May 27, 2018

The Mike Green conundrum

Mike Green in warmups on Jan. 3. (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Mike Green was sent home early from the Washington Capitals west coast road trip, along with concussed center Nicklas Backstrom.  It’s a development that, while not unexpected, is extremely troubling for all concerned.  Backstrom being out of the lineup presents all sorts of problems for the current Capitals team, and if his injury requires him to miss a significant amount of time, it puts a legitimate dent in the Caps hopes of resurrecting their season.

But Backstrom is signed to a long-term deal, so his long-term health needs to be taken into consideration before he attempts to play again.

Green doesn’t have that luxury.

The impending free agent has missed all but nine games this season, and was forced from Saturday night’s game in the second period after taking a punishing blow from a San Jose forward.  He skated just 7:11 in the contest.  His latest comeback lasted four and a half periods. 

Green has played in just 57 games — regular and post-season — since the start of the 2010-11 season, missing the rest with various ailments, including concussion symptoms, ankle and groin injuries.

Head coach Dale Hunter remarked after the game that Green was taken out as a precautionary measure, but the true seriousness of the situation came to light today when Green was sent home.  The Capitals are extremely guarded with information about injuries to players, and Green’s case is no different.  Absent of concrete evidence, we’re forced to speculate about Green’s condition based on the actions of the team. 

Their actions of sending the player home are clear, though: he’s not ready to play NHL hockey.  And he probably never was.  In this recent short stint, Green has looked tentative, cautious, slow.  He avoided contact and did not play with his usual confidence as a singularly talented player on the blue line.  Even in interviews, the normally playful Green was reticent, questioning his health, fitness and ability.   

“I don’t think I’ll be 100 percent for a long time,” Green said after practicing with the team last week.  “I’ve just got to get to that stage where I can play.”

Did he come back to soon on his own, only to jeopardize his health and rest of his season?  Did the team push him back on the ice, desperate for his ability on the blue line?  Do these questions even matter?  Maybe it’s immaterial.  Maybe Green was going to hurt himself regardless.  Maybe, as he indicated in his quotes on Dec. 27, this is something he’s going to have to pay attention to the rest of his career.

That last thought makes looking at the big picture more cloudy.  How can the Capitals possibly re-sign Green to a costly multi-year deal with his injury history?  Regardless of his incredible talent on the back-end, how can the Caps — or any other team, for that matter — commit so much money to a player that can’t stay on the ice? 

Green knows that he needs to get healthy, get back on the ice, and stay there throughout the rest of the season and the playoffs, should the Caps find themselves in that position, in order to garner that large contract that should be coming to him, either from the Caps or elsewhere.

The positives in Mike Green’s game are evident and age-wise he is in the prime of his career.  He should be due for a huge pay raise when the Caps’ season ends.  If he can’t stay on the ice, none of it matters.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP


  1. Unfortunately this is starting to smell a lot like the Tom Poti injury. I believe the Caps as a team, while they miss MG52s offense, have adapted to life without him with DW6 being the most obvious defender to step up and try to fill the void offensively, while team defense under Hunter has the Caps playing better all around in the defensive zone. If he can’t stay healthy enough to log productive ice time particularly later in the season as the Caps look to make a push, look for him to sign a 1 year lower cost contract, probably with Washington, to try and reestablish his value next season.

    • Dave Nichols says:

      Kevin, thanks for the comment. I resisted usiing the Poti analogy, since the two are not close to the same age, and Green hasn’t had cronic groin injuries. But the accumulation of injury for Green over the last two seasons, including two head injuries, is very disconcerting.

  2. Dark Stranger says:

    If memory serves me correct, to keep a restricted free agent, doesn’t the team have to make a qualifying offer that is at least the same salary? I had thought Green was a restricted free agent.

  3. Yes to keep an RFA the Caps will need to offer at least 100% of his current salary which is 5.25. If they don’t then he becomes a UFA. The situation sucks for Green and the team. If he were healthy and playing like 2 years ago he’d be in line for a nice raise and a multi-year contract. As it is I can’t imagine they’ll offer more than 1yr at 5.25. It’s unclear if he’d take that at this point and I have no idea what he’d get in arbitration considering he’s missed so much of the last 2 seasons (I’m assuming at this point that he’s out for most of the remainder of this season)

    • Dave Nichols says:

      thus, Green’s conundrum of trying to play before he was 100%. he was only hurting himself and forcing the team to carry 7 d-man, but he can’t make his money if he’s not on the ice. tough situation for him all around.

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