why are caps fans so opposed to the martin erat deal?

(photo by Nick Wass)

A crazy thing happened this week, when it was announced that the Washington Capitals had made a last-minute trade with the Nashville Predators — Caps fans, almost universally, were irate.

Once the news broke that Capitals general manager George McPhee had traded away top-prospect Filip Forsberg for veteran forward Martin Erat and minor leaguer Michael Latta, the majority of D.C.’s hockey-loving fanbase seemed completely distraught over the move.

But why was everyone in town so cranky about the move? After all, Erat has been one of Nashville’s most consistent and productive players for more than a decade. By all accounts he’s a hard working, blue collar kind of player who can help a team in myriad ways.

As a quick refresher, Erat was tied for first in points (21) and led the Predators in assists (17) at the time of the trade. More importantly though, the 11-year pro ranks second in Nashville franchise history in career points (481), goals (163), assists (318), games played (723), game-winning goals (26) and third in powerplay goals (42).

It’s also worth noting he recorded a career-high 58 points (19 goals, 39 assists) last season for Nashville and has eclipsed the 50-point plateau in five of the last six seasons. The three-time 20-goal scorer has represented the Czech Republic in the World Championships (three times), World Junior Championships (twice) and the Winter Olympic Games in 2006 and 2010.

Erat is a top six forward who logs heavy minutes in all three phases of the game (powerplay, penalty kill and even strength). He was well respected by management, his fellow players and Predator fans in Nashville (he was made an assistant captain this season). And let’s not forget, the 31-year-old was a seventh-round draft pick who put in the blood, sweat and tears to establish himself as one of the best players to ever for the Preds.

On paper, this guy plays hockey the right way and does everything that’s ever asked of him without issue.

It’s not a stretch to say Erat would be a much bigger deal if he played in a larger market or had a more recognizable last name, so maybe that’s one of the primary reasons for the negative reaction — Caps fans just don’t see much of Nashville, so Erat is a bit of an unknown even though he’s been in the NHL since 1999.

While that may play a part in the backlash though, there’s more to this story. For my money, the public outrage has much more to do with who is leaving the organization as opposed to the new guy in town.

george mcphee drops a bombshell at the deadline

(photo by Brian Murphy)

I think we can all agree on one thing — Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee made a bold move. I’m just not sure how many people believe it was a good move.

Nearly two hours after the NHL trade deadline had passed, the Capitals finally announced they had acquired winger Martin Erat and minor leaguer Michael Latta from the Nashville Predators in exchange for highly-touted forward Filip Forsberg, the team’s first-round pick (11th overall) in 2012.

Look, this post has very little to do with Erat, who by all accounts is a productive top six forward that has put together a respectable 12-year career. For all any of us know, coach Adam Oates could have been flipping tables and breaking shit demanding the front office land the Trebic, Czechoslovakia native because the Hall of Famer firmly believes he’s the missing piece in Washington. I’ll get to him another day.

Of more concern for me personally at the moment, is what McPhee was willing to give away in this deal and what it means for the franchise moving forward.

Because the Capitals have been in “win-now” mode for a while, there really isn’t much in the way of prospects in the pipeline.

there’s no chance caps are sellers at trade deadline

(photo by Gregg Forwerck)

Hate to break it to you, but there’s zero chance the Washington Capitals are going to do anything to break apart this team now — not after a come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night.

Forget the fact that Carolina is in a free fall — with just one win in their last 10 games. Instead, focus on the fact that the Capitals have picked up victories in six of their last 10 outings and are just three points out of the playoffs heading into trade deadline day.

So if you’re in the group of Caps fans who strongly believe it’s in the franchise’s best interest to trade away second-line center Mike Ribeiro … well … you might want to go dark for the next day or two. Turn off the television. Put away the electronic devices. Go old school and read a book or something.

Because general manager George McPhee is always inclined to believe his squad is only a player away from competing for the Stanley Cup. Now that Washington has pulled back to .500 for the first time this entire season, it’s a safe bet he’s going to continue to talk himself into adding a player or two before he opts to ship assets away.

And seriously, if ever there was a night this season McPhee might feel like having a frosty and refreshing beverage or two it’s going to be tonight — especially after the artists formerly known as the Young Guns (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green) enjoyed “Turn Back The Clock Night” in Carolina.

Ovechkin tallied two goals and an assist. Green, still working the rust off after recovering from his latest injury, scored twice. And Backstrom matched a career high with four assists as the Capitals rallied after trailing early, 2-0.

The last time those three players had such a monster performance during the same game, Bruce Boudreau was still dropping F-bombs from behind the Caps’ bench. Two coaches later, it really does seem like the players have begun to embrace the Adam Oates era.

heading down the stretch, caps still lack consistency

(photo by Paul Bereswill)

The Washington Capitals were just nine seconds away from being .500 for the first time this season … and inexplicably let it slip away in heartbreaking fashion.

Roughly 24 hours after rallying to steal two points from the Buffalo Sabres by tying the game in the final minute and then earning a 4-3 shootout victory, the Caps allowed the script to be flipped by blowing a two-goal, third-period lead — punctuated with a game-tying goal by Philadelphia’s Kimmo Timonen with 9.5 seconds to play — and then blowing it in overtime, 5-4.

Had Washington lasted just 10 more seconds, everything would be great in our nation’s capital on a dreary Monday morning as the Capitals head into April. But because nothing is ever easy with this team, the Caps played just well enough over the weekend to get everyone’s hopes up and then imploded in spectacular fashion.

“We got a point there, but we obviously want two there,” said coach Adam Oates. “We let it get away.”

What happens next, boys and girls, is anyone’s guess. That’s because, with just 13 games remaining on the schedule, the Capitals have had a losing record every single day of the 2013 season. And yet, they still remain only one point out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Realistically, this isn’t a playoff-caliber team. Not this season, at least. But they’ve still almost managed to back their way into the postseason without actually playing anything close to a consistent brand of hockey. That’s how watered down the playoff hunt is this season.

on mike ribeiro and his contract-year performance

(photo by Brian Murphy)

With the NHL trade deadline less than a week away, the Washington Capitals have exactly three games left to decide what to do with second-line center Mike Ribeiro.

Okay, first and foremost, the front office needs to decide if this team is actually capable of making the playoffs this season. And while general manager George McPhee is at it, it probably wouldn’t hurt to re-evaluate whether or not the franchise’s core players — Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green — give Washington the best chance to ever hoist the Stanley Cup.

But realistically, that’s not something he’s likely to address in the next six days. So let’s stick with the first two questions — what to do about Ribeiro and can the Caps make the playoffs?

McPhee has three choices, which are: trade him, re-sign him or do nothing and risk losing him for nothing. Obviously the third option is the least appealing. Once Ribeiro hits the open market there is little to no reason to believe the Capitals would be able to retain his services.

If it becomes clear that the franchise and the player are not going to be able to agree on a new contract, then the front office has to ship him off for prospects and/or draft picks. I mean, if you’re going to lose the guy anyway, then at least get something in return for the guy. On that front, rumor has it both Chicago and Vancouver are interested in acquiring Ribeiro if/when Washington opts to send him packing.

caps roundtable: mike ribeiro edition

(photo by Scott Levy)

There is only one topic of conversation among fans of the Washington Capitals — what should the front office do with center Mike Ribeiro?

It’s no secret I feel like general manager George McPhee should do everything within reason to try and retain the talent playmaker, but there are plenty of fans who are opposed to that school of thought.

I see the first halfway decent center on the roster not named Nicklas Backstrom since Sergei Fedorov hung up his skates. I see a guy who plays a vital role on the powerplay and gives opponents a reason to pay attention to more than just Washington’s top line.

Others though, feel Ribeiro’s age and contract demands are more than enough reason to take the best deal available prior to the trade deadline.

With all of that in mind, I reached out to some of the best individuals and blogs on the local hockey beat and here’s what they each had to say.

1. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, what should the Washington Capitals do about free-agent-to-be Mike Ribeiro?

take it to the bank, the capitals will make the playoffs

(photo by Paul Bereswill)

The 2013 Washington Capitals will make the postseason. There, I said it.

Now look, I know that’s an odd thing to say about a team that hasn’t spent a single day above .500 this entire season, but I’m telling you — these Caps are playoff bound.

Something has clicked over the last five games — with Washington winning four of five while outscoring opponents 19-8 — and suddenly the Capitals are a team playing solid and respectable hockey. The decision making has been better. The passing has been sharper. And, best of all, the team is scoring goals in bunches.

That, of course, starts with captain Alex Ovechkin, who has absolutely found his mojo during the team’s recent hot streak. Ovechkin has six goals and three assists for nine points during the last five games and people are no longer talking about whether or not the switch from left wing to the right side is a bad move.

Even with his close-cropped haircut, The Great 8 has looked like one of the league’s most lethal snipers while scoring in five-straight games and would now be on pace to score 41 goals over the course of an 82-game season.

And why is Ovechkin lighting the lamp with such frequency these days? One of the biggest reasons has been coach Adam Oates’ decision to reunite the Capitals captain with center Nicklas Backstrom on the team’s top line.