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Isles, Caps stand out among NHL’s bottom teams

Nov 28, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT


Above are the bottom 11 NHL teams in terms of regulation/overtime wins. Some of them, like Calgary and Florida, were expected to be there. But two of them, both of which made the playoffs last season, have been pretty major disappointments so far this season:

— The Islanders, with just five R/OT wins. Only the Sabres have fewer. What a letdown New York has been. I tweeted last night during the Isles’ 3-2 loss to Winnipeg that Jack Capuano “has absolutely rocketed to the top of the Next Coach Fired Power Rankings.” That’s pure speculation on my part, but how much longer can general manager Garth Snow watch his team slide? The Isles have now lost nine of their last 11 in regulation. They showed a bit of life in coming back to make it close against the Jets, but plays like this…

…have become all too common this season.

— Washington, with just seven R/OT wins. Today, Caps fans are thankful for family…friends…good health…but most of all, the shootout. What they’re not thankful for? Realignment. Last season, Washington went 15-3-0 versus a weak Southeast Division and 12-15-3 versus everyone else. Let’s face it: this is not a good team, let alone a Stanley Cup contender. Alex Ovechkin is a great goal-scorer and he puts people in the seats — from a business perspective, he’s earned his contract — but he’s not a 200-foot player, and recent history shows the importance of those types come playoff time. This is not a new question, but it still needs to be asked: Who’s going to be the Jonathan Toews/Patrice Bergeron/Anze Kopitar for the Caps? Because sorry, I don’t think it’s going to be Nicklas Backstrom, Mikhail Grabovski or Brooks Laich. And that’s not even mentioning the blue line.

Related: Capitals coach vents as tough times continue in Washington

  1. Rob - Nov 28, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    The Isles had a tremendous lack of depth between the pipes even before Nabokov went down. I like Poulin, but he’s played less than 40 NHL games and is behind a defence missing two strong contributors (Visnovsky and the underrated Strait) as well as a true number 1 D man.

    Nabokov may have had his ups and downs form wise, but he’s a huge part of that team. At ‘his age’ that’s worrying though – as I mentioned and as we’re seeing now, the Isles don’t have much in the goaltending department without the veteran Russian.

    It’s not like the lack of a long term goaltending solution or number 1 D are new issues either. Stud D men are hard to find I grant you, but losing Streit just highlighted the issue further.

    As for Capuano – he might get some form of stay of execution because Nabokov is out (hard to win games without a goalie!). It may also depend on whether Doug Weight is ready to take over…..

    • mattymarts17 - Nov 28, 2013 at 8:00 PM

      Poulin was on the verge of taking over as the number 1 goalie BEFORE Nabokov got hurt… Also, what exactly is Doug Weight going to do differently? He’s only been in this system. Wouldn’t it be better to have a proven veteran head coach to right this very young team? They are ready to be an established playoff team with proper coaching and some better defense. Honestly, the fact that their struggles comes from lack of defensive effort as well as poor conditioning falls entirely on the coaching staff. Peter Laviolette anyone??

      • c9castine - Nov 29, 2013 at 1:50 AM

        i can’t believe I’m saying this (pens fan) but Laviolette is the man for this job. wouldn’t be surprised if they are already talking to him.

        capuano did a great job. he gave this team expectations, a standard to play for and to uphold. the situation has outgrown him. i imagine hell learn from this and be a better coach in the future than he already is.

        but laviolette has the mind and passion to push this team really far forward. and he knows the division, and the the division leading team in particular, as well as any coach in the league obviously.

  2. joey4id - Nov 28, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    Someone at PHT finally wrote the truth about Ovi. Way to go JB. “he’s not a 200-foot player, and recent history shows the importance of those types come playoff time” Olny problem with that is “recent history”. Recent or distant history has proven that you can’t have someone, and more so your “leader/best player” be as defensively irresponsible as is #8.

    • c9castine - Nov 29, 2013 at 2:06 AM

      not enough people want to just come out and admit that. fans of all teams.

      ovi will go down as a great goal scorer and one of the best of those of all time. if the caps continue with the same team building formula (i.e. acting like their current best players are leaders too) hell probably go down without a Cup too.

      the unfortunate part is having a center like a crosby or toews or stamkos or datsyuk or kopitar or bergeron would make ovechkin such a good player and relief him of any responsible in being a leader and a 200 foot player, something he can’t and will never deliver on.

      maybe they should unload some assets and hope they can get a center in the top 5 that changes the picture for them. making backstrom your no. 2 center like Malkin makes a lot more sense and move johanssen to the wing.

    • babykaby - Nov 30, 2013 at 10:10 PM

      Once again you show that you are an idiot. Keep it up.

  3. lowenni - Nov 28, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    I believe Backstrom can be mentioned in the same breath as the centers you mentioned. He is extremely underrated defensively, often being among the league leaders in takeaways for forwards. Ovechkin’s 200 foot game is not important because that’s not his job, and the teammates feed off of his goal scoring as they always have. Backstrom and Ovechkin make for a core as good as any in the league. What you failed to address, is the Caps real problem–the rest of the team beyond the core.

    • joey4id - Nov 28, 2013 at 5:32 PM

      You are so wrong. Every hockey player who suits up, unlike football, must be able to contribute defensively. Otherwise what the hell is he supposed to do when the other team has the puck? No one is rating his PK skills because he’s never going to be there to protect against the offensive threat. But when there is a 5 on 5 the defensive system is designed, structured, and implemented with concept of everyone’s position including the goalie making a contribution. He certainly won’t be on the ice in the last minutes/seconds of a game to protect a lead. Why? Because he doesn’t know how, and you can argue it’s not his job. Otherwise he’s expected to contribute as every other player should.

      • tdrusher225 - Nov 28, 2013 at 7:24 PM

        That is somewhat true. It was amazing to watch him in that Rangers series last year play like he was disinterested in his own zone. I mean he was literally floating, not doing anything at all on a bunch of New York’s goals. He certainly isn’t asked to help shutdown other team’s top players, but when you’re being strong and responsible in your own zone that will help your offensive game. This is usually by constantly being on the puck rather than waiting for someone to get it for you, and that can mean quick transition for your team which leads to offensive opportunities. Maybe Ovechkin should start taking shorter shifts where he is giving his all for 0:45-1:00, rather than floating around in his own zone for 1:30-2:00.

      • lowenni - Nov 28, 2013 at 7:26 PM

        I’m not arguing that defense is not important, in fact, I admire a fantastic two way player like Datsyuk or Toews (or Backstrom) more than I admire a one-dimensional scorer like Ovechkin. And agreeably, for most one-dimensional offensive players, say, Linus Omark, their offensive prowess is not enough to make up for their defensive deficiencies. However, Linus Omark is not a 60 goal scorer like Ovechkin. My point is that Ovechkin is such an elite scorer that yes, it really does not matter to me (as a die-hard Caps fan) that he does not play defense. Would it be nice? Of course. But I accept the fact that he won’t, and his two-way linemates, Backstrom and Johansson, make up for that. The author of this article talks about the importance of two-way players come playoff time, but last I checked, last year’s Conn Smythe winner, Patrick Kane, has had plenty of criticism for his defensive ineptitude. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemiuex, Pavel Bure never won any Selke Trophys. Defense is important. But if a player can contribute offensively the way Ovechkin can, then that isn’t a problem. The fact that people focus on Ovechkin’s ineptitude on defense instead of our real problems (Green, Laich/Brouwer inexperienced blueline, lack of depth, Erat and Orlov) shows how little they really know about the Caps and how much unfounded criticism Ovechkin receives. He is the single most important part of this team and is consistently their best player. He along with Backstrom and Carlson have been literally the only bright spots of the Capitals season so far.

    • joey4id - Nov 28, 2013 at 7:38 PM

      So, then where was his offensive prowess vs Rangers last year? Two guys cannot make up for one who is not playing the system for 60 minutes. Yes! You can do it for half a shift or a whole shift, but this will catch up to you. Playoff hockey is a whole different season. The teams play tighter, and thus it’s more difficult for a one dimensional play like Ovi. He can’t play his position without the puck, and he’s at best an average passer, and less than average play maker. You don’t have to be a Caps fan to see that.

      • lowenni - Nov 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM

        As I said earlier, frankly, I don’t care that he according to you “can’t pass” (despite his 372 career assists,5 more than Malkin has scorer in his career) or that he “can’t play his position without the puck” (despite him being a perennial all-star). He’s a 60 goal scorer. He’s a 3 time Hart Trophy winner. He’s our best player DESPITE his deficiencies. Enough said.

      • joey4id - Nov 29, 2013 at 8:37 AM

        Yet! Still no SC to his credit.

      • babykaby - Nov 30, 2013 at 10:24 PM

        You don’t have to be a Caps fan to see anything, but you should watch more than one or two games before forming an opinion. You personally can’t stand Ovechkin because he doesn’t play for your team, so any time you can down the guy you do. I watch all the Caps games, and I can tell you, Ovechkin may not be great on defense, but he isn’t as worthless as you like to imply. If the defensive players on the Caps would do their jobs the way they should, Ovechkin’s play in the defensive zone would not be questioned. Green is horrific on defense and he is always on the ice when Ovi is out there. You really lack intelligence if you believe some of the ridiculous comments you write about Ovechkin.

      • joey4id - Dec 1, 2013 at 9:34 AM

        Babybaby, so it’s ok for Ovi not to do his job defensively, but those other guys should really step up. It’s their fault that Ovi doesn’t want to be responsible for d. It’s their fault he self centered and not concerned about the team’s system. I think you’re full of you know what. You don’t watch all the caps games.

  4. bccaps - Nov 28, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Blaming Ovechkin for the Caps’ failures is a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. During the regular season they rely far too heavily on him (and by extension, Backstrom and Johansson) for, what is it, 30% of their offense? That might work out fine during when there isn’t all that much at stake.
    But once you’re in the playoffs, it becomes an Achilles Heel where all the opposing team has to do is shut him (and his line) down and all of a sudden their job gets a whole lot easier. Look at what Montreal did to them with a clearly less skilled team (the Habs won it on heart and grit and that’s a very important piece to winning the Cup).
    No, the blame needs to be placed solely at the feet of GM George McPhee. He’s the guy that supplies the players the coach has at his disposal to put on the ice and not only has he simply not done enough to improve their chances, he has alienated some potentially good additions (Erat, Orlov) to the point where they say “to hell with this club” which means he effectively gave away prime assets for nothing (Forsberg). Let’s not forget his penchant for trading players for draft picks (Varlamov) which is like trading for a Wonka Bar and hoping for a golden ticket.
    The Capitals fan base has pretty much lost patience and the window of opportunity is fading fast.

    • wethog66 - Nov 28, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      I am no GMGM fan, but you bringing up the Varley trade is just silly. At the time of that trade Varley was an injury prone goalie who felt entitled to the #1 spot, and when the Caps wouldn’t anoint him #1 he threatened to run off to the KHL to pout. It was the right move to trade Varley, and despite his play in Colo, his recent arrest for beating up a woman confirms, IMO, that GMGM did the right thing.

    • joey4id - Nov 28, 2013 at 9:14 PM

      You’re right. Is it safe to say he can take part of the blame for being knocked out of the playoffs by the NYR last year?

      • babykaby - Nov 30, 2013 at 10:27 PM

        What did your mother do to you to make you such a jerk?

      • joey4id - Dec 1, 2013 at 9:36 AM

        babybaby, how many goals did Ovi score in the last 5 games of the NY series last year? What? You say it was the other players fault his offense was NIL. Over course.

  5. gooze930 - Nov 28, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    Garth Snow is the one that needs to go. How he has a job is absolutely ridiculous.

    • dp2310 - Nov 28, 2013 at 7:23 PM

      Agreed. Might be crazy but I think a guy like Michael Peca would be a good fit for GM. He turned around an OJHL team that was a bottom feeder for years into a powerhouse team. Yeah it’s junior hockey, and he doesn’t have NHL experience. However, he’s a great judge of talent and has some history here on the Island. Would be pretty refreshing.

  6. dp2310 - Nov 28, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    The Isles biggest problem isn’t goaltending. Poulin is playing pretty well in my book.

    Their biggest problem is their terrible team defense, constant turnovers, and soft plays throughout the game. Exhibit A is that video. Look how the defense turn the puck over at their own blue/red line, and on the ensuing fast break, Franz doesn’t know how to play the three on two. Soft play by the defenseman to commit a turnover in such a dangerous area, and a lack of understanding what to do defensively. Franz was a spinning top and should go watch some video on backchecking.

    This is the biggest reason for their lack of success this year. Yeah, Poulin let up some easy goals, but when you play terrible team defense like that goal in the video, it doesn’t matter who’s in net.

  7. smgraff4 - Nov 28, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    The Capitals do have the someone that fills the Toews void. He happens to be playing in the KHL right now, but he may be coming to DC soon. As long as us Caps fans protect Dima Orlov, Kuznetsov and Orlov should be a part of our core. But Oates and GMGM seem to be ruining that too. Its why I am sorta excited about Ted bringing in #99 to help.

  8. slysipops - Nov 28, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    MAYBE IT’S JUST LIKE ……………..

  9. micklethepickle - Nov 28, 2013 at 11:31 PM

    And yet, the Caps are 3rd place in their division, and tied points-wise, with the 2nd place team. So… maybe you’re wrong about them suffering in the Metro? Thought so.

    I won’t disagree about the problems with the D and C positions; you’re right on. But to say that DC can’t compete in the Metro division when they are in fact tied for 2nd place is just asinine.

  10. rushledger - Nov 29, 2013 at 12:22 AM

    Ovechkin probably shouldn’t have won the Hart trophy last season but its hard to argue he looks very close if not there to his old form, he’s not the issue.

    Islanders do lack depth, and that’s a gm failure for not addressing the blue line better and working on more help in net.

    It’s time for the caps gm to just go, he’s long overstayed his welcome.

  11. penzfan329 - Nov 29, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    @lowenni. For you to compare ovies career assists to malkins career assists (5 more) to say hes a good passer is just dumb considering he has played in exactly 140 more games than malkin in his career.

  12. timmons94 - Nov 29, 2013 at 8:57 AM

    Capt jack has to go. That team far too talented to be where they are.

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