Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Re-signing of Laich good move

Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee’s decision to re-sign center Brooks Laich can only be described by a bit of cultural slang.

No-brainer.

The 28-year old has been a model of not only consistency as he has averaged just over 21 goals and just under 50 points the last four seaosons, but also of professionalism and character.

And, no, I’m not talking about how he changed a tire for a stranded motorist on his way home from the Capitals Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens two seasons ago. Laich has been the most upfront and honest member on the current roster when it comes to the teams play, or at times lack there of.

Everyone should remember his comments during HBO’s 24/7 documentary before the Winter Class when Laich admitted that at times the team gets complacent.

There are, as one should come to expect, the detractors who say the Caps overpaid to keep Laich as they are paying him 27 million over the next six years.

I disagree with that wholeheartedly and here is why.

One, the free agent market is thin this year, especially on quality forwards. A guy with Laich’s stats and ability would’ve commanded a much longer and richer salary on the open market especially for a team like Toronto who is looking to re-build, or a team like the Chicago Blackhawks who are looking to reload.

In the last four days the Hawks have traded both Troy Brouwer, ironically to the Caps, and Tomas Kopecky to the Florida Panthers. That’s 32 goals and 78 pts lost from last season. Laich certainly could’ve made up for some of that production.

Two, because Laich is a two-way player who also happens to play on the penalty kill and the power play. He finished first amongst Capitals forwards last season in average shorthanded ice time per game at 2:18.

The last reason, and the one which is most important is Laich is glue guy; a natural born leader. As soon as the Caps began their ascent to the top of the league in the spring of 2008, Laich became one of the faces of the team. Sure, there were the obvious attention getters; Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green come on down, but Laich was the one who stepped forward.

He seemed to have an internal understanding that when a young team is suddenly in the limelight they need a guy to step forward and take on the brunt of the spotlight; a guy who can stand in front of the camera’s and answer the tough questions when no one else on the team wants to.

Laich did that immediately.

I remember after the gut-wrenching loss to the Flyers in Game 7, Laich answered questions for about five-minutes from reporters, and then stayed just as long and answered each question as courteously as he did before when the second wave of reporters bombarded him.

I know because I was amongst the second wave.

Oh, and if George McPhee pulls off the trades and free agent signings the fan base has been yelling for the last few seasons a big thank you should go to Laich.

He said during his conference call with reporters yesterday that there needs to be more accountability amongst the players and coaches next season regardless of salary, length of tenure, or the name of the back of the jersey.

Laich knows the team has underachieved the last few seasons and that the only way they can achieve the ultimate goal is by changing the culture in the locker room.

Does anyone think it’s a coincidence McPhee traded for a player like Brouwer after Laich voiced his concerns after the sweep by Tampa Bay? Look at his role when the Hawks won the Cup in 2010. He’s exactly what the Capitals need, and hopefully a few more like him are on the way.

So, do I think the Capitals overpaid to keep Brooksie?

No, they couldn’t have paid him enough.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Capitals Re-Sign Brooks Laich

Per the Washignton Capitals Media Relations Department:

The Washington Capitals have re-signed center Brooks Laich to a six-year contract, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are very pleased to have Brooks Laich continue his career as a Washington Capital,” said McPhee. “Brooks has excelled as one of the League’s finer two-way players and is just entering his prime. His combination of size, speed, versatility and leadership makes him a valuable part of our club.”;

Laich, 28, finished fourth on the Capitals in points (48), fifth in goals (16) and third in assists (32) while posting a plus-14 plus/minus rating and collecting 46 penalty minutes. For the third time in his career, he played in all 82 of Washington’s regular-season games and finished second on the Caps with 207 shots on goal. In addition, Laich closed out the 2010-11 campaign fifth on the team in hits (113) and won 51.3 percent of his faceoffs. He scored his 100th career NHL goal on Mar. 15 at Montreal and finished second on the team in points during the playoffs (7) while leading the Caps with six postseason assists in nine games. Laich also finished first amongst Capitals forwards in average shorthanded ice time per game (2:18) and was instrumental in leading the Caps penalty kill unit that ranked second in the NHL during the regular season.

“I’m thrilled to make the commitment to remain a Capital,” said Laich. “It is a wonderful organization with terrific fans and I’m very happy to continue to call Washington home for many years to come.”;

The 6’2”, 215-pound center set career-highs in goals (25), assists (34) and points (59) during the 2009-10 season and scored 20 or more goals in three straight seasons from 2007-2010. In 475 career regular-season games, Laich has recorded 237 points (100 goals, 137 assists) and is a plus-14. In 37 career playoff games, he has tallied seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points.

The Wawota, Saskatchewan, native is second among active Capitals players in franchise games played (474), fifth in points (237), third in goals (100) and fifth in assists (137). Laich is 15th amongst his 2001 draft class in points but is one of only three players in the top 15 to be drafted later than the third round.

Laich was a sixth-round draft pick (193rd overall) by Ottawa in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. He was acquired from Ottawa along with the Senators’ second-round draft pick in 2005 (traded to Colorado) and future considerations for Peter Bondra on Feb. 18, 2004.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Capitals Announce 2011 Preseason Schedule

Per the Washington Capitals Media Relations Department:

The Washington Capitals 2011 preseason schedule features seven games against four opponents and includes three games at Verizon Center. The Capitals will open their preseason schedule against the Nashville Predators in the Baltimore Hockey Classic at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore on September 20 at 7 p.m.

The Capitals will begin their preseason road schedule on Wednesday, Sept. 21 (7 p.m.) at Columbus versus the Blue Jackets before facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on Friday, Sept. 23 (8:30 p.m.).

The team’s preseason home opener at Verizon Center is Monday, Sept. 26 (7 p.m.) against the Blue Jackets. The Capitals will then travel to Nashville on Sept. 28 (8 p.m.) before returning home to face the Buffalo Sabres on Sept. 30 (7 p.m.) and the Blackhawks on Oct. 2 (5 p.m.) at Verizon Center.

The Capitals were 5-1-0 in the preseason last year, and their all-time preseason record is 140-112-29-9.

The 1st Mariner Arena, formerly the Baltimore Arena, is Baltimore’s largest indoor venue. The Capitals called Landover, Maryland home from 1974-1997. They played their home games at the Capital Centre before moving to downtown Washington, D.C. for the 1997-98 season.

Audio from every preseason game will be broadcast live on WashingtonCaps.com. The complete 2011-12 NHL regular season schedule will be released at a later date.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Capitals Hire Olie Kolzig as Associate Goaltender Coach

The Washington Capitals have hired former Capital Olie Kolzig as associate goaltender coach, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. Dave Prior will return to his role as director of goaltending and NHL goaltender coach.

“We are excited to add a familiar face to our staff in Olie Kolzig,” said McPhee. “Olie had a tremendous impact on this franchise as a goaltender as well as an individual, and we are looking forward to him having the same impact as a coach.”

Kolzig, 41, played in 711 games as a Capital from 1989-90 through 2007-08. He currently owns nearly every all-time Capitals goaltending record, including games played, wins (301), shutouts (35) and minutes (41,259) and ranks fourth (minimum 3,000 minutes played) in goals-against average (2.70) and third in save percentage (.906). In terms of single-season records, Kolzig leads in games (73), minutes (4,371), wins (41) and is second (minimum 1,200 minutes) in goals-against average (2.20), save percentage (.920) and shutouts (6).

The Johannesburg, South Africa, native was awarded the 2000 Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goalie, and was named the 2005-06 King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner (awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community). He was also named to two NHL All-Star teams (1998 and 2000) as a member of the Capitals.

A former Caps first-round draft pick (19th overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Kolzig helped guide Washington to its only Stanley Cup Final in 1998. During his final season with the Caps in 2007-08, Kolzig was teammates with several current Capitals, including captain Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green. The three-time German Olympian (1998, 2002 – sat out due to injury and 2006) appeared in 719 career NHL games with Washington and Tampa Bay before retiring in September 2009.

Prior spent 12 seasons as the Capitals goaltending coach from 1996-97 through the 2008-09 season, including 11 seasons coaching Kolzig, and worked in the Capitals organization as a goalie coach this past season. Under his watch, Washington goalies posted three of the five lowest team goals-against averages in franchise history, including Kolzig’s Vezina-winning season (1999-2000) and the Caps 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. The Capitals won four divisional championships and made six playoff appearances during Prior’s tenure.

Before joining the Capitals’ coaching staff, Prior worked as a goaltending coach for the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets. In addition, the native of Guelph, Ontario, gained international experience mentoring goalies on the German National Team and spent seven years working with the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.

Both coaches will attend the Capitals’ Rookie Development Camp, running from July 11-16 at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va.

Capitals Re-Sign Defenseman Patrick McNeill

Per the Washington Capitals Media Relations Department:

The Washington Capitals have re-signed defenseman Patrick McNeill to a two-year contract, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

McNeill, 24, has spent the past four seasons with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL). The 6’, 198-pound defenseman finished the 2010-11 campaign with 51 games and was tied for first among Hershey defensemen in goals (7) and third in points (27) despite missing the first 27 games with an injury to start the season. His four power play goals led all team blueliners during the regular season and he paced the Hershey defensemen with three points (one goal, two assists) in six playoff games. McNeill was recalled to Washington on two separate occasions and joined the Capitals for the playoffs but did not dress.

McNeill collected 35 points (8 goals, 27 assists) in 62 games with Hershey during the 2009-10 season, almost doubling his point total from the previous year. His 27 assists and 35 points ranked second on the team among defensemen behind John Carlson. In addition, McNeill registered six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in 11 playoff games to help Hershey win the Calder Cup.

McNeill was a fourth-round draft pick (118th overall) by Washington in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Capitals Acquire Taylor Stefishen from Nashville for Conditional Draft Pick

Per the Washington Capitals Media Relations Department:

The Washington Capitals have acquired left wing Taylor Stefishen from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a conditional draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

Stefishen, 20, spent last season with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League (WHL). The 6’, 185-pound left wing finished second on the team with 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) and 72 penalty minutes in 68 regular season games and added four points (two goals, two assists) in four playoff games.

The North Vancouver, British Columbia native transferred to Prince George after spending two seasons in the NCAA with Ohio State University, recording 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 42 collegiate games.

During the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, he tallied 137 points (58 goals, 79 assists) and 144 penalty minutes in 116 games for the Langley Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).

Stefishen was a fifth-round draft pick (136th overall) of the Predators in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He is scheduled to attend the Capitals’ rookie camp in July.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Capitals Sign Center Mattias Sjogren

The Washington Capitals have signed free agent center Mattias Sjogren to a two-year entry-level contract beginning next season, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are pleased to have Mattias join the Capitals organization,” said McPhee. “He is a big center who has developed very well over the past few seasons and is ready for a new challenge.”;

The 6’2”, 214-pound center spent the 2010-11 season with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League, recording a career-high 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) and 44 penalty minutes in 51 games. Sjogren helped lead Farjestad to a SEL championship, registering nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 13 postseason games.

Sjogren, 23, represented Sweden at the 2011 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia, winning the silver medal while tallying four points (one goal, three assists) in nine games. He scored the game-winning goal versus USA in the preliminary round.

The native of Landskrona, Sweden has 59 points (24 goals, 35 assists) in 148 career games with Farjestad and Rogle of the SEL.