Friday, July 3, 2009

Second Line Center: Who Ya Got?

With Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov forsaking freedom and liberty and all things American, choosing instead to return to Mother Russia's cold, iron teat (hello Magnitogorsk!) the Capitals knew they had at least two glaring holes in their offense heading into the start of free agency. George McPhee took care of one of those needs by signing Mike Knuble to play right wing on the Ovechkin-Backstrom line, but a void (potentially a much bigger one) exists at the second-line center position.

Not the guy the Caps want to see playing second-line center

You don't need look any farther than the Pittsburgh Penguins to see how critical the center position is in today's NHL; Crosby, Malkin and Staal give them, without much argument, the league's top trio of centers.

The Caps, who looked to have an embarrassment of riches at center not long ago, currently have a young Swede and not a whole lot else. Fedorov's departure coupled with Michael Nylander's perpetually-circular suckitude means that there's no proven pivot on the roster that can consistently play both ends of the ice beyond Backstrom.

So what's Bruce Boudreau to do come opening night? To our mind, there are a few options; here's a list of the candidates:

The Favorites:
George McPhee believes No. 21 can be the team's full-time second line center, citing Laich's performance there during Fedorov's multiple stints on the injured list this season. While you know Laich's going to bring a balls-out effort every night, he's not the greatest puck-handler, and his passing abilities are nondescript. Even though he's officially listed as a center, he's made his mark on the wing. Unless Laich takes a jump next season (and at 26, it's not impossible), we'd rather see him stick to the wing.

Someone Else Who Isn't Currently on the Roster:
Sly Fox McPhee has been mighty coy of late when talking about planned roster moves. But with the team already pushing the limits of the salary cap, McPhee acknowledged that any new acquisitions will need to come via the trade market. While that might be code for "if we can convince Glen Sather or Bob Gainey to take Nylander," there could be other players on the move if it brought the right return. Shaone Morrissonn isn't likely to return to the team next season, though if he accepts his qualifying offer or loses out through arbitration, the Caps could trade him to a team looking for blue-line depth between now and the start of the regular season.

The Underdogs:

Keith Aucoin:
The little guy from Hershey made a decent showing during a couple of short stints in Washington last season (6 points in 12 games), but his age (will turn 31 in November) and size (5'9'', 187) work against him. Still, he's quick, he's a vet, and McPhee has implied that he's in the team's plans for 2009-10. Still, unlikely he's got the size for the full-time gig.

The Undesirables:

The Tin Man:
He's slow, looks completely out of place on an NHL playing surface, doesn't move very well and lacks heart. Considering him for the No. 2 spot would be utterly idiotic.

Michael Nylander:
Same as above, except this guy earns $5.5 million next season.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

GMGM Playing Coy?

"With Washington creeping close to this season's $56.8 million salary cap as a result of Knuble's signing, McPhee said Knuble represented the team's biggest offseason move and that the Capitals were comfortable going into the season with Brooks Laich as the second-line center instead of trading for an established pivot."

What do you take from this? The exact opposite of what it means. GMGM plays his cards real close to the chest. An acquisition would not surprise me. In fact, based on this quote, I almost expect it.

Knuble in; Brashear out
Caps sign solid and consistent (20 goals in 7 straight seasons) RW Mike Knuble, an ideal replacement for Viktor Kozlov on the top line, for 2 years at $2.8 million per.

In other news, Donald Brashear leaves for the Big Apple. So long, Donald: it's been real, but it was time to move on.

Keep updated on top free agents here.

Monthly Forecast: June '09 [Revisited]

Let's see how we did, shall we?

  • The Wizards will not trade the 5th overall pick. Incorrect
  • Ernie Grunfeld and Flip Saunders will draft a point guard. Incorrect
  • Ernie Grunfeld, Steve Van Gundy, and Ron Jeremy will all be indistinguishable. Correct!
  • The Redskins will NOT pursue Brandon Marshall. Correct!
  • The Caps WILL pursue Dany Heatley. Incorrect
  • Matt Wieters will have raised his average to above .300. Incorrect
  • Luke Scott will cool off in classic fashion and drop below .300. Correct!
  • Manny Acta will be unemployed. Obvious. Incorrect
  • Stephen Strasburg will remain unsigned. Correct!
  • Nats fans will panic. Inconclusive
  • Mike Green will deserve to win the Norris Trophy, but won't. Correct!
  • Ovechkin will win the Hart (MVP), Pearson (Player's MVP), and Richard (Goal Scoring), and the world will be restored to order once again. Correct!
June: 6-5-1

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Loser Red Sox Fans Leave Camden Yards in Shame After Historic O's Comeback: Birds 11, Sawx 10

That made my week.

Nick Markickass hit a go-ahead two-run double in the bottom of the 8th to cap the O's 9 run comeback Tuesday night, the largest since the franchise became the Baltimore Orioles. And it couldn't have come against a better team, literally, karmically and schadenfreude-ally.

The Sawx thought they had this in the bag and were all smug about it. In the bottom of the 5th 6th they jogged back to the dugout after two outs thinking it was their turn to bat, and had a teeheehahahahhaLOL good laugh about the blunder, but not so fast you arrogant fucks. A pair of five-run Orioles innings in the 7th and 8th did them in, and it felt great. That kind of abrupt explosion usually does for me.

And Wieters was a part of it this time. In an eerie repeat of a recent scenario against the Mets, he came to the plate with the bases loaded and the O's down 10-6. Tonight he came through with the RBI single instead of a GIDP to cut the Sawx lead to 3. Clutch.

The O's won't be contenders for awhile, so these are the kinds of wins we cherish in the meantime: 10-run comebacks with hordes of invading fans in the stands dying a little on the inside. And that's the beauty of baseball, isn't it? Watching the enemy die on the inside slowly and painfully during hour long 8th innings. It must have felt like forever for them. I don't know what that's like, because I root for a team that only gives up 6-run leads usually.

[Image via AP/Nick Wass]

Nationals Fleece Pirates In Trade
Acquire LF Nyjer Morgan and solid relief pitcher Sean Burnett in exchange for disappointing OF Milledge and crappy reliever Hanrahan. Impact level on my life remains low.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Putting the 2009 NBA Draft, and John Hollinger, in Perspective

Much has been said about the 2009 NBA Draft being one of the worst ever, but is there really any validity to that claim?

While I direct enormous amounts of animosity toward ESPN's John Hollinger in emails concerning his lack of respect for the Washington Wizards (we finished 5th that year, John, not 13th), he does have a pretty interesting formula for projecting NBA success based on college efficiency. Let's test its accuracy, shall we?

We used his pre-draft Projected Player Efficiency Ratings (PER) to rank the last eight NBA Drafts, dating back to 2002. Unfortunately, Hollinger's formula only applies to college players. Our sincerest apologies, 2003 and 2004 drafts.

Here is a spreadsheet containing those pre-draft Projected PER Rankings for Hollinger's top 12 college prospects from 2002-2009. We simply added the total PER numbers in each year, and ranked each draft year 1-8. For example, according to Hollinger's system, the strongest NBA Draft in this span was projected to be the 2007 draft (sum PER: 171.81). The second strongest draft was supposed to be this 2009 draft (sum PER: 168.23). The third strongest draft was supposed to be the 2005 draft (sum PER: 164.02), etc.

We then compared these Projected Rookie PER Rankings against their actual rookie season PER rankings to analyze the accuracy of Hollinger's projection system. Here is what we found:

This tells us a few things.

1) John Hollinger can suck it. The drafts with the two worst top-12 Projected PERs (2004 an 2008) turned out to have the best rookie seasons, while the draft with the most promise (2007) actually had the worst top-12. Hollinger, you're one arrogant bastard.

2) The 2003 and 2004 rookie classes actually ranked as two of the best, even without the statistical presence of Lebron James (2003) and Dwight Howard (2004). That's impressive.

3) Based on Hollinger's unintentionally-discovered-by-me-semi-inverse-formula, the 2009 Draft class, while ranking 2nd out of the last eight drafts in Hollinger's projections, may actually be, as people have been saying, one of the worst. Just follow the opposite of Hollinger's predictions and you too can be your own internet Nostradamus!

But who knows? Only time, and a championship for the Washington Wizards, minus any picks from this potentially awful draft, will tell.

Bite me, Hollinger.

[Image via]

Welcome, Hobgoblin, to the cavalry.