Sunday, December 18, 2011

Avs-Caps Recap and Thoughts on Value

As life becomes more hectic, posts become more sporadic. But after a (very) brief back and forth with Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg, probably the best guy to follow for Caps stats) about Schultz's role on the team and trading, I felt compelled to say a bit more here.

For those of you who do not know, the Capitals lost to Colorado tonight 2-1. A couple quick thoughts on this before moving on to the rest:
  • McLeod, MacLeod, same dif. The point is, there can be only
    one (goal like that ever again or else I will get a sword and...)
    A lot of bloggers, fans, and game announcers called the first goal of the game, scored by the Avs' Cody McLeod from about five feet past the blue line, "fluky." I call it "Neuvirth needs to get his ass outta his head." (It's still ok to quote Boudreau and his staff, right?) That was pathetic, and if he had been paying any attention, maybe he would have put his glove up during the time it took that lob pass to make it him rather than waiting until it over his shoulder. A fluky goal banks off three players or a divot in the ice. That was a crap goal against a guy who has looked like little more than a crap goalie this season.
  • Glad to see Semin scored tonight, but it is unbelievable that it was only his sixth of the season. That puts him on a 16-17 goal pace. I cannot say enough times that I think Johansson is the wrong guy to center Sasha. Not a knock on MoJo, who I have generally been impressed with this season, but just looking at the reality that something is wrong here, and realizing that you can't force a pair or trio of players to be successful if their skillsets and styles simply do not mesh.
  • Knuble on the fourth line? Halpern playing wing on the second line? Halpern is a skilled guy. Knuble can grind it out with the best of them. But they don't belong where Hunter has put them recently. Neither has done poorly, mind you, but the team as a whole is not performing. The Avalanche and Jets are absolutely lesser teams that the Capitals should DOMINATE (yes, in capitals), not score a goal against in close, grinding games. Put the guys where they belong, where they have had success, and see that success return. Knuble belongs on the top line with Ovi and Backstrom. Halpern belongs on the fourth line centering Hendricks and another player. Play with the rest of the lineup as needed, but those five should be set in stone if you ask me, which I am assuming you did.
Ok, so what to do? The team, on paper, is a top-notch group of guys that should have no problem winning a cup. There are rookies and veterans, snipers and grinders, role players and elite talent. Our starting goalie is (was?) tied for the league lead in save percentage since the lockout. Leonsis has like ten dollars left to spend under the salary cap. Bruce Boudreau was fired when things took yet another turn. All the stops have supposedly been pulled out to win a Cup, and it has been the team's worst season in four years. A trade seems likely if nothing changes in the next week or two, but the way the team has performed, who would net anything of value?

The funny thing about value is that it's relative. There are a number of trades that appear to be "bad trades," but at the time they involved moving a player who simply did not work out with teammates, coaches, or both. I think that the Fleischmann trade was absolutely awful, for example, but Boudreau was clearly not going to give Flash the consistency and ice time that he needed to succeed. A point-per-game player for the Avs/Panthers and a useless bust of a defenseman for the Caps later, and it looks even worse. When a coach handicaps a player, or the talent on a team is such that a guy cannot be unleashed or properly utilized, it is probably best to move him sooner rather than later.

As bad as the team's record is, the fact remains that there is a lot of talent and a lot of money at all positions. I say move Jeff Schultz is the guy to move. I actually kind of like Schultz, and I think he can be a good d-man when he is paired with the right guy and the right system. But he has probably had one of the worst times adjusting to style changes since the Montreal series and last season's losing streak. Coach Hunter has benched him the past couple games in favor of (inferior player) John Erskine and (budding stud) rookie Dmitri Orlov. Mike Green isn't even in the lineup, and when he returns, someone else will have to be scratched or sent down to Hershey. Schultz also carries a not-insignificant cap hit of $2.75 million. Trading him for a draft pick simplifies a crowded blueline, frees up cap space, and hopefully gets Schultz some more NHL ice time. He has spent a lot of time on the top line with Mike Green during his stay in Washington, and he could fit in that role on a lot of other NHL teams. If he is not going to be used here, or if the style of play has changed so much that he is no longer a comfortable fit, I think it is best to move him now to help the team and help his career. Schultz's value in DC may have dropped as a result of the changes made over the last year, but he is still a valuable player in the league and should be able to net some decent value in terms of a second round draft pick and maybe a late round pick or prospect in a year that is supposed to have a strong draft.

Semin has been the name floated around in most rumors, and a year ago it made sense. When McPhee made the bone-headed move of giving him $6.7 million for this season, he skyrocketed Semin's face value. Any team looking to sign him has to determine if he is worth that much money while giving up something of value to the Capitals. At his current pace and level of play, he is not worth the money. That means that the Caps would not get $6.7 of value back in a trade, and would essentially be sending away a guy that has all the skill in the world, if not the desire, for someone that very likely does not have either. Not worth it for the team.

Then you have one of my favorite players: Mathieu Perreault. Perreault is a guy who is probably undervalued by the Capitals, and apparently especially by Hunter. His ice time has been absolutely pathetic, especially since Boudreau left. On a night when Cody Eakin was benched and Matt Hendricks had to sit five minutes for a fight, Perreault saw his lowest total ice time of the season, playing a measly 3:14, last on the team behind Hendy's 3:49. You better believe that there is a team out there aching for a young, hardworking forward that is in the top three for goals- and points-per-sixty minutes on his team. You also better believe that the Capitals would only get back in return what they value him at, and not what the other team would. However, much like Fleischmann, he would benefit greatly in his personal life if he was to be traded because he would surely see more ice time and greater development. But because he has the second-lowest cap hit of any forward on the team, and only if you include Jay Beagle, and because he would net very little in return, trading MP85 would be a pretty stupid move.

All of the players have fans, and all of them have value. They will not all be here when the trade deadline rolls around. Hopefully McPhee bucks his past trends of lousy trades and figures out how to properly judge value on the team under Hunter, and is able to extract the same or greater value from another GM. My vote is for Schultz, and to a lesser extent Erskine, who is a guy I think fits in between Sarge and Perreault on my makeshift value scale. Who is yours?

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