In an effort to cross-promote our blogs and create news when there isn't any SBNation has the Summer Fill where we ask questions of another team's writer and let you enjoy the answers. I drew J.P. from
Jasper'sJapers' Rink and asked him 10 questions about the Washington Capitals. Enjoy! Be sure to check out the questions they asked of us here.
1) The Coyotes have certainly had to deal with creating fans where there was not a natural market. Capitals fans have had the same issue with one fan in particular - the first fan. Is it at all disheartening that despite being far and away the best team in the DC area, the President has still not attended a game (or do the rocking red jerseys selling out the stadium every game negate any bother).
The President ribbed Ted Leonsis recently, telling him that he was planning on attending a Caps playoff game last spring... but the Caps were playing golf before he could. Ouch.
It would be nice for the team and nice for the sport for him to make an appearance, but I'm not sure anyone is too concerned over it.
2) Clearly the Caps are one of the best teams in the league with as much offensive ability as anyone, and they will again be preseason favorites to win the Cup...have they done enough this offseason to address whatever it was that caused them to bow out in the first round to Montreal?
The easy - but legitimate - answer is "I'll tell you next spring." Roster-wise, not much has changed. In fact, in some ways the team looks worse off (with the second-line center position still a question mark and the defense, as a whole, losing a few players all of whom are better than the current #6 and #7 blueliners in the organization).
But more important than the personnel are the adjustments that need to be made at both a strategic and motivational level, and it's going to be awfully hard to gauge those changes in relatively meaningless regular season games.
3) Explain why Mike Green isn't as terrible defensively as the rest of the world would like to believe. If he truly is that terrible, what can the Caps do to maximize his offensive abilities while minimizing his liabilities?
Mike Green is 24-years-old. Mike Green is a two-time Norris Trophy Finalist as one of the League's premiere all-around rearguards. He is improving the defensive side of his game (if you're a believer in GVT, his defensive GVT was pretty solid last season), but still has a ways to go, as do many kids his age. He seems to struggle at times with the mental aspects of the game, so the related mistakes he makes and playoff shortcomings will hopefully disappear with experience and maturity.
The bottom line on Green is that the last time I checked, the point of hockey was to outscore your opponents, and his 5-on-5 plus-minus/60 says that he's elite in that area. Already. At 24.
4) Who's most likely in the Southeast make a push to challenge the Caps for the Division Title?
Most likely? Probably Atlanta. Tampa also is improved. But neither should give the Caps too much trouble (though a little regualar season sweating would probably be good for them).
5) What will success be in 2010-11 for the Capitals - is it Cup or bust?
Tough question. It depends how and why they fall short (obviously a team that makes it to the Conference Finals despite injuries to key players, etc., could potentially be considered a success in many ways), but I'd think that anything short of an appearance in the Finals will be disappointing. The expectations for this team are so high, and the window in which to contend with the current crop of players won't stay open forever.
That said, if the goalies show they're NHL ready, the young blueliners continue to progress, and the team as a whole improves in areas that don't necessarily show up on stat sheets, with time this season could be looked upon as successful even if there's no hardware to hoist at the end.
6) Coyotes fans would love to have an owner like Ted Leonsis. How much of an impact has he had in the revitalization of the franchise?
It's immeasurable, really. From the dollars he's poured into the on-ice product (in fairness, not all of it well-spent coughJagrcough), to his embrace of new media and so on, his impact is hard to over-state. That said, winning is the most important factor in the revitalization, and while he certainly gets some credit there, if the team ran cold for a while, it'd be interesting to see how much the local relevance receded with it. Hopefully we'll never know.
7) The Capitals are known as one of the teams leading the way in terms of new media acceptance. Can you describe what the team has done to get bloggers involved?
They've been enormously accomodating in allowing new media access, from the press box and locker room on game nights to the practice facilities, providing players and coaches for interview opportunities, engaging folks via social media, etc. And let's be honest - the coverage that they get from these new media outlets is, in many ways, free publicity for their product. Point being, the get it, and they do it exceptionally well.
8) Is Semyon Varlamov ready to carry the team in goal? Or does the team rely more on just out gunning the other for it to really matter...
With Varly, the main concern right now is probably his conditioning. He's a very athletic goalie and as capable as anyone to lead a team on a Cup run (see Niemi, Antti), but he's struggled a bit with injuries over the past couple of seasons and has to show that he can shoulder an NHL starter's workload.
Of course, if he can't, Michal Neuvirth is going to be right there to try to take the #1 job away from him, and given that Neuvirth has won two-straight Calder Cups for Hershey (AHL), I wouldn't bet against him.
But if there's one lesson the Caps should take away from last spring, it's that sometimes the guns run out of ammo... and you still need to be able to figure out a way to win games.
9) Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom are just ridiculous in terms of point generation and being the big stars on the team, but who will be the under the radar player for the Caps this year?
Eric Fehr could put up big numbers if given decent minutes on the power-play. Ditto John Carlson. And if Mathieu Perreault or Marcus Johansson take hold of that second-line center spot and refuse to let go, they'll put up numbers.
10) Young Caps Defenseman John Carlson made a name for himself last year at the World Juniors with the overtime game winning goal. How excited are Caps fans about his future?
Very. He's impressed at Worlds, in Hershey, and even in D.C. already. With Carlson, Green, Jeff Schultz (who was plus-50 last year) and Karl Alzner (the fifth overall pick in 2007) all under 25-years-old, the Caps have what fans hope is a solid top four for years to come. The current defense has the potential to be as good as any the team has iced in quite some time.