Capitals

Capitals

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Kathy Graninger writes: How come Carl Hagelin hasn’t scored a goal yet this season? I know he was out for a while with an injury, but it still seems like he should have scored at least one by now, right?

Hagelin hasn't scored yet because he's not a great goal scorer. He never has been. I got into this argument a lot over the offseason because people thought Hagelin would simply step onto the third line and simply become a 20-goal scorer. OK, except he has never scored 20 goals in any season of his career. He had five goals total in 58 games last season and only 10 goals the season before that. That's not why MacLellan traded for him or re-signed him.

Now yes, at this point he should have at least managed to sneak one by the goalie. He's had opportunities, he's just a bit snakebitten. The team certainly needs more offensive production from its third line, but when it comes to Hagelin we need to adjust expectations. The two players who were really supposed to carry more of the offensive load on the third line are Lars Eller and Richard Panik.

 

Nick Kabatsky writes: What will get the third line to start scoring?

I have been very patient with the third line this season because the Hagelin, Eller, Panik trio has really barely played together. Having said that, it is starting to get a bit concerning. On Monday, the fourth line got more even-strength time than the third. If that happens one or two games here and there, not a big deal. You can't have that happen too long.

Why not? If the fourth line is playing well, keep playing them! Yes, except then you've turned a really good fourth line into a mediocre third while giving Hagelin, Eller and Panik even less ice time to produce. You are basically mitigating the effectiveness of your entire bottom six. The goal is to get more production out of the third line, not bury it and become a three-line team.

At this point, the Caps have enough room in the standings that I would continue trying to play the third line and hope those players can develop some chemistry with more time together. If not, I start giving Travis Boyd playing time. He has been productive in every position he has been put in this season. Perhaps a Hagelin, Eller, Boyd trio can find some offense.

Thomas Seamon writes: I would like to hear your opinion of Nick Jensen's play so far this year and what it could mean moving forward into the playoffs.

Bill Bridges writes: What's your impression of Jensen so far? With the young D in Hershey could you see MacLellan moving him this off-season or is it just that he needs more time to adjust to the Caps defensive structure?

Jensen has not played up to the level expected when he was acquired from Detroit. I don't think anyone could dispute that at this point. That's not to say he's been terrible, it's just easy to think that way when you think you are getting a top-four defenseman and he turns out to be a bottom-pair guy. That's what I see him as at this point, a bottom-pair defenseman. The problem is that the Caps already have a right third-pair defenseman in Radko Gudas and so second pair right defenseman is now a hole for this defense. Both Jensen and Gudas have played there at points and both have been serviceable, but neither has been able to really cement themselves in that position. You can get away with that in the regular season, but probably not the playoffs.

The team's prospects are not really going to impact Jensen's future on the team because there are now right-shot defensemen in the system I could see taking his place. Martin Fehervary is a lefty, but Brian MacLellan has said he could play on the right. Otherwise, the cupboard is pretty bare in terms of right defensemen.

I am not sure what Jensen's future might be, but I think it may have a lot to do with Gudas. Like I said, the team has two bottom-pair right defensemen. I don't see that being the case next season. The question is which one would they rather keep? If the answer is Gudas, they would have to re-sign him. Then I could see the team try to move Jensen as part of a package to bring in another righty or move him in the offseason.

 

Daniel Robinson writes: If Richard Panik and Jensen continue to struggle throughout the season, do you think a change of scenery is coming for either? If not, then how do the Caps fix the third line?

Panik and Jensen have not played up to expectations, but that does not mean trading them away is the simple solution. I know a lot of fans would like to see one or both moved at this point regardless of what you get back, but the fact that they are both in the first year of a four-year deal complicates things. Getting rid of either may not just be as simple as accepting whatever teams are willing to give up, it may actually require giving up an asset as well.

I assume most of you have watched a fair number of Caps games this year. Let's pretend your a scout for another team and your general manager comes to you and asks if he should trade for either player. What would you say? What would you be willing to give up to take on either player and either contract? I don't know about you, but I would want another asset tacked onto the deal from the Caps before a took on 3+ years. With that in mind, for all you people clogging up my Twitter saying to trade both players, would you still make that deal if you had to package them with a draft pick or a prospect?

It's really not as simple as saying trade them for whatever and move on. Jensen has more value as pretty much every team could use more right defensemen, but you don't trade him without someone who could replace him.

Hubert Cheung writes: You've mentioned that you think the Caps need a top-4 right-shot defenseman. What do you think about Mike Green fulfilling that role? What do you think would it take to get him? What would the Caps have to give up?

I don't see Mike Green as a top-four defenseman and haven't for some time. The fact that his cap hit is $5.375 million is also a non-starter. He is not the solution.

Kathy Graninger writes: I know there’s a lot of talk right now about Braden Holtby/Ilya Samsonov/Seattle but my concern is that if Holtby doesn’t end up staying (which sadly, he probably won’t), it seems really risky to let a young goalie with only a year’s experience in the NHL be the starting goalie. Samsonov is good, but it worries me that he won’t be good enough to be a starting goalie by next year. What do you think? Is this a valid concern? If so, what can the Caps do to try to give Samsonov the best chance of competing with (and winning against) other, more experienced goalies and players?

 

It is definitely a concern to turn the keys over to a goalie with only 20-30 games of NHL experience, for sure. That's why I think the Caps will look to sign an experienced backup in the offseason, someone who could be expected to play 30-35 games next season and go with more of a goalie tandem. Yes, the team has Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek, but that's not what I'm talking about. I am looking at goalies like Jaroslav Halak or Jimmy Howard, guys on the final year of their contracts who could come in and play significant time at a high level.

Nick Kabatsky writes: Will we see Samsonov get more starts during the second half of the season so that Holtby will be prepared for the playoffs?

We should. I was never in the camp that Samsonov should take over as the No. 1 when Holtby was struggling at the start of the season, but I am surprised Todd Reirden has leaned on Holtby as much as he has. Holtby has played in 25 games this year and while Samsonov has just 11.

Don't get me wrong, Holtby has been playing very well, but he is on pace for about 58 games this year which is more than I expected. If the team is playing just as well in front of Samsonov, why not get him a few more starts?

Now this makes sense from the outside looking in, but let's remember the coaches also have to manage the players themselves. Holtby knows the implication of getting Samsonov more playing time so perhaps the coaches have to manage him a bit to make sure he knows that, regardless of what happens next year, he is still the No. 1 right now and maybe that means limiting Samsonov's starts. But as long as they can get Holtby in a place where he is comfortable mentally and playing well, then they should try to get Samsonov as many starts as possible.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

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