Let’s go back to that silly place again. Warning: It’s almost as long as that fantasy draft we did a couple years ago that we kind of swore we’d never mention again.
Erik Gustafsson has been up for about a month now. While it’s obviously too early to jump to conclusions, let’s do that anyway. Can he shore up the 2nd pairing enough for a deep run?
McClure: I like what I’ve seen so far of Erik Gustafsson on a couple of fronts. While he’s a bit light in the ass and relies a bit too much on stationary stretch passes, albeit with plus-vision to even attempt some of them, what is really encouraging is what I’ve seen on the defensive end. He will get beaten occasionally with speed, as he’s not as fast as one would think given his skill set, but when he does, he does not reach and tries to make up ground with his feet. That alone will earn points with any coach, and even if he gets beaten he’ll do his part to at least try to make the angles more difficult for a rushing forward and not put his team on the kill in the process. But all of that being said, asking him to bail water for a partner who undoubtedly has at least three different sandwiches named after him around town is a bit unfair at this point. In an ideal world when the playoffs come Goose is partnered with Rozsival permanently, where Rozy can play free safety for him with primo zone starts (at least at home), while Scuds and TVR are in suits. It’s now been nearly a whole season and I still cannot figure out anything that TVR does well. He can’t move, his shot isn’t hard, accurate, or quick to be released, and decision making on positioning in the defensive zone leaves a lot to be desired. So no, I do not think that Gustafsson is a long term second pairing answer.
Fifth Feather:He certainly has the skating skills to do so. Gustafsson is a beautiful skater. He has the rare ability to go full speed in about two strides, so the exact opposite of his partner Brent Seabrook who only moves that quickly if someone drops a nacho on the ground.
That said, I guess the only way we’ll ever know is if he does it. One thing that is worrisome is his strength and fatigue level. This will be the most amount of games he’s played and at the highest level. Will he be able to keep up? I don’t know that we can answer that yet.
To be fair to his partner, Brent Seabrook has always answered the bell when April rolls around the calendar. So he will have that safety net as well.
When you break it all down, Gustafsson really has a lot in his favor:
–Partner with tons of experience
–Skating ability to get himself out of trouble
–Top notch goalie in his net to cover up any glaring mistakes
–Excellent first pass skills
Unless he becomes a total headcase and loses all confidence, I don’t see why he can’t continue to be a guy the Hawks depend on for 17-20 minutes a game when it counts.
Slak: No, not yet. I do like that they’ve found a guy with the offensive instincts of a modern NHL defenseman and are willing to give him the minutes to develop at this level. It’s nice for Gustafsson to be able to learn from guys like Duncan Keith, Nik Hjalmarsson, and Brent Seabrook while establishing himself. He is already the 4th best defenseman on this team (though I’m pretty thrilled with Rozsival’s contribution so far and hope he continues to rest for the playoffs). However that doesn’t mean I’d love to see Stan Bowman pursue a 2nd pair guy as a rental to push Gustafsson to the 3rd pair to do some Leddy-style bum slaying. Ideally, TVR is your seventh defenseman and Scuderi eighth come playoff time, with Gustafsson and Rozsival making up the 3rd pairing.
Last time we did this we poked holes in the Dallas Stars. Let’s do the same with the Washington Capitals. Are they everything they look like?
McClure:I certainly think the Capitals are more for real than the Stars are. However it’s difficult to tell what they’ll be come playoff time based on Holtby’s workload. While Barry Trotz has loosened his grip and allowed a bit more offensive freelancing given the talent he now has in DC as opposed to when he was in Nashville, he apparently has not learned from turning Pekka Rinne’s hip into liquid shit from over working. Holtby is still pretty young on the goalie continuum (26), so overall usage isn’t an issue, but it’s simply unrealistic to ask a goalie to play 65+ games anymore regardless of age. They’re currently benefiting from a shitty Eastern conference, but that’s not to say that it’s all smoke and mirrors. Obviously Ovechkin and Backstrom are top flight players, and the addition of Justin Williams along with the maturation of Evgeny Kuznetsov has created scoring depth they haven’t had in a while. Kuzya has quietly become one of the best #2 centers in the game and he’s only 23. I’ve personally always been a huge fan of both components of the Alzner/Carlson pairing, and Matt Niskanen is actually proving to be worth the money even if there’s no possible way Brooks Orpik could have ever ended up being. Obviously things can change at the deadline, but right now barring a Holtby meltdown or Trotz’s collar tightening around his non-existent neck in another inevitable series against the Rangers, I think they walk out of the East. Tampa is in a bit of turmoil and isn’t getting much out of Tyler Johnson and their blue line is still drop shipped from Easter Island even if Ben Bishop has been excellent, and Montreal is in a hilarious death spiral. A final against either the Hawks or the Kings would be massively entertaining, and neutral who isn’t a brain dead xenophobe should be rooting for Ovechkin to finally get his name etched in silver even if it means Timothy Leif is a passenger on that ride.
FF: I guess the best thing to do here is what makes them different from previous disappointments and a couple things jump out to me.
One is the continuing maturation of Kuznetsov who is a delight to watch when he’s not throwing blind passes towards the middle of his slot. At 23 years old, he gives the Capitals two scoring lines that are as skilled as anyone in the league. (Only the Beloved are probably in the same league as them) The big question he will have to answer will be if he can continue scoring at the pace he is now in the playoffs. Last year, he only scratched the score sheet in 5 of the 14 games and that is simply not good enough for a top line center.
The second thing is their big new additions from the summer, specifically, king of the advanced stats community, Justin Williams and his counterpart Timothy Leif. We are all familiar with both of their playoff pedigrees. One is Mr. Clutch and one is the Invisible Man. Let’s be serious, it’ll have to be Williams that gives them the push they’d need to advance to the conference final. But again, he has always thrived when he’s not the center of attention. So the Capitals will still need their big guns (OV, Holtby, Carlson, etc) to get them to a certain point in order for the Williams effect to happen.
Finally, while I don’t necessarily buy into the professional athletes choking school of thought, there is something odd about the incredible bad luck Ovechkin and Barry Trotz have had throughout their careers. Neither has been able to advance beyond one round in either of their long and successful careers. Basically, they’ll have to prove they can do it before they should receive any benefit of the doubt.
Slak: There’s a significant difference between the Caps and the Stars and I’m not just talking about the legendary girth of Jim Nill. The Stars are a beautiful regular season team built on high octane scoring and the Capitals are a little more top heavy but aren’t exactly chumps when it comes to putting the puck in the net. They’ve kept pace with Dallas on goal scoring but are absolutely miles ahead of them when it comes to stopping the opposition. The goaltending of Braden Holtby and the depth on the blue line means the Capitals could definitely come out of the East. Not to mention they don’t have to go through Chicago or Los Angeles to do so. Everyone knows the Capitals have a St. Louis Blues (ask Oshie) like history of bowing out before the conference final even in years they looked like a real winner. Is this the year they buck the trend? It’s hard to find a team in the East that’s better but Tampa is rounding into form and there’s always the potential of getting Halak’d again at some point. Not to mention Odd Job Trotz has a history of coming up short in the postseason. I do like the Caps overall but wouldn’t be shocked to see them get bounced in the second round.
With Edzo displaying his brilliance on a national stage more frequently lately, Ol’ Blue Eyes himself Steve Konroyd has been partnered with Pat Foley in the broadcast booth. Unless you’re McClure and listen with the sound off, this makes for a completely different broadcast. What’s your best theory as to why Foley leaves the tomfoolery strictly to him and Eddie?
MM: Despite not having sound on for a game in three years dating back to midway through the abbreviated 2013 season (where I realized the nostalgia of having the soundtrack of Pat Foley during a game was outweighed by he and Olczyk’s grabass and their content offending my hockey sensibilities), it’s pretty clear that while Steve Konroyd might be a nice enough guy, he’s got the personality of a pile of barber shop clippings. He can get a sentence out cleanly and has all but erased any Canada out of his accent, and sonically his voice is very clean and soothing, and he’s innocuously handsome enough, so it makes him a relatively easy choice. But it’s very clear he has almost nothing to say outside of the usual platitudes. It’s clear that Foley enjoys Olczyk’s company more, and feels more comfortable even playing off a catch-phrase spouting egomaniac as opposed to Hockey TV’s equivalent of Al Gore. The topic of why these two are unlistenable for me is at this point well-worn but Olczyk’s not going anywhere any time soon, so at this point I’m simply resigned to my fate (coachhhhhhhhhhhhh) of watching games in stoic silence.
FF:This is something I think about quite a bit. Do Pat and Steve secretly hate each other? Is Steve a devout Mormon that doesn’t allow alcohol to be consumed in his presence? So many questions, so little clues. Like most fanfiction theories, the truth is always the most boring answer which is what I think is the answer here. Konroyd seems to have a dryer sense of humor than the love child of Steve Stone and Bob Brenly.
And for Foley, that just doesn’t jive. Certainly not when he’s used to the Three Stooges/grab ass act of LOCAL GUY Ed Olczyk. If Foley tries doing one of his many catchphrases in the booth with Konroyd, I’m guessing it’s accompanied by a thousand yard stare as opposed to the kneeslapping and over laughter on most nights.
I secretly hope for some kind of three way feud among the broadcast booth but I’m afraid it’s not as sexy as that.
Slak: I don’t watch the game on mute but I certainly prefer Steve to Eddie if only because of the more reserved nature of the broadcast. I think people forget that when it was halcyon days and we had Pat and Dale Tallon, they goofed around quite often. The games used to be simulcast on the radio and thus Foley was essentially calling radio hockey for a TV audience which meant he had to be on the ball. There was very little time for dicking around. Now with the great John Wiedeman calling radio, Pat has ample time to shout out to sick or dead Hawk fans, drone on about a human interest story while 10 minutes of game clock falls away, or just see what kind of noise Olczyk will make if he pinches his butt. Konroyd is, for lack of a better term, a drip. He’s a nice man who Played The Game and offers little insight beyond the team that scores more will win – but his greatest asset as a Pat Foley Tranquilizer means he is valuable for my sanity. I’m still waiting for old Edzo to take that cushy NHL front office job so we can move on for good.
That wraps it up for us for the weekend. I’ll also be out of town the next 10 days. So if you have throbbing hockey thoughts… well I don’t care until the 8th.