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Green faces pivotal season with Caps

Aug 18, 2014, 11:07 AM EDT

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers Getty Images

It’s easy to dismiss Mike Green, especially after the Washington Capitals added Matt Niskanen to the mix, but he could lose or gain quite a few millions depending upon how he performs during the 2014-15 season.

Remember when Green’s point totals were downplayed in Norris Trophy considerations? That seems like quite a while ago, and to some extent it’s true. The 28-year-old has generated more modest numbers the last four seasons and, to be fair, a 38-point campaign would be a nice year for a healthy number of blueliners, but for Green it’s still a disappointment.

Niskanen (aka the guy who essentially replaces Green in many peoples’ eyes) provides ample evidence that a single season can amplify a defenseman’s status dramatically, so it’s all about opportunity for Green.

Maybe the biggest factor is health.

Green was limited to 70 games last season, only played in 35 out of 48 lockout-shortened games in 2012-13 and has only managed a full season once in his NHL career. Attribute that to his shaky health, tendency to hold onto the puck too much or not, but a healthy season could open the door for Green to make a lot of money and help the Capitals in the process.

There are plenty of variables involved – maybe most importantly how tolerant Barry Trotz will be toward Green taking the occasional chance – but Green can ultimately enjoy a big payday if everything goes right next season.

It’s easy to question the chances of working out … but how might someone have felt about making the same kind of prediction about Niskanen in August 2013?

  1. lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    Really tough to figure out what to do with this guy. He still scores, but certainly not at a 30 goal, 70 point level anymore. In a full healthy season I do think he can put up 50 points if he gets powerplay time, but he was supplanted on the top unit last year by John Carlson (still not really sure why…Oates). His defense has improved somewhat, he doesn’t pinch as badly as he used to, but he still can be soft on opposing forwards and is god awful on breaking up odd man rushes. It seems like every positive thing to say about him comes with a “but” afterwards. Despite all that, he was the Caps best possesion defender last year, mainly paired up with Dimtri Orlov (who’s going to be sick), and that is a testament to skill that hasn’t gone away. I do want to keep him on the team, but potentially paying 11mil+ for a bottom pairing of Orpik and Green is crazy. If he takes back the no. 1 powerplay unit job, then he’s worth keeping from now. However, I don’t want them taking minutes away from a budding star in Carlson, and we’ve yet to see how Niskanen performs. Green is the most skilled defender on the Caps roster, with Orlov and Niskanen behind him, but I don’t know if Trotz will trust him if he doesn’t start out strong. If he is allowed to run free again like he did under Boudreau and he gets top-4 minutes and stays healthy, then I think he can score 50+ points for the Caps easily.

    • jpelle82 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      here’s the thing. you gotta look at how he was scoring those goals back in the day. he was usually waltzing down main street and ripping wrist shots to the corners. he wasnt shooting the lights out with his slapshot from the point. trotz had weber with a cannon who was putting up goals with that cannon from the point on the powerplay. green doesnt have that shot, he’s got a wicked wrister but trotz’s system isnt going to let him play in the slot like a winger like he used to. he’ll have to rack up a bunch of assists to get to 50 pts, i dont see him putting up more than 15 goals with a majority of which would have to come from the pp even if he is healthy

      • lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        Well I didn’t mention anything about him scoring goals but he is totally capable of putting up at least 15 goals. During the lockout season he led the league in goals by a defenseman with 12, despite missing 13 games. That’s impressive and he hasn’t changed much since the lockout season. Last year he had 9, but also a very up and down season and wasn’t the top PP guy. Green didn’t have Weber’s shot when Green scored 30 goals a few years ago either, and he still has the same skillset. I don’t even expect him to score 20 this year, but with his accurate wrister and powerplay time he can definitely fill the net. Plus, if he’s paired up with either Orpik or Alzner, he will be allowed to step up in the play a little bit, that’s the point of a defensive partner. I don’t know why you’re comparing him to Weber, same way I wouldn’t compare him to Chara–it isn’t just his shot that helps him score, it’s his skating and ability to skate into the play and then release that wrister. If you want to know why I know he can still score, just watch this goal from last year:

      • jpelle82 - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        i’m comparing him to weber because weber played in trotz’s system and was the leading defenseman in scoring on that team. i mentioned goals because he’s gonna have to score a bunch of them to get to your easy 50 pts. he’s not gonna get the opportunities under trotz as he did under boudreau, he’s gonna have to score from the point, and honestly he doesnt have the shot for it…therefore i dont see 15 goals. he misses the net more than he did back then too and if he misses the net on your example there, the other guys are gone the other way with slow ass orpik trying to keep up…they’re gonna lose games if thats the mess he’s gonna keep pulling. might as well move him to wing if you want or expect him to make those plays because the caps dont have another guy fleet of foot enough that can cover for him in a defensive pairing.

      • lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        Every single defenseman on the roster is an above average skater except for Orpik and Alzner, and Alzner is still a pretty good skater, who was doing a lot of covering up for Green during that lockouts season when they played together, and, when Green led the league in scoring by a defenseman. The Caps also kept on their powerplay specialist and if Green gets playing time on there he can score 7-8 goals on there alone. He actually does have a pretty good slapshot, not saying it’s Weber’s, but I’m saying with his skill IF he is given the oppurtunity he can score plenty of goals. Even if he doesn’t, I still think he can put up 35+ assists. This is a team that has the potential to score a lot if Trotz integrates the skill into his system well.

      • jpelle82 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:33 PM

        i dont think niskanen would get paired with him since they are both righthanded shots but niskanen’s speed is flat out average at best…i watched him every game he’s played in a penguins uniform, he’s not fast, he makes up for it with decent positioning but can get caught there too because he’s not very physical. if its orpik well he’s even slower. its gotta be alzner but then who’s playing with carlson? i’d be interested to hear what you project the pairings to be, i cant wrap my head around it personally, theyve got such a mixed bag right now…

      • bubbaamyt - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        The pairings may take some time but the real point about the Capitals defensive corps is that it is deeper than it has been in years.

      • lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        I’ve no idea how the pairings will actually end up, and I can’t guess how chemistry will be between new players, but if I could make the pairings right now I would have them be:
        Alzner-Green
        Orlov-Carlson
        Orpik-Niskanen
        (in no particular order of top-2 or top-4)

        Green had his most recent good year (the lockout season) playing next to Alzner, who’s skating ability and defensive mind allow him to cover up for Green. I don’t really want Orpik in the top-4 and I’m really expecting big things from Orlov, so put him with Carlson and they can both put up 30+ points, be creative in the offensive zone, and Carlson’s two way ability can cover up for Orlov, but they’re both two offensively skilled guys. Niskanen should get top-4 minutes but I just think Alzner has to go with Green and Carlson has to get top-4 minutes, so if you want lefty-righty combinations, that puts Niskanen with Orpik. I think playing time will get balanced out pretty well between the 3 combinations, top-4 combinations could change from game to game–example, against a tough team like Boston, Alzner-Carlson and Orpik-Niskanen might be the top-4 to play against tougher opponents, against a faster team like Colorado, maybe Alzner-Green and Orlov-Carlson are your top-4. There are promising young guys in Connor Carrick and Nate Schmidt too. I don’t like the price we paid for Niskanen and Orpik, but I do think they’re good additions to the team just from an ability standpoint and I’m excited about the depth back there we haven’t ever had.

      • jpelle82 - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        somebody’s gonna be overpaid on the 3rd pair for sure…i dont see orlov making that jump off the 3rd pair so for me its gotta be orpik back there with him, puck mover and a stay at home guy. i cant imagine a world where a team has 3 defensemen all making over 5 million and none are in the top pair so i gotta put niskanen up there because him and carlson do everything well.

        niskanen carlson
        alzner green
        orpik orlov

        hillen, erskine

      • lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:32 PM

        But Orlov actually did jump off the third pair last year and played on the second pairing with Green for the second half of the season. While that pair had a few scary defensive moments, they also had a few moments in the offensive zone where they looked awesome. It also led to Green being the Caps best possession defender and Orlov coming in at no. 2, due to their offensive skills and tendencies to shoot the puck. He may not be ideal and like I said I think playing time for each defenseman will vary from game to game, but Orlov is ready to take the next step. The kid is sick and has a good mind for the game…With a combination of Trotz, Todd Reirden (who Niskanen credits for his career season), and Brooks Orpik teaching him how to play D he could be something special. Orpik is just too slow now for top-4 minutes throughout the season.

      • bethgoesglobal - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:17 PM

        If Trotz manages this team like he did with the Pred’s not only would Green’s game suffer, but would the entire team! The Caps roster has a completely different make-up to that of the Pred’s.
        Green and the Caps season will begin and end with Trotz’s ability to bring together Washington’s scoring abilities with the stability of Nashville’s defense (and hopefully the additions of Niskanen and Orpik will go a long way towards reaching that goal).
        I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out this season.

  2. capsnbohs23 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    If he stays healthy there is no question the Caps are a better team. Will he ever put up 70+ again? No, but he doesnt have to with Carlson and Niskanen also contributing. I think Carlson will have his best offensive year this year too. With a change for the better in coaching and system, I expect to see a lot less 2 on 1 rush’s that Green was stuck on last year

  3. spezzdispenser - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    Trotz is a defense first coach so I don’t think it’s likely Green will put up big offensive numbers this season, healthy or not

    • lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      Trotz has said on multiple occasions that he became a defense-first coach because that’s what he had in Nashvillle. Poile built the team from the net out with Rinne and Weber and no star forwards. However, as he pointed out, when he had a guy like Paul Kariya on the team who could really score his systems would be a little different and Nashville was 5th in the league in goals that year. He has said just because he has had a reputation as a defense-first coach before doesn’t mean he needs to be that now–yes, people will be held more accountable for mistakes, and the defense should be better than it has been in the past ten years, but he will try not to take away from the offense. If he can find a balance of shutdown, defensive lines and allowing some players to play freely like Quennevile does with Chicago and Kane then this should be a good team. They won’t score as much as they did with Boudreau, but with Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Ovi, Brouwer, possibly Burakovsky, Ward, and Niskanen, Orlov, Carlson, and Green on the backend, this team should be able to fill the net.

      • spezzdispenser - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:25 PM

        you’re right… forgot he had said that. will be interesting to see what he can put together.

  4. cliffatola - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    I know a few Caps season ticket holders that would hope he pivots his way on out of town.

    • bethgoesglobal - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:06 PM

      Do you agree with them? Why or Why not?

      What’s Your Point?

      There are others that would like to see the “Ovi-era” end, or Laich being bought out. Then there are those who wish we gone for a different goalie this summer since the market was flush with them, and still more who wish we had never traded Varly, and so on and so on.
      Fans (season ticket holders or not) always want to see various players come in and others to move out. That’s why we debate, speculate, and argue about the teams we love and hate; hence the existence of PHT and every other sports-minded site.

  5. washcraps - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    The situation kind of sucks. I always liked Green.

    It’ll be great to have one final season with Green and this very deep D-corps under Tortz, but on the other hand, it basically a guarantee he’s gone before next season.

    Even if he has a average year, he’ll probably get paid what he’s already getting. And if he has a good year, he’ could make up to $7M in free agency. In both scenarios, we probably can’t afford to keep him while having Carlson, Nisky, and Orlov.

    The somewhat ideal situation (if you can even call it that) is if Green has a rough year (maybe gets injured) and doesn’t put up much points. That’ll allow the Caps to possibly sign him for less than he’s already making ($5-5.5M). But even then, it’ll still force us to spend too much on our defence.

    It’s also possible that since we drafted Green and he’s been with us his whole career he might be willing to take a hometown discount, but I still don’t think he’ll take less than $5M. $5M for 3-4 years would be the best scenario if the Caps were serious about re-signing him, but that seems pretty unlikely and is still too much for a bottom-4 defenceman going forward when we’ll have to re-sign Carlson, Alzner, and Orlov.

    So sadly it looks like the Caps will just enjoy this last season with Green, use him in the playoffs, then let him walk in free agency or trade him at the deadline if we are really struggling.

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