Tuesday, May 13, 2008

2007-08 Rink Wrap: Milan Jurcina

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, Milan Jurcina.

Contract Status: 2008-09 salary of $912,500 ($881,250 cap hit); RFA following 2008-09 season
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 25
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 3
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 75 games played, 1 goals, 8 assists, +4, 30 PIMs
Key Stat: Jurcina finished with the best single-season plus-minus of his career.
Surprising Stat: Jurcina had 18-, 12- and 10-game stretches during which he didn't commit a single penalty.

The Good: Jurcina didn't miss a game due to injury all year, led all Cap defensemen in hits (by a country mile), finished second on the team in blocked shots and set a career high for average ice time per game with 16:38. Despite the increased ice time, Jurcina cut his penalty minutes for the second straight season, and the team blocked more shots on goal per sixty minutes of ice time when he was on the ice than when any other player was. After a February 16 benching, Jurcina played in every game the rest of the way and finished the season with a plus-11 rating in 22 games.

The Bad: Jurcina posted the worst points-per-game ratio of his career (0.12, a drop of .05 for the second consecutive season). His one goal came in the second game of the campaign (meaning he's currently riding a 73-game goal-less streak), and he had pointless streaks of 16, 14 and 10 games during the campaign (and that 14-gamer is current and 21 games long if you include the playoffs). Only one of his assists all season was a primary helper (think about that for a second - 75 games played, 16:38 of ice time per game... one goal, one primary assist). His 1.7 shooting percentage was the worst of anyone on the team who had at least 15 shots on goal and marked the second straight season in which his percentage has dropped by nearly 4% (his shots on goal total for the season was also a career low). He had the worst takeaway-to-giveaway ratio on the team (by far) and his inconsistent play resulted in seven healthy scratches over the course of the year.

The Vote: Rate Jurcina 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: What role do you see Jurcina 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.

25 comments:

FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Milan's is a bit of an enigma, which isn't a compliment. It means he has the physical tools, but doesn't appear to use them every shift. We'd give him a 5 this past season.
2) He's not going to become his idol/fellow Slovak, Zdeno Chara, but he certainly can be a good solid 2-way defender who hits and can carry the puck. he's still relatively young and has shown enough upside that we'd retain him and hope he progresses to become the player the Bruins thought they drafted him in 2001.
3) A 10 for him would be if he played as a top 4 defensemen, a continuation of his physical play, perhaps doing it consistently each shift. Improve further his +/-, and score 10 or so goals and 30 points

JP said...

I think a 5 is generous.

Other than guys who were hurt (and Olie), Juice was the single most disappointing player on the team in my eyes.

He has all the tools (as Faux says), and seemed poised to take the next step after his audition late last season. Instead, he regressed.

The hitting is nice (especially to be that much of a physical force without taking many penalties at all), the blocked shots and +/-, too. But much of his defensive positives are quickly wiped away by bad decisions and atrocious giveaways. And for a guy with that booming shot to be a total non-factor offensively is the icing on the disappointment cake.

I'm not giving up on him by any means, but he would seem to be entering something of a make or break year.

I gave him a 3, and to get a 10 next year I'd like to see a half-dozen goals and 20 points and better decision-making and execution in his own end, with a continuation of his current positives.

tg said...

I'm not sure what to give him, because I'm not sure how good he really is. But now I know why Boston was willing to part with him for a middling draft choice.

Some days, I think he's great, but then other days, I can't believe he's playing in the NHL. And I don't know if it's because he's young, loses concentration, or just isn't as good as we all hoped. I mean, if this is as good as he gets, then I guess he should get a 9 or 10. If he's a legitimate top four guy, then he should get a 2 or 3.

breed16 said...

A tough grade, because he does good things in his own end but is otherwise useless. Our D is not exactly known for its physicality and Jurcina took it upon himself to deliver some of that; for that alone I gave him a 6.

At this point he's the Fleischmann of the D: he gets another shot. If he shows more "meh" than improvement, he's an expendable piece. Sorry Juice.

Anonymous said...

I'm a huge fan of Juice but I'm torn about how to rate him as well.

I had the most ups and downs with Juice from my seat than any other player (aside from Semin). His shooting seemed to go down once Gabby took over (I'm too lazy to confirm this but it felt to be the case). Towards the end of the season he started opening his slapper up again and I can only hope he continues that trend into 08-09.

JP said...

TG makes a good point, and it goes to the point I'm trying to get at with these ratings - it's all relative to your expectations. I rated Juice so low b/c I expected more from him. He might end up with a worse overall rating than Erskine, for example, but that doesn't mean that he's a worse defenseman, it just means that he underperformed more than Ersky.

exwhaler said...

I expected Jurcina to be a solid mid-pairing defenseman this year. Instead, he reminded me of the scrap heap journeymen the Caps had right after the lockout. From my perspective, Milan had very few stretches or games that reminded us of how he played last season. Completely disappearing in the playoffs, when the Caps could have used his physicality, also wasn't a good sign. I suspect that Jurcina will be on the third pairing next season, if he's not moved at the draft.

Sombrero Guy said...

I gave him a 4. He had a solid +/- which is surprising considering the terrible decisions that come far too often. If he wants to get a 10, he needs to cut down on the bonehead plays, and just make the simple ones. He needs to continue hitting the crap out of the opposition.

He also needs to work on a quicker release for his slap shot so he can make better use of the hardest shot on the team (according to some). It seems like by the time he gets the puck settled and sets his feet he has 1 or 2 guys on him forcing him to just dump it back down low.

JP said...

His +/- is actually inflated a bit by being on a good team. Take a look at his +/- rating relative to the rest of the team - not as impressive.

Duffy said...

I am surprised to see he's so young. I have to admit my 'expectations' dropped one notch when I saw that. He does bring brawn, when he decides to, which is not to be found among many D-line Caps. I actually trusted him more than I should have (seeing the stats after the fact) back there, to efficiently handle the puck. I felt he was pretty steady. Guess my 'gut feel' was off base.

Q: Does Alzer have the size and (far more importantly) the meanness to be a big hitter? Will his promotion make Jurcina the odd man out?

What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year? Add better giveaway numbers to those he posted and score 20 goals. Become Chewy Chara.

Bunella said...

I am surprised to see he's so young. I have to admit my 'expectations' dropped one notch when I saw that. He does bring brawn, when he decides to, which is not to be found among many D-line Caps. I actually trusted him more than I should have (seeing the stats after the fact) back there, to efficiently handle the puck. I felt he was pretty steady. Guess my 'gut feel' was off base.

Q: Does Alzer have the size and (far more importantly) the meanness to be a big hitter? Will his promotion make Jurcina the odd man out?

What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year? Add better giveaway numbers to those he posted and score 20 goals. Become Chewy Chara.

pplc said...

@duffy
I've seen Alzner in person at the rookie camp. He is tall but still looked pretty skinny. So no, there is no brawn...at least not yet. Hopefully that will come.

pplc said...

oopsy, I meant @bunella

JP said...

Alzner is listed at 6'2", 209 and that was likely from early in the year - pretty good size for a 19-year-old.

Jurcina is listed at 6'4", 235 (and is one impressive specimen with his shirt off, I must say.

bigonetimer said...

I rated him a 5...at 25 he has a couple more years to develop into an NHL D-man and he is a relatively inexpensive RFA after next season. I still believe his upside is top 4 material, but he's not there yet.

captnclark said...

Japers, first off, good job with these. Ive enjoyed reading them. However, I believe Jurcina does not have the worst giveaway/takeaway ratio (barely) - Mike Green does.

M. Jurcina: Gv Tk
46 15 = -31
M. Green: 85 53 = -32

JP said...

@ captnclark: Thanks for the kind words, and I'm talking ratio, not differential - for every takeaways, Juice had three giveaways, which is the worst ratio on the team. Green's differential is worse, but it's far more palatable given that he had so many takeaways (and b/c he's a differnt type of player, but that's another matter).

moby said...

I have him a 3.

I really wish he'd shoot more. He's frequently mentioned as having the hardest shot on the team. Let's see 'er rip.

Sombrero Guy said...

"Jurcina is listed at 6'4", 235 (and is one impressive specimen with his shirt off, I must say."


Chris Clark said Jurcina looked like an extra from 300 during a Q&A at training camp. He joked about sending him into other teams locker rooms to scare them

breed16 said...

@ pplc: it looks like duffy and bunella are the same person! The truth is out! Conspiracy!

JP said...

I always thought it was Brunella (and had hoped it was a mocking of the former Redskins QB's manhood, though I tend to doubt it).

And nice call by Clark re: Juice, Sombrero - definitely a 300 extra. Semin and Backstrom could stand side by side behind him and not be seen from the waist up.

Anonymous said...

Three notes about Juice:
1. He earned the nickname during the past offseason, so he's willing to commit to training, conditioning, etc.
2. His best games are always those following a benching. Not sure if he gets tired (mentally or physically) after 10-15 straight games or what.
3. He probably doesn't shoot much because he's slow, probably too slow for the run and gun team that's developing here, and has to cheat back when the Caps are in the offensive zone. Playing with Erskine doesn't help.

Bottom line: He'll be fine, somewhere, but unless he gets faster or a speedier/better defensive partner, he won't fit with the Caps game.

tg said...

JP,

I think it's interesting that all the grades seem to be pretty clustered, so either we're (mostly) over- or under-rating everyone the same, or we're basing it not on how they did compared with their potential but more on an absolute scale.

And when we get to Ovechkin, I'll explain why I'm only giving him a 6 or 7.

RandyD said...

I gave Juice a 6 for one reason -- I didn't expect him to be with the team this year. I expected an off-season trade or an occasional call-up from the AHL. I thought he was better than last year, made better clears from the defensive zone, and wasn't a liability with the puck. He appears to be playing more as a defensive defenseman. He had a good +/- of plus-4, but that works out to 5th place for D-men. While he didn't stand out for a lot of mistakes, he also didn't stand out much at all -- except for his size. Certainly not for his plays. While he's physically intimidating, he's still a work in progress.

Christopher said...

I gave Juice a 5. He performed about as I expected him to, since I thought his amazing performance at the end of last year was a bit over his head.

When he came to the Caps last year, they used him as a #1 or 2 defenseman, and he got the appropriate level of ice time. He got PP and PK minutes and the PP minutes in particular probably contributed to his higher points totals last year vs. this year.

Anyhow, the reason I bring this up is that there are many defensemen who need lots of ice time to get into the rhythm of the game. Playing 13-15 minutes a night as a d-man is brutal, because you can sit forever between shifts and then suddenly, everything is coming at you all at once. I think that the decline in ice time really killed Juice's ability to get into the game and in turn, led to some of the boneheaded errors that we saw throughout the season.

Despite that, Juice's ability to "close" on a player and demolish them with his shoulder is unequaled on the Caps. When he's on his game, it seems like he's operating some sort of tractor beam on opposing forwards. The Caps really lack that kind of hitting from their top d-men (I'm excluding Eminger and Erskine).

The problem is, will Jurcina step up and establish himself as someone capable of skating 18-22 minutes a night and playing on the PK, or will he continue to make the kind of mistakes that send him to the press box? I totally agree with Breed 16, he's kind of the Flash of the D. Shows enough potential to get a shot, but not enough results to get me excited.

Unlike Flash, though, I would be pissed if Juice were traded, because I can see him putting it all together in the next 2 years and becoming a consistent top-4 contributor.