Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Winter Is Here: Returning to the Fold

Darryl Sutter and the Kings remain at the zenith of the NHL.
It’s been a weird summer in a lot of ways for me personally, unlike any other in my short life.  After graduating from college in May and leaving behind a niche that I had spent four years carving out in a community that was my home away from home, I went back home to try and begin a career in my home city.  The journey has been a long one so far, filled with fun weekends working on the golf course and musings on sports with my friends.  I watched the West Wing and House of Cards through on Netflix over the summer. I went to visit my two very best friends in Boston in July. I didn’t write very much as the Capitals finally did what people had been predicting they would do for a very long time indeed. 
But opening night is finally upon us once again, and I’m writing again. If for no other reason than I’m tired of not doing it.

1: First, on the Capitals. The signing of Matt Niskanen this offseason was a necessary one.  Niskanen has almost certainly had his career year running a power play with the best and third-best players in the world on it, but he is a good player and he will improve Washington’s defense in more ways than just points.  His cap hit could have been a lot higher, and despite the long term of the deal, his age and the fact that the cap will go up significantly during his time here mean that it’s justifiable in many ways.  He was the guy, and sometimes you have to pay for your guy.

2: When all of the Capitals’ defensemen are healthy, Brooks Orpik is the sixth most valuable player in that group.  He’s making more money against the cap than all but Nick Backstrom, Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, and Niskanen this season. He’s 34. He’ll have his moments, but those expecting some huge turnaround from Washington’s defense because of Orpik will be sorely disappointed – both this season and in the future.

3: The fact that Orpik is on the roster should spell the end of John Erskine’s time in Washington.  They are the exact same type of player, and two players of that caliber taking up $7+ million on the salary cap for a team that wants to contend is untenable.

4: The Capitals still lack anything that remotely resembles a second above-average center to complement Nick Backstrom on the teams’ second line.  They had one in Mikhail Grabovski, but allowed him to walk for reasons unbeknownst to the public.  As a result, they will be forced to play young, unproven, or overvalued players in that role for a majority of the season.  Be prepared for a constant game of musical pivots.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Gameday: vs. Winnipeg, Jan. 22

The Washington Capitals welcome the Winterpeg Winnipeg Jets to Verizon Center this evening for their 2013 season opener.  Read my preview for that game over at RtR here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gameday: at Tampa Bay, Jan. 19

The Capitals open their 2013 season with a game against the Lightning in Tampa tonight.  Read my RtR game preview by clicking here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New RtR: 27 Thoughts - It's Christmas Eve

Check out my latest for RtR - a "30 Thoughts" column with thoughts on everything Capitals for this upcoming season.  You can read the article here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Champions League Draw: The Big Three Ties

The draw for the knockout stages of the 2013 Champions League was released while almost all of America was sleeping, but the matchups created will be dreams and nightmares for the casual watcher and die hard fan alike this year.  As with any UEFA draw, there are some awesome matchups and some bad ones; some easier paths for the more famous clubs and harder paths for the more famous clubs.  So let's get down to it.

Manchester United vs Real Madrid: A tie that many saw coming prior to the draws' release, it is a cruel injustice that two teams who have a legitimate shot to win the whole thing must play each other in the first round.  Still, this clash has the storylines of a final: Cristiano Ronaldo returning to the stadium where he made his name for the first time since leaving United; Madrid manager Jose Mourinho coaching against the team many have pegged him to manage after Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.  The star power on both sides is relentless, with Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, and Sergio Ramos just beginning to scratch the surface.  These two matches will be among the most watched and anticipated of the whole season, and a great team will be through no matter who wins.
Barcelona vs AC Milan: The Catalans have recently lost their coach, Tito Villanova, for a while as he recovers from surgery to battle with his second occurrence of a throat cancer.  Still, Barcelona have just one game between La Liga and Champions League play and are still the best team with the best player in the world.  This clash has fewer storylines than most because of Milan's poor performances across the board this year, but is still a tie with rich history and tradition as Barcelona have won two crowns in the last four years and Milan have won seven European cups.
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich: Bayern, who many consider to be the best team in the world not in Spain or England (or just Spain), are crushing the Bundesliga this year and have only lost one match while conceding a measly seven goals.  They made the final of this competition last year only to run into the lucky Chelsea train, throwing away multiple chances to win in their home stadium.  Back with a vengeance, they take on an Arsenal side that have been in disarray for most of the season despite their standing in the Premier League and may be forced to sell Theo Walcott before the first leg is played.  Bayern look like the clear favorites, but Arsenal are improving with health.

The first legs of the round of 16 begin in February.  Until then, there is a ton of interesting domestic action to watch across Europe.