September 23, 2014

NHL Free Agency: Washington Capitals leaving dance card open as veterans depart

Friday is the first day NHL GMs can start signing free agents, and the Washington Capitals have already seen three of their prominent free agents take employment elsewhere.

Mike Ribeiro, the long-awaited No. 2 center, signed a four-year deal with the Arizona (nee Phoenix) Coyotes and fan favorite winger Matt Hendricks got his own four-year deal with the Nashville Predators. D Jeff Schultz, who was waived earlier in the week, signed a one-year deal for $700,000.

Good for all, bad for the Caps.

Hendricks’ deal with Nashville will pay him $7.4M over the length of the contract ($1.85M per annum), while Ribeiro will make $22M on his contract, a $5.5M cap hit each season.

The Caps simply could not afford either player for their market value.

It leaves George McPhee in an interesting place, especially with his team poised to join a more competitive division next season. The team is still negotiating with RFA Karl Alzner, but sources indicate that negotiation could end up in arbitration.

One the Caps spots that could use bolstering is another top defensive contributor on their blue line to push John Erskine into more of a third pairing/situational seventh defenseman spot. They do have several youngsters that will compete for playing time on the back end, but most are the puck-moving variety.

Up front, Ribeiro’s exit once again creates a gaping hole at 2C.

The Caps expect Brooks Laich to enter camp completely healthy, but he’s much more suited to wing on the second line or center on the third line. His versatility is one thing the Caps really like about Laich, but he’s just not offensively gifted enough to be counted on as a playmaker on a scoring line, such as Ribeiro was. The Caps once hoped Marcus Johansson would be that player, but his ineffectiveness in the face-off circle and lack of presence on the defensive end makes him more suited to play wing, which we saw him do primarily last season.

To make matters worse, unlike with the defenseman, there are no prospects waiting in the wings to push veterans for playing time at center within the organization.

Many expected (hoped) the Caps would re-sign Ribeiro, eliminating the need to look outside the organization for that 2C as they have so often in the past. Now that Ribeiro has moved on to greener pastures officially, the Caps hand is finally forced. But among the free agent candidates, there are no logical solutions. The only player on the market that really suited their needs at the position is the one that just left.

The Caps will probably have Martin Erat skate with Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the top line next season. If the Caps don’t make a push and sign a free agent –or make a trade — to bolster that second line, it will be formed from a mish-mash of Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson and Mattieu Perreault, with the leftovers joining the third line with Joel Ward. Two-thirds of the the fourth line looks pretty set with Jay Beagle and Aaron Volpatti.

A third line of Brooks Laich centering Chimera and Ward is a line with a purpose — defensively responsible with speed on a wing, with two of the three also poised for lots of penalty kill time.

But unless the Caps are willing to get creative and make some deals, they won’t have that luxury. With the road to the playoffs that much more congested, it’s a bad time for the roster to be in such a state of flux.

CAPS: Happy Birthday, Jeff Schultz

HAPPY 27th BIRTHDAY JEFF SCHULTZ!

The Washington Capitals Defenseman was born on 02/25/1986 in Calgary, AB, Canada.

Jeff Schultz -Practice April 27 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jeff Schultz -Practice April 27 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jeff Schultz (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jeff Schultz (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

 

CAPS: Washington Capitals Players and Better Halves Visit Children’s National Medical Center

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom (19) and defenseman Jeff Schultz (55) work on arts and crafts with patients at Children’s National Medical Center during a Feb. 15 visit. Capitals players have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season since 1984. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom (19) and defenseman Jeff Schultz (55) work on arts and crafts with patients at Children’s National Medical Center during a Feb. 15 visit. Capitals players have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season since 1984. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti works on an arts and crafts project with a child at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. during a Feb. 15 visit. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti works on an arts and crafts project with a child at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. during a Feb. 15 visit. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Following an afternoon of arts and crafts, Washington Capitals players and their better halves take a group photograph with patients at Children’s National Medical Center. Back row (l-r): Jessica and Tom Poti, Michal Neuvirth and Monika Hybnerova, Ashley and Jay Beagle, Tomas Kundratek and Alannah Dzerdz, Nicklas Backstrom and Liza Berg, Mackenzie Schultz. Front row (l-r): Donna Oates, Jeff Schultz. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Following an afternoon of arts and crafts, Washington Capitals players and their better halves take a group photograph with patients at Children’s National Medical Center. Back row (l-r): Jessica and Tom Poti, Michal Neuvirth and Monika Hybnerova, Ashley and Jay Beagle, Tomas Kundratek and Alannah Dzerdz, Nicklas Backstrom and Liza Berg, Mackenzie Schultz. Front row (l-r): Donna Oates, Jeff Schultz. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

 

ARLINGTON, Va. – During the past two years, 10-year-old Ellie Schleyer has been visiting Children’s National Medical Center for an undiagnosed brain disorder.

In between bloodwork and tests on Feb. 15, she discovered several Washington Capitals players and their better halves at the hospital for an afternoon of arts and crafts.

In the hospital’s atrium Ellie joined several other children along with Nicklas Backstrom and Liza Berg, Jay and Ashley Beagle, Tomas Kundratek and Alannah Dzerdz, Michal Neuvirth and Monika Hybnerova, Donna Oates, wife of head coach Adam Oates, Tom and Jessica Poti and Jeff and Mackenzie Schultz.

“To see the kids get so excited when the guys come is just priceless,” said Mackenzie Schultz. “A lot of kids are here fighting through things that we can’t even imagine at such a young age. Just to put a smile on their face and make one day a little better is so important.”

Ellie’s father, David Schleyer, said the visit had a positive effect on Ellie, who made each player she worked with a piece of art.

“For her, it’s an opportunity to express something other than sadness,” he said. “To see the players giving her time and admiring her artwork says a lot about their character.”

The Capitals have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season since 1984.

“It’s definitely hard for the children to be in the hospital, so we’re happy to be with them and play games and make them happy,” said Kundratek. “It’s pretty awesome to be here and spend some time with them.”

Located in Washington, D.C., Children’s National Medical Center is the only exclusive provider of pediatric care in the metropolitan Washington area and is the only freestanding children’s hospital between Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Norfolk and Atlanta. Serving the nation’s children for more than 140 years, Children’s National is a proven leader in the development and application of innovative new treatments for childhood illness and injury.

Washington Capitals 2012-13 Positional Preview: The Defensemen

Karl Alzner -Practice April 27(Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner at practice, April 27, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

With the season opener right around the corner, District Sports Page takes a look at the construction of the roster to start the season. Today, the defensemen.

Karl Alzner
Though not the most experienced, highly paid, or offensively skilled defenseman on the Washington Capitals roster, Karl Alzner has emerged as the face of the team’s defensive corps thanks to his consistent play and willingness to face the media in any circumstance. The same composure Alzner demonstrates in front of a camera is evident with his play. Per statistics site Behind the Net, Alzner faced the strongest competition of any Caps player in 2011-12, yet still led the team in plus-minus with a plus-12.

New Capitals assistant coach Calle Johansson sees a younger version of himself while watching Alzner on the ice, and the talented young defenseman should benefit under Johansson’s tutelage. Many years down the road Alzner may also challenge Johansson for the Capitals’ franchise record for games played. The Swede played 983 of his 1,109 career NHL games for the Caps, while Alzner has played 215 games in part of four seasons, including all 82 games each of the past two years.

John Carlson
Riffing on the hockey tradition to not shave during the playoffs, Carlson showed up to training camp looking like he hadn’t cut his hair since the Caps’ playoff loss in May. Surfer hair notwithstanding, Carlson is coming off a career high in goals despite serving with Alzner on Washington’s shutdown defense pairing. The young defenseman may benefit the most from new head coach Adam Oates’s offensive scheme, possessing scoring ability, the speed to get back in the transition game, and the stay-at-home defensive partner to allow him to take chances.

The real test for Carlson will be if he can maintain his defensive form and conditioning. Unlike some of his teammates, Carlson stayed in the D.C. area rather than play professionally overseas or in a North American minor league. Instead, he kept active by skating informally with a small group that included teammates Mike Green, Jason Chimera, and Jay Beagle and former teammate and Maryland native Jeff Halpern. In doing so Carlson has saved several months of wear-and-tear on his body, but a lack of conditioning could lead to injury or poor play if he isn’t able to reach suitable form in short order.

John Erskine
Erskine is of the class of players who stood to suffer the most from the NHL lockout: a non-skill, marginal roster player good enough to stick around the NHL but not good enough to take one of the limited roster spots available to non-Europeans in an overseas league. Instead the Kington, Ontario native returned to his hometown to skate and workout on his own, and showed up to training camp looking much thinner and quicker than he has in years. That seems unusual for a defender for whom the most fitting adjective has traditionally been “hulking,” but perhaps Erskine took a look at film from new assistant head coach Calle Johansson’s career and realized he needed to alter his style to stay in Washington’s longterm plans.

In 2011-12 Erskine skated in only 28 games, spending much of the season as a healthy scratch while Dale Hunter relied on rookie Dmitry Orlov and the same roster game-in and game-out. With the addition of Jack Hillen and return of Tom Poti, Erskine will be part of a crowded field vying for one of the bottom pairing spots on the Capitals’ roster. He remains Washington’s de facto enforcer, a status without much cachet under Oates but which nonetheless helps his chances at securing one of the seven roster spots on defense to start the season.

Mike Green
2011-12 was a lost season for the former 31-goal scorer, who only played 32 games due to a recurring groin injury. He’s now completely healthy, but that’s a recent development as of about a month ago. Across the league groin injuries as a major concern for this condensed season, and Green is as susceptible as anyone else. Regardless of whether he’s paired with Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Jeff Schultz, or another teammate, Green will be the defenseman responsible for moving the puck when he’s on the ice, leaving him open to contact.

A complete season would be a triumph for Green, but a return to his scoring form would also be appreciated by the Washington organization. Shortly before the end of the lockout Green underwent laser eye surgery, which if nothing else may give him a psychological boost if he thinks he’s seeing the puck better. Green has traditionally played the right point on the Caps’ power play, which was Oates’ specialty while an assistant coach for New Jersey and Tampa Bay, and any increase in Washington’s power play effectiveness from last season’s 18th will reflect on Green’s personal statistics as well.

Roman Hamrlik
A former first overall draft pick and the most veteran member of the Washington Capitals, Hamrlik is a usually soft-spoken player who drew jeers during the lockout as one of the few voices players to explicitly criticize the NHLPA’s stance on negotiations. As one of six current players — Teemu Selanne, Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, and the soon-to-retire Chris Pronger are the others — to experience three lockouts, Hamrlik’s position is understandable, even if his means of expressing it was ill-considered.

Despite his active NHL best 1,379 career games played, Hamrlik remains capable of playing top-four minutes and was a steady partner to Mike Green last season. He’s seen it all, which makes him a valuable presence in a young defensive corps, and his late-career transition from powerplay quarterback to defensive-minded stopper is the blueprint for teammate Poti to do the same. The ascendancy of Orlov or return of a healthy Poti will spell a decrease in time for Hamrlik, and how he handles the move may be his real legacy with the Caps.

Jack Hillen
At the age of 26, Hillen is already on his third NHL franchise having played parts of four seasons for the New York Islanders before skating in 55 games for the Nashville Predators last season. Prior to signing a one-year deal with Washington in July, Hillen was best known to Capitals fans as the player whose jaw was broken by an Alex Ovechkin slapshot in January 2010. He’s all recovered now, and will challenge for a depth position on the Caps after skating on the third pairing for a dominant Predators defensive corps.

Hillen is a puck-moving defenseman, and his smooth skating drew raves from locker room neighbor Alzner after the team’s first training camp practice. That style of play will endear him with both Oates and Johansson, who are known to appreciate smooth skaters. He’s also acclimated well with his new teammates, sharing jokes with locker room neighbor Alzner after the team’s first session.

Dmitry Orlov
A potential breakout year for Orlov was derailed first by the lockout and then by a groin injury suffered in December, ironically during the Hershey Bears’ AHL Showcase game at the Verizon Center. Before his injury, Orlov was largely underperforming in Hershey with only one goal and eight assists in 18 games. His lengthy stint with the NHL squad last season removed any doubt that he belonged in the big leagues, so his production for the Bears may be more a case of personal disappointment than regression.

His rookie season with the Capitals last year saw Orlov post three goals and 16 assists in 60 games, averaging a respectable 16:52 time on ice. One of the smaller defensemen on Washington’s roster, Orlov’s abilities fit better in Adam Oates’ system than that of Dale Hunter, who nonetheless relied heavily on the services of the Russian defender over those of John Erskine and Jeff Schultz much of the season.

Tom Poti
For the first time since 2009, the Boston-born Poti is healthy at the start of the season. A groin injury and then fractured pelvis kept Poti to only 22 games played in the 2010-11 season, and he was on long-term injured reserve for all of last season, during which general manager George McPhee said he thought Poti’s career was over. Instead, the defenseman declared himself 100 percent healthy shortly before the end of the lockout, and since then has proven a man of his word. After passing his physical Poti was sent to the Hershey Bears for a conditioning assignment, upon which he scored a power play goal in his first game Saturday night.

It’s unclear what Poti can bring to the Capitals roster at this point, if only because no one has any clue how his skill set has changed in the past two years. He was already beginning to transition from puck-moving offensive threat to physical stay-at-home defender when he was injured, and it’s hard to imagine him resuming the puck-moving role with Green, Carlson, and Hillen or Orlov on the roster. Although he’s 35, staying out of professional hockey for two years has saved that much wear and tear on his body and allowed him to heal up from all those little aches and bruises that accumulate over the course of the years.

Cameron Schilling
Of the ten defensemen invited to training camp, Schilling was the longest shot when it comes to making the roster, and indeed has already been sent back to Hershey. The undrafted player from Indiana was signed as a free agent last spring immediately after the conclusion of his senior year at Miami University and appeared in 11 games for the Hershey Bears. His stint included four games in the Bears’ five-game first round series loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in which Schilling netted two goals. In 33 games this season in Hershey Schilling has three goals and four assists and is fifth on the team with a plus-6 rating.

Compared to the rest of the players in the Capitals organization, Schilling has a leg up in one regard: he’s the only player with significant experience under Adam Oates as head coach, when Oates took over bench duties in Hershey for a stretch in late 2012. Although George McPhee insisted that every player in camp has a chance to make the Capitals’ roster, Schilling’s presence was largely to get the youngster acclimated to the NHL experience. Washington only has four defensemen with NHL experience under contract for the 2013-14 season, and the camp invite was a notice to Schilling that he’s expected to be ready should the need arise later this season and to contend for a spot next season and beyond.

Jeff Schultz
The erstwhile top-four defenseman and league plus-minus leader is now relegated to fighting for a spot on the Capitals bottom pair every night. Although Schultz has seemed to be on the outs for the past few seasons, the four-year, $11 million contract he signed after the 2009-10 season has kept him in Washington red and white. He was a favorite of Bruce Boudreau, who coached Schultz while in Hershey, but began to fall out of favor under Dale Hunter’s regime. It remains to be seen how he fits into Calle Johansson’s defensive scheme.

Schultz has demonstrated the ability to stick around for the past few seasons, and the quiet Canadian seems to get along well with his teammates. Although he doesn’t possess overwhelming physical or puck-moving capabilities, he plays strong positional hockey and rarely panics in his own end. There is no guarantee that Schultz will be able to maintain his roster spot this season, particularly with the return of a healthy Poti, but stranger things have happened.

Washington Capitals could take advantage of depth in Game Four with roster tweaks

Will Caps take advantage of Mike Knuble’s experience and size in Game Four? (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

I’m not a hockey coach. I’m not a scout. To paraphrase Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee, if I knew anything about the game I’d be in it.

But it seems to me that there are some peculiarities to the way the Caps’ post-season roster has been constructed, so I’d like to offer my two cents worth. With the extra day off between Games Three and Four, it’s the perfect opportunity for coach Dale Hunter to mix some things up, get a little bit of a different look, and get some fresh legs in there. If the Caps were up in the series, or even tied for that matter, you let things ride. [Read more...]

CAPS: Perreault and Schultz Host Capitals Hockey School at Kemp Mill Elementary School

Washington Capitals forward Mathieu Perreault helps show a student at Kemp Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., how to stickhandle during Capitals Hockey School. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz helps show a student at Kemp Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., how to hold a hockey stick during Capitals Hockey School. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 7, 2012

Mathieu Perreault and Jeff Schultz Host Capitals Hockey School
At Kemp Mill Elementary School

ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals forward Mathieu Perreault, defenseman Jeff Schultz, assistant coach Jim Johnson and Capitals mascot Slapshot visited Kemp Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., on Monday, March 5, to host the Capitals Hockey School.

The players began the session fielding questions from students in the school’s gymnasium before directing a floor hockey clinic with 165 fourth- and fifth-grade students. Perreault and Schultz instructed the students on basic hockey skills such as stick-handling, passing and shooting. The students were then called on to try out the skills in front of their peers. One student even volunteered to be dressed as a goaltender, learning how to put on the equipment and how to handle the goalie stick. Before the kids started the scrimmage, the girls and boys participated in a shootout drill with Perreault helping the girls and Schultz helping the boys.

Following the shootout drill, the students played alongside the pair of players in a friendly scrimmage. Shultz played with the boys and defeated Perreault and the girls’ team 1-0. The hour-long program concluded with the Capitals donating a set of hockey equipment to the elementary school.

“I’m sure a lot of these kids watch hockey, but don’t always know the skills involved,” said Schultz. “It’s nice to be able to come here and give them a chance to shoot a puck and hold a stick.”

“Today went really well,” said Perreault. “I always enjoy coming out to Hockey School.”

All students who participated in the session received autographs from Perreault and Schultz, Caps squishy pucks and Hockey 101 booklets. The school also received an official Capitals Hockey School banner to display in their school year-round.

This was the 13th Capitals Hockey School visit this season. The Capitals host two Hockey School visits each month between September and May and donate street hockey equipment to each participating school.

This is the fifth-consecutive year the Capitals have conducted their Hockey School program. The Caps have hosted more than 50 clinics and reached more than 7,500 students in the past four years. Hockey School is a free program, designed to be both instructional and interactive, with the goal of exposing students to floor hockey while teaching proper hockey technique. Each school will receive an official Capitals Hockey School banner to display in their school year-round.

CAPS: Jeff Schultz at The Gardens Ice House Tonight

Washington Capitals Defenseman Jeff Schultz is scheduled to appear at the youth hockey clinic tonight, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Maryland.

Jeff Schultz (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

CAPS: Happy Birthday, Jeff Schultz

HAPPY 26th BIRTHDAY JEFF SCHULTZ!

The Washington Capitals Defenseman was born on 02/25/1986 in Calgary, AB, Canada.

Jeff Schultz (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

UPDATED: Caps Players’ Reactions to Coaching Change

Dale Hunter on ice for this first practice as Caps Head Coach (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Here are some unfiltered quotes from the locker room proceeding Dale Hunter’s first practice with the Washington Capitals, taking over from Bruce Boudreau, dismissed after four years, 200-plus wins, four Southeast Division banners and one President’s Trophy.  Some players were genuinely upset, some were matter-of-fact, and some were simply resolved.  But to a man, they all recognized that as players, their lack of effort in recent weeks led to the dismissal of a very good hockey coach.

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin addressing media re Boudreau and Hunter (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Reaction to the news:

“I think everybody was in shock.  I had like 50 missed calls, 50 messages.  Kind of a shocking situation, but it is what it is.”

What was the problem?

“I think, first of all, all the guys that work with Bruce knows he’s a great coach and great guy.  For everybody, for this organization makes lots of good things.  We won a lot, and he cares for the team and the person.  We respond as players and I think everybody try, but again, it’s done and we have to look forward.  We’re gonna work hard and play our best.

Did you have any disagreements with Boudreau:

“No.  I have good relationship with him. And it’s gonna be good relationship.  Work is work, but we have good relationship right away when they bring him in.”

On Hunter:

“He’s a legend here.  He play here and he knows how to win games and how to play it.  I don’t know how he is as coach, but I talked to Wides (who played for Hunter’s OHL London team) and he said only good things about him.”

“They say he’s a straight-up coach.  If he wants to say something to you he’s gonna say it, and I think that’s good.”

On going forward:

“Everybody knows, right now we just have to play our game.”

Do you think the team will be re-energized with the new coach?

“I hope it’s gonna be like that.  You can see today at practice everybody was flying everybody was concentrating.  It was a very good practice.”

Did the team tune out Boudreau?

“I don’t know.  You can be tired from the coach telling you made mistakes and something like that.  Again, it’s a decision that’s been made and we just have to look forward, don’t look back at what happened. Or if you’re gonna look back, I think we don’t have to talk to [the media] about it, it has to be, again, back in our locker room.

What needs to change?

“We just need to win games.  It’s as simple as that.  We just have to play harder and together.  Sometimes when you have a kind of slump, you just have to fight through that.  Again, it’s all about us.  We play on the ice.  We just have to score the goals, make some hits, make something how we do.”

Dale Hunter checking with Semin and Orlov to make sure that they can understand his English (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

John Carlson

(Carlson played for Hunter’s OHL London Knights)

Reaction this morning:

“I was very surprised.”

 On Hunter’s style as coach:

“I think I was one of the better players on my team there and I certainly didn’t get a free pass so can’t see much changing there.”

“I think that anytime we get a new coach in there it really does energize you, especially him, I think he’s a good guy.”

“He played hard all the time and I think that will trickle down to us.”

“At the end of the day he’s going to hold everyone responsible.”

Do you feel, as a player, responsible for Bruce’s departure?

“Yes, we weren’t playing the way we really should have. We have the team in here to do it and we just didn’t do it. Sometimes it falls on other people and not the players.”

On playing under Hunter:

“My best hockey year and my most important so far was with him. I really learned a lot and got a lot better in that year and obviously he’s doing something right.”

“I think he’s a great coach. He was unbelievable to me.”

“I think that Bruce was great in areas and I’m sure that all of the coaches out there are great in some areas, but lack some areas. I think that [Hunter] is going to really nail things down that really need to be nailed down. The finer details out there like you saw in practice today. He’s not going to let it slide when it’s not his way.”

“We’ve still got the same team in the room. We’ve still got the same components to the team, skill and grit and the whole nine years so I don’t think he can change that much. But if we hammer home the points that he wants in respects to the fore-check and the d-zone and neutral zone not huge things, not monumental where it’s going to take a few weeks to get used to it, but we need to get those things done.”

On today’s practice:

“I thought it was a very good practice. I think that he was trying to get everyone to push the pace and I think that we certainly did that.”

Brooks Laich

“When I first found out this morning my first thought was ‘I wish I could have done more.’”  “[This morning was] Pretty tough. [Boudreau] is a man that himself personally that I owe a lot to. The job he’s done in Washington is amazing. Before he got here, we were a last place team. He’s taken us from a team that started to win, and won consistently, made the playoffs and ultimately had Stanley Cup expectations so it’s tough on a personal note to see him go.”

“It’s the nature of the beast. It’s a business and we understand it and I feel terrible for Bruce because he is leaving his dream job.”“If you rip one of our players out of the locker room, if you rip me out of the locker room, that’s how I think it would feel.”“I haven’t had a chance to talk with him yet, but I’m sure that he’s disappointed, but we all understand it’s a business and sometimes these things happen.”Does it go beyond a coaching change?

“The world of sports kinda sucks in a way that he takes the fall for stuff that we do. It’s not him that took a penalty or missed his assignment or turned the puck over. It’s the guys in this locker room.”

Under Hunter:

“Now Dale is here and today I thought we had a great practice. Guys are upbeat.”

“He’s had a lasting effect and his name is still talked about a lot, a guy that is really respected. I’m sure that he’ll take control right from the get go. And it won’t be too hard to follow that guy.”

Was a change necessary?“No. I had never lost belief in any of our coaches, especially not with Bruce.”“I thought we could play better, but it’s not up to him to try to motivate guys or to try to inspire guys. As professionals you’re paid to do a job and come to work every day. You should be giving your best effort all the time. That is what we expect as professionals.”

Dale Hunter with Dave Prior on ice for this first practice as Caps Head Coach (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Jeff Schultz

What went wrong?

“As players, it’s something that we never want to happen, but in the direction that we were going, we knew something was going to happen. We didn’t know if it was coaching or players. It was tough to see Bruce go.”

Was it a surprise? Or did you see it coming?

“A bit of both. As players, its something that we never want to happen, but in the direction that we were going, we knew something was going to happen. We didn’t know if it was coaching or players.”

On Bruce Boudreau:

“I think guys had a lot of respect for Bruce. Bruce did a great job and he worked real hard preparing for games and practices and stuff. The way that the last month has gone, things weren’t going our way or his way, a change had to be made.”

 On Dale Hunter:

“He’s very up front, coachable person that expects a lot of his players from what I’ve heard from other guys and who doesn’t take crap from anybody.”

 First Practice:

“It was a good first practice today. I’m sure it will take a little bit of time to work things out, but it was a good day one.”

Nick Backstrom

Reaction this morning:

“Well honestly a little surprised, but at the same time we have higher goals than being number eight [in the conference]. “

Thoughts on Hunter:

“He has a lot of experience and he’s been playing in this league and coaching in Canada so hopefully he can bring a lot to this team and teach us and help us.”

“I’m sure that he’ll teach us good things and we’ll learn from him.”

Did the team need a change?

“It’s hard to say, but we can just blame ourselves for not playing good enough. I think Bruce is a great coach and a great personality too.  It’s just us I think. We gotta blame ourselves. It is what it is. We gotta go from there and I think it will be good for us.”

“Right now we have so much challenge and we just got to figure out how to deal with it.”

Downfall of defense:

“Too many odd man rushes I think. Pretty much everything has been a little frustrating, especially when you try and it doesn’t work and we can’t get a puck out from the offensive zone. I think we gotta switch it up somehow and that is how it is now.”

Mike Knuble

On Hunter:

“Everybody knows his track record as a player and what he accomplished on the ice, what type of player he was and I think that will carry a lot of respect.”

“Sort of puts you on edge though that when a guy is talking about it, you know he’s done it and you know he’s done it well in our league and for a long time.”

“You see his jersey retired here and there is a lot of tradition.”

“Bringing that pride will be good for us.”

“He brings a lot of clout and everybody knows his name in this city. Players know what he’s accomplished here and in our league and I think that is a lot of immediate respect you want to play hard for.”

Mike Knuble (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Jeff Halpern

On what went wrong:

“We’re not executing things that are asked of us.”

“Some things we’ve done well and some things need a lot of improvement.”

“It’s hard to blame one person for that, especially when he execution of those plans are on the players.”

“I know the expectations of this team are incredibly high and we had a really good start and have fallen lately.”

 On Hunter:

“Anyone likes a guy who fights for his teammates and sticks up for his teammates.”

“He plays as tough as he is.”

Joel Ward

Reaction to coaching change:

“I was definitely shocked. I had no clue.”

“I think I’ve only been part of something like this before once in my career in junior hockey so its definitely a different experience for me.”

“We’ve got to just keep moving forward.”

On Boudreau losing team:

“I never blame the coaches or refs. As players you just kinda do your job and there’s a system in place. I guess we had one too many break downs on the ice and resulted in giving up a few goals.”

“At times we played well and at times we didn’t.”

“I don’t know if it is something that we needed, but obviously it is the case.”

“As a group as a whole in our locker room is just to come together and play for one another and give that extra little percent.”

On what Hunter can bring to team:

“Maybe it’s a different style of play that he can enforce.”

Tomas Vokoun

First reaction:

“Obviously it’s something, in my career, I’ve ever been a part of in mid-season a coach getting fired.  I found out on the way to the rink, actually from my wife in Florida.  So I was surprised.  It’s disappointing but obviously it’s something — when things are not going well it’s usually, people make changes and saying that, there’s no one else to blame but the players.  We don’t play well and obviously you feel bad for Bruce.  It’s part of the business, definitely not the best part of it, but that’s how it is.

“We’re all to blame.  Me personally, I’m not playing up to my standards.  I’ll say probably there are 18 other guys in this locker room doing the same thing.  Sometimes, stuff, it’s not always fair.  It’s not up to me to judge.  Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault, just things didn’t work out and it’s unfortunate. It’s not something you wish for happening.  Here, we’re not the kind of team we should be going through it, but we are.  We have a good team, but we haven’t shown enough of that, especially of late, and they felt like they had to make a change and they did.”

Did the team stop responding?

“I don’t think it was anybody’s intention on this team [to get the coach fired]. We didn’t play well. It compounded on us. We got some bad breaks.  You felt like there was a bad atmosphere around.  We would come out for the game and maybe people wanted it too much or we were making mistakes but I don’t think it was premeditated to come to the game and not play hard or lose the game or anything like that.  Sometimes for whatever reason things don’t go your way and we just weren’t getting the job done.  And it wasn’t getting any better, it was getting worse.  I feel bad for Bruce, but I’m sure he knows better than anyone it’s part of the game.”

What’s gone wrong?

“We haven’t been playing well.  Nothing’s was working.  Our defense was bad, our goaltending was bad.  We weren’t scoring either much in the games we lost.  Like I said, it’s not like we were five games under .500, but just the overall feeling of our games weren’t good.  Sometimes we wont he game and we still, it was kind of iffy.  Sometimes you can lose and go from the game and say ‘We played great’ and we lost the game because of this, this, this.  I think our biggest problem was being consistent.  We were making crucial mistakes at bad times.  Never it was one guy, some night it was this guy, the next night it was this one.  It’s hard to pinpoint it.  If we knew, we would fix it.  It’s hard to find that one thing.  Sometimes it’s multiple things.  It’s not up to me to judge anybody’s performance but mine, but I can say from my standard, I’m not happy from my last five, six games.

“It’s hard to change 20 guys, right? Sometimes they just change the one.”

Tomas Vokoun (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Karl Alzner

Did Boudreau lose the room?

“It’s tough. I don’t really know exactly how it all happened.  This is my first time ever going through something like this but he still had — Bruce knows the game, incredibly well.  But for whatever reason, as a team, we weren’t really responding well, or not as well as we should have been.  Where do you go after that?  Where do you go from there?  That’s when they come into play, the guys upstairs, and they do what they have to do.  But I think that Bruce did an unbelievable job.  He’s got a great record in the games that he’s coached.

Dale Hunter's Banner Hanging at Kettler (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

 

Additional reporting by Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page.

CAPS: Mustached Players Raising Money for Men’s Health in Movember

Several members of the Washington Capitals gave up their first night off in about two weeks for “Movember.” This important cause raises awareness for men’s health and is partners with the Prostate Cancer Foundation and and Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG.

John Carlson, Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Karl Alzner (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Jeff Schultz, John Carlson and Karl Alzner were guest bartenders at Liberty Tavern in Arlington on Sunday night, Nov. 27. Caps Senior Writer, Mike Vogel, and Caps Manager of Media Relations, Ben Guerrero, were also at Liberty Tavern sporting their staches.

Mike Vogel with girlfriend Anne (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Caps fans donated $25 to be part of the world’s largest movement for men’s health and as a bonus, had their drinks poured by mustache-wearing Caps. Players had a great time.

Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer chatting with fans (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

“We’re just out in our community supporting Movember for everyone,” said Troy Brouwer. “It’s a day off, but a lot of people are having a tough time. For us, we’re in a good position to help the community and we try to as much as we can.”

Jeff Schultz mixing a drink (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Brian Normile, owner of the Liberty Tavern, hosted their second annual Movember guest bar tending night with the Caps. Normile became involved with the Movember campaign to support his father that was diagnosed with prostate cancer seventeen years ago. Thankfully Normile’s father is doing well. All proceeds from event go to support The Lance Armstrong Foundation and The Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Ward, Schultz, Liberty Tavern Owner Brian Normile and Brouwer (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

No bar tending experience necessary. Brouwer explained that he had not mixed drinks, “Without being in the comfort of my own home.  I’ve been told I’m not very quick, I needed help just finding where the booze was.  No, it’s a lot of fun and people are having fun with us as well.  They know we’re not bartenders so they’re patient.”

Troy Brouwer and Karl Alzner (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Movember is the annual charity event that engages men to grow, and women to support, a Mo (slang for moustache) for the 30 days of November. The rules are simple: register at Movember.com and start Movember 1 clean-shaven. Men grow their Mos for 30 days, becoming walking, talking billboards for men’s health and cancer affecting men. Supporters, called Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, get friends, family and colleagues to donate to their efforts along the way.

Fans with Karl Alzner (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Some of the Caps have a personal connection. Troy Brouwer’s grandfather died three years ago from prostate cancer.  “It was very tough… it really wore him down.  It was tough to see him the way he was before he passed away.  For me it means a lot and I know it’s not a lot, but I’ve had my Livestrong bracelet on ever since he got diagnosed with cancer.  Anything I can do to help promote awareness I’m more than willing to do it.  Same with my mustache as well.  Hopefully I can do what I can to raise money for prostate cancer and men’s health awareness.  It’s a personal issue and I try to support it as much as I can.”

John Carlson rocking a Nats Curly W hat! (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Two fans, Morgan and Colin, are big Caps fans and grew mustaches to support the event. Unfortunately, Morgan was going to have to shave his mustache Sunday night before heading back to work.

Fans grew mustaches too (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

When asked if Brouwer was looking forward to shaving his mustache later this week, he said, “I have a buddy that taunted me to keep it for Mocember and Manuary as well. So we’ll see how everything goes. I don’t know if my wife too excited about it. You gotta keep it nice and trim.”

Troy Brouwer posing for photo with a fan (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

It’s not too late to donate! Donations can be made to the team or to individual Caps players and staff (click on their name below). Jason Chimera is the team captain and they have raised $7,426 so far. Several of the players are also on Twitter.  Follow them to read tweet about their progress, share photos, etc.

Washington Capitals Team
Mike Green – @greenlife52
John Carlson - @johncarlson74
Jason Chimera
John Erskine - @johnerskine04
Matt Hendricks
Troy Brouwer
Mathieu Perreault
Jeff Schultz
D.J. King - @DJKING_17

Joel Ward - @JRandalWard42
Mike Vogel - @VogsCaps
John Walton – @WaltonCaps
Ben Guerrero - @brguerrero

Liberty Tavern (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Movember Liberty Tavern Sign (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Movember with the Caps (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

“The month formerly known as November is a moustache growing charity event held during November each year that raises funds and awareness for men’s health.” – http://us.movemberfoundation.com/

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