WTOP Caps Blog
Posted on: Tuesday 5/27/2014 7:02pm
WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday the Washington Capitals embarked on a bold, new era. The team introduced Brian MacLellan as senior vice president and general manager, and Barry Trotz as their 17th head coach.
Well, maybe not "bold." And certainly not "new."
MacLellan probably doesn't have to move his office very far. He's been with the organization for 13 years (7 of which were spent as assistant GM) and has a long relationship with his predecessor, George McPhee.
Many know Trotz as the only coach of the Nashville Predators since their inception in 1999. But he was a Capitals assistant before taking that gig.
So perhaps what's old is new again.
MacLellan did well to downplay his connection with McPhee. "I'm a different person...we've evolved differently, but we're still good friends. So I think the philosophy will be a little different, the emphasis will be different going forward."
Listening to MacLellan at the press conference, he said exactly what we needed to hear from him: a commitment to hard work and changing the culture both on and off the ice. As a player, he won a Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989 and managed to put together a decade-long NHL career despite starting it as an undrafted free agent.
However, MacLellan's work ethic was smeared on twitter by a guy who worked in the organization, so that's perhaps not the best way to begin a promotion (and also knee-slappingly ironic).
It's definitely a curious move. On the surface, it looks like the Caps wanted someone else and opted to turn to an in-house candidate to save face. Maybe MacLellan's overwhelming candor with owner Ted Leonsis on what he should be doing to make the team better held more sway than it should have.
All we know is that Leonsis doesn't have a reputation for making a move to simply shake things up. Thus, it's pretty hard to believe the man you envisioned to lead the "new direction" of the franchise would be the top lieutenant to the guy you just fired. Furthermore, it's pretty hard to sell to your paying customers.
The good news for the Capitals is that the exclamation points supporting the Trotz hire outnumber the question marks surrounding the MacLellan decision. Trotz was the team's only target, and has the 15th most victories among coaches in NHL history, and led an expansion team to the playoffs seven out of 15 years in Nashville.
Trotz did that without the bevy of talent the Caps have. Here, he'll have a league MVP--Alex Ovechkin--at his disposal, and the overall offense to blend well with this his brand of tough defense and discipline.
"Look at the four teams (still playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs), Trotz said. "They're hardworking, hard to play against teams. We want to get to that level. And the foundation is going to be hard work."
Trotz added, "There's enough skill here...accountability to the coach, to each other--that's more important."
If that message gets through to the current roster, and MacLellan can add more of the right players (starting with a long-term answer at goalie), this could be change the Capitals were looking for.
Posted on: Monday 3/24/2014 7:38am
WASHINGTON -- You might know him as a big time sports team owner, but an award to be bestowed later this month shows a different side of Ted Leonsis, who's part of the group that owns the Capitals and the Wizards.
"This year Ted Leonsis will receive the TAPS Engaged Philanthropist Award," says Ami Neiberger-Miller who's with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit organization that assists the families of fallen members of the military.
Leonsis will be recognized by TAPS during its 20th Anniversary Honor Guard Gala on Thursday, March 27.
He says he's humbled to be recognized by the organization that means so much to him and that gives comfort and care to those who have given so much to all of us.
Since 1994, TAPS has helped more than 44,000 surviving family members and their caregivers, all free of charge.
Over the last two seasons, the Washington Capitals' Courage Caps campaign has sold Capitals team hats emblazoned with the word "Courage" and donated 100 percent of the purchase price to TAPS.
It has raised more than $200,000.
Posted on: Tuesday 3/4/2014 5:29pm
ARLINGTON, Va. - The Washington Capitals added a potentially significant piece to their lineup Tuesday with the acquisition of veteran forward Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks. Penner is a natural left winger who could play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the Capitals' No.1 line.
Listed at 6 feet 4 inches and 247-pounds, Penner instantly becomes the biggest player on the Capitals roster and should provide a much welcome net front presence for the Capitals' top unit. The 31-year-old had 13 goals and 32 points in 49 games with Anaheim this season and frequently played with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the Ducks' top line.
"It's a good challenge for me personally," said Penner, who carries a salary cap hit of $2 million and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. "I look forward to coming and hopefully adding something that they were looking for to help make the push to the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup."
Penner is a two-time Stanley Cup champion himself, having won with Anaheim in 2007 and with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012. The nine-year NHL veteran has also played with the Edmonton Oilers.
The Capitals revolving first-line left wing position has been filled at times this season by Marcus Johansson, Martin Erat and Brooks Laich. Laich has skated alongside Backstrom and Ovechkin in all three games since the Olympic break, but Laich took a maintenance day Tuesday and did not practice with the team. The 30- year-old has battled groin injuries for the better part of two seasons.
"He's a little bit banged up," head coach Adam Oates said after practice. "He plays such a physical game, his lower body is sore and hopefully it's just sore and nothing else."
Penner will meet the Capitals in Philadelphia and is expected to make his Caps debut Wednesday against the Flyers. The Capitals remain on the outside of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference but trail the New York Rangers by one point for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Capitals acquired Penner in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft - a pick the Capitals originally acquired from Anaheim in September in the trade that sent Mathieu Perreault to Anaheim. The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday at 3:00 p.m.
Catch the Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. Pregame coverage begins at 7:45 p.m., online at www.WFED.com.
Posted on: Tuesday 9/17/2013 4:30pm
Ben Raby, wtop.com
ARLINGTON, Va. - Mikhail Grabovski was like the new kid on the first day of school.
The former Toronto Maple Leafs center arrived at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the first time Tuesday and took part in a morning practice with several of his new teammates.
Soon after the hour-long skate, Grabovski laid out his equipment in front of his new locker stall and met with team trainers for about 10 minutes. Grabovski tried on a few different pairs of hockey shorts and showed off his collection of hockey sticks, discussing everything from size to curve types.
It's hard to blame Grabovski for wanting everything to be just right now that he has finally arrived in the District. Grabovski, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Capitals in late August, missed the start of training camp last week because of a visa issue, which was eventually settled Monday in Toronto.
"I'm just very excited," he said Tuesday. "I'm excited to skate in the practice arena and to feel the ice. I'm sorry about (being) late a little bit but I'm happy to be here and just very excited."
Prior to signing with the Capitals, Grabovski spent five seasons with the Maple Leafs where he recorded career highs of 29 goals and 58 points in 2010-11. The Belarusian was limited to 16 points in 48 games last season before having the final four years of his contract bought out in July.
Grabovski concedes that it's been "an unusual start" to the season and that he still has much to learn in the days and weeks ahead as he adjusts to life with a new team in a different city.
"It's going to be busy," he said of the next few days. "My wife is here so she's going to help me a little bit to find a house and that stuff so that I can keep my mind (focused) on training and working out. I hope I'm going to play in the next few games so that I can (get) myself ready."
Grabovski could make his preseason debut Friday at Verizon Center when the Capitals face the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The 29-year-old is expected to begin the regular season as the Capitals' second line center -- a position filled last year by Mike Ribeiro.
"I'm looking forward to finding myself as a player and to be a better offensive player and to try to help them fight for a Stanley Cup," he said. "I hope that I give them a little bit of speed and emotion. I'm just very happy to be here. I know that it's just for one year, but I'll try my best to help them and to help myself."
Catch to the Baltimore Hockey Classic tonight at 7 p.m. as the Capitals face the Boston Bruins. Capitals play-by-play voice John Walton and color analyst Ken Sabourin will have the call from 1st Mariner Arena. Listen to all the action live at www.federalnewsradio.com.
Posted on: Thursday 9/12/2013 8:42pm
Ben Raby, wtop.com
ARLINGTON, Va. - The Washington Capitals opened training camp Thursday with 69 players taking part, but center Mikhail Grabovski was not among them.
Grabovski, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Capitals in August, remains in Toronto waiting for a work visa issue to be resolved.
"We can't seem to put our finger on what's going on up there," said general manager George McPhee.
"But hopefully it's another day or two at the most and we'll have him."
According to a team spokesman, Grabovski will join the Capitals as soon as possible but there is no timetable for his arrival. The 29-year-old is expected to begin the season as the Capitals' second line center- a position which was filled last year by Mike Ribeiro.
"He's been a good centerman in this League and we lost a good centerman," said head coach Adam Oates.
"So we're hoping that he fills that role. He also fits into our puzzle and I talked to him about that. Obviously it's a shame that he's not here, but I'm sure that he's very motivated."
Prior to his signing with the Capitals, Grabovski spent five seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Belarusian had career highs of 29 goals and 58 points in 2010-11 but was limited to 16 points in 48 games last season.
Grabovski did not feel that he was put in a position to succeed under Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle who played Grabovski primarily on the team's third and fourth lines. The Maple Leafs bought out the final four years of Grabovski's contract in July but the Capitals are hopeful that he will be an effective top six forward and a fixture on the club's power play.
"He's going to bring a different element," said Brooks Laich, who could begin the season on a line with Grabovski and Troy Brouwer.
"We've got a lot of speed on the wings but last year I don't think that we had a lot of pure speed up the middle and he'll bring that. He's a guy that goes to the gritty areas… and from everything that I've heard about him- he's a guy that really wants to win and really wants to be part of something. We're looking forward to having him and we can't wait until he gets here."
Catch the Capitals preseason opener on www.wfed.com on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. against the Winnipeg Jets. Capitals play-by-play voice John Walton will have the call from Belleville, Ontario.
Follow @WTOPSports on Twitter.
Posted on: Tuesday 5/14/2013 8:26am
WASHINGTON - What is it about Washington sports teams?
It doesn't matter the team, the arena, the players, the coaches.
I truly hate to say this, but they all gag in the playoffs.
Each has done it in their own unique, frustrating and crushing way.
In just the past year alone, we have seen the Nationals blow a six-run lead in the decisive game and the Redskins unable to hold on to a 14-point advantage and then lose their star quarterback.
However, those are just one-game disappointments for the Nats and 'Skins.
The Capitals have made playoff failure an art form.
Over the past 30 years they have blown 2-0 and 3-1 series leads nine times, lost in overtime, double-overtime, triple-overtime and quadruple-overtime. They have seen their own superstars disappear and journeymen goaltenders have career games against them.
Ten times in team history, the Capitals have jumped out to a two-games-to-none lead only to lose that series six times.
All-time, they are just 3-9 in Game 7s.
Starting in 2008 - the current Alex Ovechkin era - the Caps are 2-5 in the decisive game. That includes going 1-4 at home.
What's the point of busting your butt to gain home-ice advantage if you don't take advantage of it?!!
The Capitals don't show up when you would most expect them to show up.
How do you explain in 2009 getting blown out by the Penguins 6-2 in Game 7, or the next year dropping games 5 AND 7 to the Montreal Canadians, and laying an egg to the Rangers this time to the tune of 5-0?
ALL those games were played at Verizon Center.
New York usually doesn't score five goals in a week. In fact, they had a total of just two the previous three trips to DC.
This is the third-time in six-years the Capitals have been knocked out of the first-round. They haven't gotten past the second since their one-and-only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals 15 years ago.
Defenseman Mike Green and many other Capitals players felt this was the best- rounded, deepest team they've had in their six-straight trips to the playoffs.
And yet, it's the same old song and dance.
You could almost explain a one-goal loss to an unlucky bounce, a hot goaltender, or a bad penalty call. That's already happened to the Capitals.
But, no one saw a 5-0 spanking coming.
Are the Caps cursed or fundamentally flawed? I don't want to believe the first and don't believe the second.
What this current team needs is a killer instinct.
When you have a team down, take them out. No way should the Rangers have come back in this series. How could the Capitals go 0-for-3 in New York?
And, certainly there's no way the Rangers win two games in two nights in two different buildings, both by shutouts. Well, by doing so, they manage to get the first road Game 7 victory in their 87-year history.
Otherwise, I thought the Capitals had a very good chance to go far in these playoffs.
Top-seed Pittsburgh had its porous goaltending and defense exposed in a tough series with the Islanders and Boston needed a frantic finish to get past Toronto in seven games.
Washington can definitely compete with the Bruins and Penguins.
But, we'll never know for sure. Because, with the Capitals, it's always wait till next year.
Posted on: Saturday 5/4/2013 10:06am
WASHINGTON - Let's debunk one old myth right off the bat. Most of the Washington Capitals players have all their teeth.
However, hockey players still live up to the myth that they're really tough guys. They're a different breed. And with the start of the NHL playoffs this week, they're proving again just how tough they are.
They play through pain that would stop most of us cold.
Yes, they wear helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin pads and padded pants and gloves. But all, or some, of their face is exposed.
And wouldn't you know it on many occasions, a puck or stick will find its way to a player's head, usually causing an injury.
For the Capitals, that's when team dentist Tom Lenz jumps into action.
He's had to patch up some gruesome injuries during his seven years on the job.
"I've seen lips lacerated literally in half, injuries through the mouth, out the cheek, certainly lost teeth, fractured jaws. And these guys will continue playing," Lenz says.
Capitals center Eric Belanger lost a bunch of teeth in a game in the 2010 playoffs after having extensive mouth surgery just months earlier.
He didn't miss a beat.
The main objective for Dr. Lenz is to patch the players up and get them back on the ice as quickly as possible.
Lenz admires their pain threshold.
"They're at the far end of the spectrum as far as tolerance," he says.
Case in point: Former Capitals defenseman Shaone Morrisonn played with a fractured jaw in the playoffs three years ago.
"A lot of times, players won't let anyone know what's going on," Lenz says.
Morrisonn's jaw was wired shut, but would take the wires off before the game so he could play. He was wearing no facial protection, not wanting to advertise his condition.
"He'd eat his meal on the plane afterwards and we'd force his jaw shut again and wire him up," Lenz says.
He adds the players just want to keep playing and contributing, despite the pain.
Think about that when watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy chair.
Posted on: Monday 2/25/2013 5:36pm
Ben Raby, wtop.com
ARLINGTON, Va. - Troy Brouwer and Alexander Semin were teammates for all of one season with the Washington Capitals. Apparently that was plenty of time for Brouwer to draw a few conclusions about the Russian sniper.
"Some nights you didn't even know if he was going to come to the rink," Brouwer said Monday. "It's tough to play alongside guys like those because you don't know what you're going to get out of them."
Brouwer's comments come as the Capitals prepare to face Semin and the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night at Verizon Center for the first of five meetings this season.
Semin signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Carolina last summer after spending seven seasons with the Capitals.
The 28-year-old was an enigmatic figure with the Caps, capable of scoring highlight reel goals in bunches one night only to take costly penalties the next. Semin rarely attended optional practices, declined interviews with the media and in recent years started to have his work ethic questioned by former teammates.
Brouwer said it can be frustrating to see a player with tremendous raw talent, but work ethic shortcomings.
"I know there are a lot of guys that work really, really hard to get where they are playing in the NHL, and some guys it's a little bit easier because of their skill-set. Every player's different, every attitude is different and every personality is different. That's why the world is the way it is."
Semin was a six-time 20-goal scorer with the Capitals from 2007-12, but his productivity peaked in 2009-10 with career-highs of 40 goals and 84 points. He followed it up with 54 points in each of the last two years.
"It was tough to lose his scoring ability when he wanted to play," Brouwer said. "But all in all I think we've been doing well without him."
Semin is fifth all-time in franchise history with 197 goals and he is Washington's 14th all-time leading scorer with 408 points in 469 games.
"Obviously you're going to miss a player of that talent," defenseman Karl Alzner said, "but I think we filled the hole that we did have. If we could have him on our team still, that'd be a bonus for us, but we're not that fortunate."
Among Semin's biggest supporters during his tenure with the Capitals was his countryman and team captain Alex Ovechkin. They remain in touch, Ovechkin said, about once a week.
"He read the game, he can pass the puck well he can shoot it and I like playing with him," Ovechkin said. "Sometimes I miss [him]. Right now I don't have any Russian [teammates] who speak [my] language."
Ovechkin added that he isn't surprised to see Semin succeeding in Carolina, where he has four goals and 14 points in 17 games. Semin's plus-10 rating is also second best among Eastern Conference forwards.
Ovenchkin expects Semin to have a big game Tuesday night.
"He [will] just want to show up and tell them like it was a mistake. Every normal player will do it. I think it's going to be good night for both teams tomorrow."
Catch the Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night at 7:05 on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM and online at WFED.com Pregame coverage begins at 6:45 p.m.
Posted on: Saturday 1/12/2013 10:21pm
Ben Raby, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals will open an abbreviated 48-game regular season on the road Saturday, Jan. 19 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The team's 38th home opener is set for Tuesday, Jan. 22 against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Capitals released their schedule Saturday afternoon, shortly after the NHLPA voted in favor of ratifying the new collective bargaining agreement.
The abbreviated schedule is a result of the NHL's 113-day lockout and will see teams play exclusively within their conference.
"It's going be a sprint for sure," says first-year head coach Adam Oates. "But 48 games is still a lot of hockey. And there are a lot of bumps and bruises that go along with that. So I think it's still a long enough period of time to determine that it's a real season."
Oates played during the NHL's only other lockout-shortened season — a 48- game campaign in 1995 with the Boston Bruins — and finished tenth in league scoring that year with 53 points in 48 games.
The 1995 season played out over 15 weeks while this year's schedule is slightly more condensed with the same number of games to be played over a 14-week period.
"Guys know the importance of how quickly this is going to turn around," says forward Troy Brouwer. "Guys are going to have to be in shape because with a shortened season like this if you lose three games in a row out of the gates, you may not make the playoffs and that's right at the beginning of the season."
Washington will face opponents from the Atlantic and Northeast divisions three times each, while meeting divisional rivals Florida and Tampa Bay four times plus Carolina and Winnipeg five times each.
The Capitals are the only team in the NHL that will play three road games this season at Winnipeg's MTS Centre.
An unusual twist to the Capitals schedule has the team playing in Winnipeg on consecutive nights March 21 to 22. The back-to-back games in Winnipeg make up half of Washington's season-high four-game road trip which also includes games against the Pittsburgh Penguins (Tuesday, March 19) and the New York Rangers (Sunday, March 24).
The Capitals will also play consecutive home games against the same opponent when they host the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 23.
Other highlights on the Capitals' schedule include a Super Bowl Sunday matchup against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Feb. 3 meeting will be the Penguins' only visit to Verizon Center during the regular season.
The Capitals end the season with a three-game homestand against Winnipeg (April 23), Ottawa (April 25) and Boston (April 27).
The complete Washington Capitals 48-game schedule is included below:
(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
Posted on: Friday 1/11/2013 3:17pm
By: Ben Raby, WTOP.com
ARLINGTON, Va. - Two days after seeing a medical specialist in Michigan, Nicklas Backstrom took part in an informal skate with 14 teammates Friday at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex and said afterwards that he expects to play when the NHL season begins next weekend.
Backstrom was injured Dec. 26 while playing for Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League with initial reports from Russia suggesting that Backstrom suffered a neck injury. There were also rumblings that the Caps' No. 1 center may have suffered his second concussion in less than a year.
The 25-year-old Swede missed 40 games with a concussion last season but Backstrom was relieved to learn this week that this was not another head injury.
"I feel good," Backstrom said after a 75-minute workout.
"I'm one hundred percent. I know [there is] a lot of speculation about what's going on and stuff, but it's something I wanted to check out. So, I went to Michigan and I got it checked out ... No concussion, so we can all be calm," he said.
Backstrom was confident that this was not another concussion. "The hit wasn't as bad as the one last year," he said. But, he decided to see renowned specialist Dr. Jeff Kutcher at the University of Michigan as a precaution.
"I think everyone in the league is going to be more serious about those things because it's your head," he explained. "You only have one head. You can't really do anything about it. You've got to make sure it's a hundred percent so you can perform out there."
Washington won 18 of 40 games without Backstrom in the lineup last season while the power play went 15 for 102 (14.7 percent) in his absence compared to 26 for 143 (18.2 percent) when was in the lineup.
Of the 26 power play goals the Capitals scored with Backstrom in the lineup last season, he had a point on 73 percent of them (three goals and 16 assists).
"That's something you don't want to go through, to be away for 40 games. You don't want to do that. Hopefully that's something I only do once in my career. I'm only looking forward and being positive about everything now."
"It's huge," teammate Roman Hamrlik said of Backstrom's return to the ice.
"He's one of the best players on the team and we need him desperately. It's a big thing to have him," Hamrlik said.
Backstrom enjoyed a solid stint in the KHL before the Dec. 26 injury, with his 10 goals and 25 points in 19 games both ranking second on Dynamo Moscow behind only Alex Ovechkin.
Washington's 2006 first-round pick is anxious though to turn the page and begin working fulltime with first year head coach Adam Oates, a former play-making No. 1 center himself.
"It's great that you can ask him questions and he can give you feedback. That's what we need. I think all of the players need a little bit of feedback so that we can help each other.
He's a smart guy. He was a unique player and a skilled guy, so I'm looking forward to playing [for] him. It's very fortunate for us to have him here as a coach," Backstrom said.
Backstrom and Hamrlik were joined on the ice Friday by forwards Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, Joey Crabb, Matt Hendricks, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault, Mike Ribeiro and Joel Ward, defensemen Jack Hillen, Tom Poti, Cam Schilling, Jeff Schultz and goalie Braden Holtby.
Forward Brooks Laich skated individually for about 45 minutes Friday morning ahead of his teammates.
(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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