
Key Stat: Including the playoffs, the Caps were 17-5-3 with Eminger in the lineup in 2007-08 (and yes, I included the playoff OT losses in the OTL column).
Surprising Stat: Eminger was actually on the Caps' roster all season.

The Good: Eminger stepped his game up in the playoffs, where he had the most hits-per-game of any Caps blueliner, scored a big goal and posted a plus-two rating in five games (he was arguably the Caps' best defenseman in Game Seven, too). In obviously limited playing time, Eminger had the best takeaway-to-giveaway ratio of any Caps blueliner and the best plus-minus of any season in which he played more than 17 games (hey, I'm tryin' here). Perhaps the best of "The Good" is how professionally Eminger has acted (publicly, at least), throughout the most difficult season of his career (then again, if you paid me a million bucks to just sorta hang out, I could probably suck it up too).

The Bad: After a five-goal/13-assist campaign in 2005-06 (in just 66 games), Emmy has just one goal and a minus-18 rating in 88 regular season games since. His points-per-game fell from .27 in 2005-06 to .25 in 2006-07 and all the way to .10 this year, and while his ice time also dropped in each of the past two years, his production per minute fell off at a much greater rate this season. Despite taking only four minor penalties all season, he was fourth on the team in penalties taken per 60 minutes. The biggie under "The Bad," of course, is the fact that he couldn't break the lineup for most of the year, even for some must-win games in which Sami Lepisto was given a shot instead. Eminger's use this past season-and-a-half remains one of the great unsolved mysteries in Capland.

The Vote: Rate Eminger on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

The Questions: Potentially an RFA this summer, should the Caps re-sign Eminger (almost unquestionably they'll qualify him) or let the former first round pick (taken ahead of Alex Semin, by the way) walk. If he is re-signed, what role do you see him playing on the 2008-09 Caps? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?

If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.

* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.


D-Cell said...

Eminger is better than Erskine and Jurcina. Maybe Schultz too. Can't give up on him without giving him a fair chance.


1) There apparently is more to the Eminger story than what we have been told. There has to be, right? The odd way he was handled all season made it look like he was a pariah. Considering how the team handled his situation he was remarkably quiet to the press
2) It wasn't until the team had no other choice in the playoffs did they play him regularly, despite not looking any better/worse than the other bottom 2, 3 defensemen who got his playing time.
3) His playoffs should earn him another try with the team, but who knows what's really going on here?

Rage said...

I have no idea how to judge him, so I'm not going to cast a vote. The guy played so sporadically, it must have been hard to play as he is capable.

I kind of want to see him move on to a bad team, if for no other reason than he'll be given plenty of playing time.

He's got to be better than Juice if Emmy's willing to play the body like he did in the playoffs.

Melvisdog said...

I had to give him the one '8' (so far) as he far exceeded what I expected of him in the playoffs. With the limited playing time he received all season, whenever he hit the ice I would hold my breath and wait for a mistake. But those mistakes were few and far between. I never agreed with playing him Erskine as neither are fleet-of-foot (and that never helped his cause). However his positioning was solid and you have to say his first pass far exceeds Jurcina 'the human turnonover' and John 'delay of game' Erskine.

Chuck G. said...

I agree with the fact that I'd rather have Eminger than Erskine. I gave him a 5 because he didn't impress me, compared to what I expected. He's been in the league long enough to where I expect a good D to have a good plus minus and bring some energy to the backline, which he did in the playoffs. I say re-sign him for no more than what he was paid this year.

Melvisdog said...

Just went back and looked at the Bradley v. Cooke comments and noted that many are looking to the salary cap to be the determining factor in resigning. I stuck all the salary info in a roster spreadsheet a couple of days ago and created a way to play with the roster. I put instructions on my site how to use it, but it's pretty simple.
1. choose the "Edit this page" at the bottom (you need a googledocs account)
2. put a "1" next to a player to add the roster.
3. Make sure the RFAs and UFAs have a salary.

By my count we have 14 under contract for $37m (includes Pothier and Clark who may not play again). The results are pretty scary. Enjoy.

Tyler said...

There were definitely regular-season games in which 44 played well. And there were a few in which he didn't... but when a guy is a healthy scratch for 40whatever games and then is a little rusty in his first game or two I'm not going to hold that against him.

But I think JP underplays the magnitude of the Capitals' Emingerian blunder. The guy is a former first-round pick with skill, an absolute asset and the organIzation didn't treat him as such. It's almost like they set out to systematically destroy the player and the player's potential trade value.

In the last week or two of the season and in the playoffs he was quite good. He skated well, showed ability with the puck (at least in the last 55 minutes of games -- like a lot of Caps he started a lot of games a little nervous), a willingness to hit, and he was our grittiest playoff D not named Erskine. Heck, in the playoffs he played top-four quality hockey, which is remarkable given what the Caps did with/to him all year.

If I'm 44 I don't want to be within an Acela stop of the McPhee/Hanlon/Boudreau regime. But if I'm the Caps I try to mend the fences: not just by QO'ing 44, but by offering him two years and $2.3-$2.6M.

Tyler said...

Worth keeping in mind: 44 wasn't just a first-round pick, he was chosen twelfth overall.

NS said...

i still think Eminger can be a top 4 defenseman for the Caps. If he truly has that offensive upside, he would be an interesting match with an Alzner type player.

anyone know if the IIHF World's is televised in our area? online? must watch!!!

JP said...

@ Chuck: As an RFA, Emmy has to be qualified at 10% (I believe) more than he made this past year, so he is due a raise if re-signed.

@ NS: Ted had a post that included a link to a site at which you'll be able to watch the games online.

NS said...

thanks, JP.

(still plan on getting you the most recent update, btw. just haven't had a minute to finish it.)

b.orr4 said...

Steve is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. My first reaction to his limited playing time at the start of the season was that he did something to piss off Hanlon. But his exile continued once Bruce showed up and we all know Boudreau didn't make many mistakes this year. The Caps have already said they're qualifying him, so I guess he'll be here next season. He definitely should be playing ahead of Erskine who makes me cringe every time he's on the ice, but I have a hard time seeing him as more than a third pairing defenseman. I say keep him but I don't see him here long term.

diggity doo said...

Somebody needs to go public and explain his shoddy treatment. He played very well and stayed classy throughout all of this. I am still wondering if it had anything to do with something involving he and Sutherby as they were roommates (excessive partying? underage chicks? reaching here, reaching). They wanted nothing but to get Sutherby out of town, too. Not that his "great" talent would have kept him here, but still, look at the way he was shipped off. The entire #44 story is just BIZZARO.

diggity doo said...

Another thing - I noticed that his dad came to the Florida Caps dad trip. How uncomfortable that must have been for he and his dad, too.
"Hi, nice to meet you, why are you screwing with my son?" and to the other dads "hi, I'm the dad of the one they keep sitting for no apparent reason." That was big of his dad to come IMO.

~Mark said...

I say, qualify him, try to deal him (for a roster player) and if you can't, give the guy top 6 minutes. He deserves to play somewhere, and the only reason it may not be DC is the burned-bridge. He impressed the heck out of me at the end of the season, and has certainly opened some eyes.

JP said...

While we all feel badly for how Emmy was used/treated this year (especially since we don't know why he was used/treated in that manner), let's not forget that he was paid a million bucks for his troubles.

Now, I recognize that this year likely hindered (at least in the short-term) his future earnings... but a million smackers is still a pretty nice haul.

Put another way, Eminger made around $4,490 for every minute he was on the ice this past regular season, which is $269,400 and change per hour of ice time.

Now I'm depressed.

diggity doo again said...

You can't look at it that way, JP.
Sorry, you just can't. It's not like he commanded to be in that situation. It is what it is.

JP said...

Actually, I'm pretty sure I can look at it any way I choose to. :)

The assumption here is that Emmy has been totally wronged here and that the organization is wholly culpable. Isn't it possible that there's more to the story here? Might not he share some of the responsibility?

Perhaps he had a crappy work ethic and the team wouldn't play him until he changed that and rather than call him out in public - and further damage his trade value - they kept it internal.

Point being, it's all speculation and maybe we'll never know the full story. Point further being that he has shown promise and hopefully has his career (back) on track.

diggity doo said...

Agree with you on all points. As I wrote in the first post, there could most definitely be blame on him first and foremost for whatever started his banishment. He may even be the "lucky" one for not being slammed in public for whatever his transgression was if it were his in the first place.

b.orr4 said...

I'll tell you this, Eminger may not have got much playing time but he's had more written about him than all the other Caps defensemen combined. He's kind of like a third string quarterback. Because he never gets to play, everyone is fantasizing what he could do if he ever got to play. Of course, we all forget that when he was on the ice in previous seasons, he never really did that much. And you're right, JP, every two weeks when Steve gets his paycheck I bet he's smiling from ear to ear. Please, someone abuse me like that.

exwhaler said...

And let's not forgot that Eminger was given plenty of opportunity to win a full-time job the past two seasons since the lockout, and failed miserably. He had games where he looked like the defenseman we thought he could be, but more often than not, he was horribly erratic in-game and guys like Heward and Muir would outplay him. Eminger's lack of playing time is no mystery--he simply ran out of time as other prospects like Green and Schultz improved past him and the Caps brought in Poti and Pothier, and the Capitals ran out of patience (there's also rumors of attitude problems dating back to before the firesale, but that's all they are, rumors).

A good part of Eminger's woes can be traced to the fact he's been through three coaches (Wilson, Cassidy, and Hanlon) during his development, and that each couch tried to teach a different style of play. But what the team has to deal with is the player as he is now, not how they mishandled him in the past. Earlier this season, McPhee explained that the Capitals saw Eminger as an extra defenseman, something that Cote at the end of his career used to be for this team.

Personally, I think the long benching was good for Eminger--it made him hungry to play and simplify his game, so when the Capitals needed to play him, he was able to step up and play solid hockey (and physical, which wasn't a big part of his game in the past. Also, it's no mistake that he played with Erskine--historically, his best performances came when paired with a stay-at-home guy like Witt). With Pothier possibly done, Eminger suddenly becomes Back-Up Plan A--a third-pairing guy with Lespito, Jurcina, or Alzner who needs playing time to boost his trade value.

Don't ask much of the guy, and he may turn into a good player to have near the back of the defensive corps, but his good play in limited and sporatic time this season hasn't convinced me that his days of braindead play are gone and he's still a legit future top 4. It's a small sample size, and what Eminger does next season with more playing time (which sounds like he'll get) will really determine what we have in what had been a frustrating prospect.

breed16 said...

Perhaps he had a crappy work ethic

That's was always my theory until McPhee came right out and said "we're qualifying him." You don't pull a 180 on a guy with a bad work ethic in such a short time. I think they were just waiting for it to "click."

Meaning, waiting for him to shake Hanlonitis. Glenny, I love ya, but you murdered Eminger's hockey sense. An offensive-minded defenseman should not have his skating restricted, or be forced to stand motionless by the crease all the time, or dump the puck out along the boards all day. That breakout pass to Laich in game 6 that sprung the sweet Backstrom goal; the fleet of foot aggressive defenseman in Game 7 - that's the Eminger we've always wanted to see.

Ogre said...

I gave him a 2. I honestly hoped and expected him to play a lot more this year, and he didn't. I'm not going to give him a Motzko 10.

Can the kid play? Maybe. Did he show me anything I haven't seen Erskine or Jurcina do? No. I've seen him all three of them hit posts at critical junctures. I've seen all three come up with big hits. Jurcina's gonna take a lot of blame because he gave up that outlet pass that led to a goal. Erskine's going to take a lot of slack because he's slow. Name one perfect defenseman on our team. You can't. They all have at least one flaw.

Eminger's might have been that he just couldn't crack the line-up. He deserves a QO. He really does. He played well in the playoffs. He put up with *something*. But why on earth can you justify giving your 8th defenseman who you trust minor leaguers over more than a 3-4?

I'd love to sit in a suite and watch hockey and then get paid $4,490 per minute. I really hope this kid resigns here and does well elsewhere. But am I a bad person for mildly hoping he gets a QO, and then a huge contract that we don't match, we get comped, and then he's a bust because he doesn't work hard enough or something?

Caps Dreamer said...

Eminger's situation is definitely the big enigma, especially, with GMGM saying he's going to qualify him. I agree with everyone here that Eminger hasn't gotten a fair shake in his development. 3 coaches, 3 systems, rushed to the NHL before he was ready since the Caps had no one else hasn't helped. I thought he played well in the playoffs, too, considering his limited playing time during the season. But, as b.orr4 said the fact that BB didn't play him either just adds to the mystery.

At this point, I'd rather have him over Jurcina.

Tyler said...

I'm pretty sure that more has been written about Mike Green than has been written about Steve Eminger.

exwhaler said...

>>>"An offensive-minded defenseman should not have his skating restricted<<<

Except that Hanlon started teaching that after it was obvious that the offense simply wasn't going to come after a few seasons in the NHL (remember when Hanlon had Eminger play forward in preseason to help spark his offensive play?) and when Eminger's mobility started slipping. Hanlon was trying to reinvent a guy in reaction to his weaknesses. What kind of defenseman showed up in the playoffs? Somebody pinching in and throwing the puck at the net like Green, or a somewhat positional defenseman like Morrison who brought some physicality to the role?

b.orr4 said...

That was meant to be tongue in cheek, exaggerating to make a point. I guess I should have been clearer, but I didn't think someone was going to call me on it.

breed16 said...

@exwhaler: How could you expect Eminger's offense to come along in a restrictive defensive system? As a team, there was little room for creativity and the idea of "puck control" meant mindlessly flinging the puck along the boards.

Up until the playoffs, Eminger seemed like a Hanlon-Bot. He was too conservative and played to avoid mistakes - which is how he was programmed, and was self-perpetuated by being at the bottom of the depth chart. A vicious cycle, if you will.

Then in the playoffs, it was like he said "screw it" and started taking aggressive chances at the right times. You could see his confidence building with every shift. He was pinching in on offense to keep the puck in the zone, attacking puckhandlers on defense. I couldn't believe what I was watching!

dmg said...

Can the kid play? Maybe. Did he show me anything I haven't seen Erskine or Jurcina do? No.

I've seen Eminger skate at a level that you'd expect an NHL level player to be able to do, so that puts him ahead of Erskine in my book.

I've always liked Eminger's upside and I still think he could be a decent second pairing defenseman: he's a good skater, has some offensive upside, and could develop to be solid in his own end. I'd say maybe think a more physical, defensive minded Pothier or a poor man's Poti.

One question about the "surprising stat" - wasn't Eminger on the IR for the first dozen games of the season or so?

JP said...

I don't recall whether or not they actually IR'd him, but he was out with (supposedly) an ankle injury from the start of the season through November 24 (with the exception of one game).

Shaggy said...

So many good points made here...mine are but a rehash of what has been said but here goes:
-Eminger always seemed to play with a sense of entitlement as did Sutherby, as first rounders
- I think that a modified role of what Mike Green brings was envisioned for Emmy, but I dont think he had the coaching/leadership to help pull it off - plus injuries bedeviled the kid
- he assisted on what stands one of all time favorite goals : the OT winner vs ATL when he dished that no look pass to the Seminatri for the winner. The kid can skate.
-how is this NOT about his work ethic? he has more talent than Schultzie or Erskine, obviously.
- I think letting him go will reflect very poorly on McPhee, and McPhee knows it- I think Steve has learned a few life lessons this year, primarily about not taking things for granted

JP said...

He also had a very awesome goal against the Rangers in the dying seconds (second?) of a period, on Columbus day, if I recall correctly.

Rage said...

JP, I think it was the first. Either way, it was a beautiful goal. Back then, I was thinking that he was going to be a superstar. Yet here we are...

JP said...

And, if I further recall correctly, it all started with a Suts hit on Jagr behind the Caps net.

... and yet I can't remember what I had for lunch on Monday.

Brian said...

I am fascinated by today's conversation as it ties into yesterday's discussion about Bradley "vs." Cooke. I see even more exchanges of opinions in the coming days :)

The only way I get to see the Caps is if they play a Canadian team on Saturday or Versus shows them, so I really can't add anything to any defenseman debate. I will say that the comments about every defenseman's play this year has left me a bit bewildered. Poti seemed the most consistent but I think he was out with injuries twice this year. Green had a breakout season, but he did have a mid-season slump. When Morrison was healthy, people generally pleased about his play. As for the rest (Schultz, Jurcina, Erskine, Eminger) it seemed like they went through streaks where people called for their heads and other times when people thought they had turned the corner.

Given the players that ended the season and the players in the pipeline, I can easily see any one of the defensive "Flub Four" to be packaged with one of a handful of forwards in a trade this summer. What GMGM would trade for, I'm not sure. Then again, I would not have guessed that we'd get Fedorov, Cooke, and Huet at the deadline, either.

Ogre said...

Boudreau is not a moron, and if he wanted to play Eminger, he could have. Sure, he can skate well, but he didn't prove much to me all year. Maybe his problem is that what he can bring to the table he can't bring night after night. Maybe he was so quiet he didn't seem hungry enough. I don't know.
Would you rather him, or the package that he would bring if someone offered him a contract?

I know what I'd rather have.

tg said...

I can't give a grade, just like I couldn't with Clark. There must be some reason that he didn't play, but I don't know what it is. I thought that when he played he seemed better than Erskine, and sometimes Jurcina and Schultz.

But here's the thing, he's only 24. Again, HE'S ONLY 24! I know people are ready to write him off, but as a defenseman, this is WAY too early to give up on him. I think he'll still be a solid guy. Maybe not the #1 or #2 you would hope for from a top-15 pick, but definitely a solid contributor. (Once he actually gets playing time.)

JP said...

If he showed so little, who's going to offer him a contract that will bring back an attractive compensation package in return?

Isn't he either good enough to get a chance and/or get something in trade OR a bust? I doubt he can be a bust that's going to fetch us a nice return.

And was he really any less consistent than Jurcina or any number of 24-year-old D's around the League?

dmg said...

Well, if Eminger's rights are being held by the Capitals by making an offer of at least $1 million, which means Eminger would be losing money to accept an offer of anything less, but I doubt he'll be offered much more.

The compensation for a player signed in the 1-2 million dollar range is a second round draft pick. Given that I think Eminger is the Caps 5th best defender (assuming Pothier doesn't come back), I'd rather have Eminger.

Marky Narc said...

Emmy's tough to assess - sample size is almost too small. I gave him a 5 basically because I don't think he was given a chance to do anything special or develop his game with the limited ice time.

I have to admit the Capitals baffle me with this one. I have no explanation as to why they would let Emmy sit in the pressbox given:

a) the subpar play of Jurcina all season

b) the fact that Schultz could have played first pairing minutes in Hershey with no immediate damage to the Caps D-corps.

I tend to agree with Rage and Faux on this one - I have a gnawing feeling there's something else going on here that isn't being made public (for that matter, maybe it's not something that needs to be made public). I would love to see Eminger playing the second d-pairing here in Washington next season, but something tells me I should not get my hopes up.

Qualify and then use as trade bait, perhaps?

exwhaler said...

>>>"He was pinching in on offense to keep the puck in the zone, attacking puckhandlers on defense. I couldn't believe what I was watching!"

You were confusing him with Green. :-)

So, tell me, why did Hanlon put Eminger at forward in the post-lockout preseason? Why did Hanlon publically discuss his concerns about Eminger's lack of offense and focus on him taking more chances? His lack of offense wasn't due to Hanlon. It had been a problem for a while.

Hanlon did not have a Wilson-like system of dump-the-puck defensive hockey. He had a system based around puck control, forechecking, and responsible positional play. It was designed to help protect his goalies as well as acclimate his young defensemen. The reason why it didn't work this year is because it constricted the creativity of the more offensively inclined players. That' wasn't Eminger's main problem, however. While there wasn't a ton of offense from defensemen, there was good defensive play. Eminger couldn't even do that.

Eminger's problem was that he completely lost his fundamentals. When he first broke into the NHL, I saw a very young rookie who was smart with positionally sound play and wasn't overwhelmed. That player disappeared long before Hanlon became coach, and Hanlon had to figure out how to find it. His system wasn't the problem. In the two years after the lockout, Eminger's biggest problem was what once was his strength: his decision-making and positional play.

I've never looked at Eminger and thought "Mike Green" (or "Sergei Gonchar"). He was supposed to be more of a Calle Johansson--a two-way defenseman providing excellent positional play with good offensive passing. Eminger has shown that from time-to-time, but more often than not looked like a guy who forgot how to play the game.

And five games in a playoff series isn't going to convince me that that guy is completely gone.

breed16 said...

The defining characteristics of Hanlon hockey to me were a.) five guys collapsed around the crease area, standing around; b.) banging the puck along the boards to clear the zone; c.) nudging the puck past the red-line and hoping a hustling forward might dump it deep.

Hanlon's system was centered around a conservative approach to the game, both defensively and offensively. To say our players became tentative would be like saying the surface of the sun is warm. Learning to take chances on this system wouldn't and didn't teach anyone squat because when one guy took a chance, no one was there to help, inevitably resulting in a screw-up. Everyone else was too busy falling back into "position".

For whatever reason, Eminger suffered from this more than others. To you Eminger lost his raw fundamentals. Perhaps because he was overthinking what Hanlon would want rather than letting his instincts guide him.

Surely Hanlon is not entirely to blame; but you can't deny his influence on Emmy's (crappy) play the last few years.

MikeZ said...

I gave him a 10 because anything between that and a 1 is a waste of voting power.

But, seriously, I did give him a 10, because I think he had the best season he possibly could have, given the circumstances.

Of course, my vote is slightly biased because the entire defensive corps, outside of Morrisonn and Green, makes Emi look better.
Schultz can't hit, but Emi can.
Erskine can't skate, but Emi can.
I have never seen Emi make terrible, stupid defensive mistakes, or deflect the puck at Olie, unlike Juice.
Emi's career isn't over (probably), unlike Pothier's (probably).

Poti seems to be a bit better at stick handling, but is a little slower and weaker than Emi.

mikez said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ogre said...

Considering that Eminger is 24, I would say he deserves a QO. His playoff performance and the buzz that he gets among you guys makes me think it wouldn't be too hard to get an offer from another team. Can he turn a corner? I hope so. I like the kid, and root for him. But I can't justify giving a grade higher than 2 for a player who missed most of the year.

Anonymous said...

Eminger is a pretty frustrating prospect. The past two seasons (not this last one) he'll have a 10 or 15 game stretch where it looks like he's turning the corner as far as the mental side of the game. He has the physical skills to be a NHL dman but IMO it was this mental side of the game. Maybe a confidence thing but as others have said 24 can be too early to give up. Jurcina, IMO, might have more to worry about as his play this past season was pretty 'meh'. ~usiel

Jimmy Jazz said...

Eminger might have been the most frustrating player to watch during last year's campaign. The entire ordeal was agonizing, and yet, he was given a second chance.
I'm not sure how I feel about Eminger right now, but I do think that he's been more reliable (which isn't saying a ton,) during his very short stretches of play.
I give him a four.