Sunday, August 21, 2011

30 Fans in 30 Days: Peter & the Washington Capitals

As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.

Team 2 of 30: the Washington Capitals


The President's Trophy-defending team had another strong season last year, finishing first in the Eastern Conference, and had a high-profile year, including an appearance in the Winter Classic and on HBO's 24/7: Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic.

After a tight, exciting 5-game series against the New York Rangers, the Caps were easily swept out of round 2 of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Oddly enough, the Caps had taken their regular season matchups 4-2, often by dominating margins (6-3, 6-0, 5-2); the complete reversal in the playoffs was a shock to watch. Although none of the WSH-TBL games were wipeouts, there were too many times during the series that the Capitals just looked like they were simply ready for the season to be over. The 2010-11 season was the worst in captain Alex Ovechkin's 6-year NHL career, with his goal-scoring and shooting percentage showing a marked drop off, and it was the first time in his NHL career he hadn't picked up at least one NHL trophy.

Naturally, Ovechkin was critiqued over the summer; after watching him on 24/7 and the disappointing playoffs, there were many who felt that Washington's leader needed to be -- well, a leader, and not simply on the ice. Coach Bruce Boudreau recently addressed the media, stating that he'd had some important discussions with Ovechkin, stating "I fully expect Alex Ovechkin to come back into [training] camp mean as a bear." Boudreau also felt that Ovechkin would also be more vocal in the locker room and expects him to have an "I'll show you" attitude when he takes the ice for the new season.

While Washington didn't make a lot of trades or acquisitions in comparison to say, Vancouver or Philadelphia, the moves they made were bold and high-profile. Eric Fehr, who was drafted by and spent his entire NHL career to date with the Caps, was traded to the Winnipeg Jets. They picked up Troy Brouwer from the Chicago Blackhawks via trade. Brouwer was drafted by the Blackhawks and has played five years with the team; he was well-liked in Chicago, and will bring more grit and size to Washington's forward lines. 

The Caps also acquired Joel Ward via free agency from the Nashville Predators; Ward has been a solid 30-ish points producer for the Preds, but it was his outstanding work in the 2011 playoffs that put him on most hockey fans' radar this summer. Andrew Gordon, who has been very popular - and high-producing - for the Capitals' AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, was signed by the Anaheim Ducks. Jason Arnott moved on to the St. Louis Blues, where it is hoped he can bring grit and more importantly, leadership.

Lastly, in perhaps one of the most surprising pair of moves during the summer, Washington traded goalie Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche, and picked up Tomas Vokoun for a song ($1.5M) via free agency. Vokoun has been a very solid netminder behind a mediocre Florida team; expect him to have an outstanding season with the defensively-minded Capitals.

New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Troy Brouwer (CHI), Jeff Halpern (MTL), Roman Hamrlik (MTL), Tomas Vokoun (FLA), Joel Ward (NSH)

Players who appeared in games for the Capitals during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not re-signed/(team now signed with): Jason Arnott (STL), Matt Bradley (FLA), Eric Fehr (WPG), Tomas Fleischmann (FLA), Andrew Gordon (ANA), Boyd Gordon (PHX), Scott Hannan (CGY), Tyler Sloan (NSH), David Steckel (NJD), Marco Sturm (VAN), Semyon Varlamov (COL)

In an unusual scheduling move this year, the Capitals will not only have two games against the Chicago Blackhawks during the pre-season (home and away) but also play a pair of games against the Blackhawks during the regular season as well. These two high-profile teams are well-matched, and the trade of Brouwer between the two teams will add some extra interest for fans of either side.


For our second of 30 Fans in 30 Days, we talked to Washington Capitals fan Peter, found on Twitter at @PKLords76.

What is your history of being a fan of the Capitals for 25 years?

I went to my first game at the Caps Centre when I was 6 or 7, and saw a bench clearing fight between the Caps and Flyers and I have been hooked ever since. When I was a kid, I would watch games and play hockey and try to emulate the skaters I saw on the ice. Dino Ciccarelli was my first favorite, then Peter Bondra, and now its Brooks Laich. I get crap from friends about being a Laich fan because he is usually the "female favorite" on the team, but I just love how he works at his craft and is constantly improving while taking on whatever task is asked of him. I became a season ticket holder the year Boudreau was hired and I do not miss games. I even special ordered red shoes that say "Rock the Red" on them.

Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?

Jeff Halpern, because I grew up in MD and am excited that he is coming back to the team he grew up watching.

Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on? Discuss anything related to your team's performance for the 2011-12 season, good or bad.

It is no secret that the Caps needed to get grittier, meaner and bring in better playoff performers. Troy Brouwer replaces Fehr's points but adds a killer forecheck and punishing hitter aspect that Fehr didn't bring. Jeff Halpern replaces everything Boyd Gordon gave the Caps plus he scores more. Same thing with Roman Hamrlik. He replaces Scott Hannan well but has more offensive upside. Joel Ward proved he was a playoff performer and easily replaces Marco Sturm in that regard. And adding a top 5 goalie for $1.5M for 1 year was just the cherry on top.

Our D is going to be really good this year. Our bottom pair appears to be Wideman/Schultz and both of those guys could easily play (and have played) top 4 minutes. The emergence of "Carlznerson" (Karl Alzner and John Carlson) as our top pair means that Mike Green won't be relied on as much or be as tired and can get back to more scoring. And then there is the offense. Yes, they had a down year, but that just means they are all pissed, and want to get back to what they do best. Boudreau is looking at a hybrid-type system this year. Basically he wants to try and turn the defensive system he used last year into something that can turn around faster and get up ice. If they can find that happy medium, then the team will be downright scary.

Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference? (1st-15th)

1st in their conference.

What was your favorite moment for your team last season?

Winning the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. I was there and loved every minute of it, especially when we yelled "RED" during the National Anthem.

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