This three day break in the schedule has given the Capitals a little rest during a busy November. Hopefully, some of the banged up players are little closer to game action. Here at Nova Caps, we have used the three days to catch on some correspondence, answering reader questions from the ol’ Nova Caps mailbag.
Should the Caps consider bringing back Karl Alzner to solidify the defense?
-Wondering in Warrenton
Wondering, let me answer your question with a question. If you owned a restaurant, would you re-hire a chef who quit because he thought the food didn’t taste good enough? A chef apparently lacking the self-awareness to realize he was a big part of preparing the meals? Alzner was a key piece of underachieving teams, yet left for greener pastures, taking a jab on his way out of town:
Alzner couldn’t overlook #Caps playoff failures: “I want to win. … It was frustrating to keep getting stumped in the second round.”
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) July 1, 2017
Of course, Alzner struggled in Montreal and had to watch his former team hoist the Cup. It looked like a clear case of addition by subtraction for the Caps and a little karma for Karl. That being said, if I thought Alzner would help the Caps I would say go get him. But he barely played this season in Montreal and posted a minus-7 rating last season in 82 games. He looks done. I was wrong about Brooks Orpik being toast before last season, but I feel confident I’m right about Alzner. It looks like injury has robbed him of his steadiness. I’ve heard calls for a “Carlzner” (John Carlson-Alzner pairing) reunion, but those are just nostalgic fanboy fantasies. Karl Alzner would only fit in on the third defensive pairing at best, however, Madison Bowey’s progress makes Alzner irrelevant and unnecessary. If he would greatly or at least moderately improve the Caps, I would say take a shot. But it’s more likely he (and the Caps) would be best served avoiding a reunion.
Are you, like me, happy to see Barry Trotz get his ring so we can close the book on that greedy clown?
-Chillin’ in Chinatown
Well Chillin’, we are indeed alike as I too am chillin’ at the moment, but that is where we part ways. I’ve got no beef with Barry Trotz. He coached last season on the hot seat with no pending contract extension. After winning the first Stanley Cup in team history, a clause in Trotz’s contract kicked in signing him on for two more seasons at a modest pay increase. The raise still left his salary well below other top coaches in the league such as Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville. According to reporting at the time, Trotz was rejected when he asked for a bigger raise, so he offered his resignation. It was clear virtually all season that Washington was looking to move on at season’s end. Winning the Cup threw a pleasant monkey wrench into those plans. With coach of the future Todd Rierden in waiting, Trotz was never going to get the rumored five-year, $25 million deal he sought. If looking to be paid like one the most respected coaches in the league makes him greedy then so be it. I might have replaced my “In Trotz We Trust” bumper sticker with a “Ridin’ with Rierden” decal, but I’ll always love what Barry Trotz did for this franchise.
Hi guys, love the show! Long time listener, first time caller. The Caps haven’t seemed to miss Kuzy and Oshie during this winning streak. What do you think of trying to trade 92 for a stud defenseman? I’ll hang up and listen.
-Big Thinker in Bethesda
Hey Big Thinker, I’m not sure you understand how mailbags or hockey trades work. Sure, if you spend any time scouring internet comment sections you’ll see Evgeny Kuznetsov is catching some heat for his play this season. Yes, he sometimes looks lost in the defensive end. Yes, I wish his faceoff percentage was higher than 42%. Yes, he holds the puck looping through the zone for long stretches like a previous #92, “Circles” Nylander. But trade him? Come on. The guy is dynamic and nobody was complaining about those flaws when he was leading the entire NHL in postseason points last spring. Not to mention that Kuzy is the player most likely to benefit from Tom Wilson’s return. Wilson’s aggressive, straight ahead style opens the offensive zone allowing Kuznetsov more room to operate. Remember they have only played half a game together this season. With 92 back in the lineup and the top line intact, I don’t think you’ll hear “Kuuuuuuuz” turn to boos anytime soon at Capital One Arena.
Unleash the Furries! In a street fight between Gritty and Slaphot, who ya got?
-Mad for Mascots in Manassas
How did you feel when you heard Alex Ovechkin compare Tom Wilson to Eric Lindros?
-Free Willy in Frederick
First, I shuddered at the mere mention of the L-word. I still can’t stand that dude. Though I despised the way Lindros cried his way out of Quebec and elevated the rival Flyers, there is no denying his enormous talent. His combination of soft hands and size was rare. While Top Line Tommy has a long way to go to achieve the greatness of an Eric Lindros, the comparison of styles is an apt one. Wilson, since returning to the lineup, seems to have realized that he can play physical without hitting EVERYTHING. There have been several plays where it looks like he has settled for a solid check instead of attempting a kill shot. Maybe the suspension got his head right, or maybe the coaching staff makes Tom wear a shock collar that allows an assistant coach to buzz Wilson if it looks like he is about to go all pulverizing heat-seeking missile at an inopportune time. Either way, I am happy to see what Tom is doing with the increased ice time. He has helped settle the woeful penalty kill and has locked down that first line winger role. His north-south skating style opens the ice for his line mates who have rewarded his hustle with feeds in the scoring area. As Wilson’s offensive game continues to blossom it may never reach the elite status of a Lindros, but I promise he’ll do it with a whole lot less whine. And, as Ovi reminded us, anything Tom does is just icing on the Cup.
Man, isn’t it great to see Sid the Skid and Pittsburgh stuck on ten wins near the bottom of the conference standings?
-Giddy in Gaithersburg
Shhhhhhhhhhh…Much like Bruce Boudreau prematurely looking for cars with “big cupholders” before he won a damn thing, we should keep our mouths shut. Now go knock on some wood, will ya?
I’ll eat my hat if John Carlson doesn’t win the Norris Trophy this season.
-Confident in Crystal City
Tell me Confident, do you enjoy your hat served rare or medium well? Not that I don’t think Carlson deserves Norris consideration, it’s just that I’m not sure he’ll get the league-wide recognition he should. Carlson has developed into an elite weapon from the point, anchors the power play, and has improved dramatically in his own zone. He does all those things in a quiet manner that doesn’t garner a ton of attention especially on a team with big personalities. But I love Carlson; he’s become one of my favorite players. (If this was the early 1990’s, there’d be a cheesy poster for sale at the mall showing John Carlson standing astride the Pentagon with Orly and Nisky in the background and “Department of Defense” emblazoned above them. But it’s 2018, I’m old, and malls and sports posters don’t really exist any longer. But I digress.) I chuckle remembering all the fans that called Carlson trash earlier in his career every time he made a boneheaded pass up the middle or blew coverage in front of the goal. Some fans felt he was the lesser half of Carlzner riding Karl Alzner’s defensive coat tails. I think we have seen how that worked out. If Carlson continues to grow defensively, continues to launch bombs from the point, and continues to drop sweet dimes to Alex Ovechkin in his power play office, his big contract will be a bargain. And maybe, just maybe, Confident, you won’t have to dine on headwear come summertime.
As a long-suffering Caps fan, the events of last Spring were a shock to the system. I was forced to quit skepticism, dread, and disappointment cold turkey. The first quarter of this season had me feeling that old itch again. Inconsistency, subpar defense, the Wilson suspension, and injuries had me reaching for a big bottle of Doom and Gloom. The first swig felt oddly comfortable, perhaps the perfect antidote for all the optimism and Cup hangover. Then just when I was starting to feel good about feeling bad, these guys start playing better. Six straight wins? Will this organization never stop torturing me?
-Kevin in Indiana
It’s not easy being Red, is it?
And with that we close up the Nova Caps mailbag. Until next time Red Rockers!
By Bryan Hailey