It’s time for the weekly Capitals mailbag! Check out the Jan. 2 edition below.
Have a Caps question you want answered for next week’s mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com
Hi JJ, which Caps players follow the NHL the closest, in the sense of watching other teams’ games during the season, knowing their stats etc (as P. Kane and Scheiefele reportedly do)? Put another way, who will make the best GM one day? #CapsMailNBC— Lisa Marie (@BelleLegacy) January 1, 2019
Interesting question. There definitely are players who come out and say they do not watch hockey or really follow the game on their off nights. No one has demonstrated (to me at least) an instant recall of other team’s stats, so I went at this from a different direction. Which players seem to have an extensive knowledge of the game and are good communicators? Three guys came to mind: Lars Eller, Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik.
Eller has been around the game his entire life as his father, Olaf, played professionally in their native country of Denmark and became a coach after this playing career ended. Lars has been traded twice in his career so he is not a stranger to the process and, despite being a productive player in Washington on a third line role, he seems to recognize the importance of center depth to a contender and has never agitated for a top-six role. He even signed a lengthy extension for less money than he probably would have gotten on the open market to stay in Washington despite knowing he will remain behind both Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov on the depth chart.
While many outside of Washington see Wilson as little more than a thug on the ice, he actually studies the game very closely and spends much of his offseason talking to people around the league about the physical nature of the game in order to get a better idea of how to keep his own physical style within the rules. Any talk of how hard Wilson works at his craft is met with serious eye-rolling from his detractors, but all I can say is he tells the media about how he studies the game and this has been backed up by general manager Brian MacLellan.
As for Orpik, he has been unfairly labeled as a one-dimensional, stay at home defenseman in recent years, but the fact is he tailors his offseason training based on trends he sees in the NHL. He used to focus primarily on developing strength, but in recent years he has worked more on his agility and conditioning as he sees the NHL getting faster. What’s more is that he takes better care of himself and his body than anyone else on the team which suggests he would value players who take their health and conditioning seriously. While he bristles at the notion of people looking at him as more of a mentor this year than a top-six defenseman, the younger defensemen always rave about what he means to them on and off the ice and the advice he gives them on how to play the game.
#CapsMailNBC What does the top line need to do to get out of this slump/skid?— sports guy 21 (@BronIsTheG0at) January 1, 2019
On Tuesday I wrote on the top line’s struggles and how reuniting Ovechkin with Kuznetsov and Wilson would be the right move. It appears Todd Reirden took my advice as Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Wilson skated with one another on the top line at Wednesday’s practice.
As skilled as an Ovechkin, Backstrom, T.J. Oshie line is, I just think it is too slow to be effective enough in today’s NHL. For Ovechkin to be at his best, he needs players on his line who can take some of the attention off of him. Kuznetsov is able to because of his skill and his speed. Wilson uses his physical play and some speed as well, though he is not nearly as fast as Kuznetsov.
Granted, Backstrom has been outplaying Kuznetsov this season by a wide margin so you hate to “demote” him to the second line, but ultimately I believe this team is at its best with Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Wilson on the top and Jakub Vrana, Backstrom and Oshie on the second line.
#CapsMailNBC JJ, its been a couple weeks now since Djoos surgery. Reirden said its not season ending when it happened. Is there an update? Do you think he'll be back by Feb or closer to March?— WiseBeyondMyYears (@sports_god1) January 1, 2019
Djoos underwent surgery on his left thigh on Dec. 13 and was declared out indefinitely. There has been no update as to his status since then and the team has not provided the media with a specific diagnosis of his injury. That makes it hard to estimate when he might return.
Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want to be read and answered in next week’s mailbag, send it in to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- Sitting Out: Ovi sitting out the All-Star game could help Caps in the end
- NHL Ranks: Metro Division stays strong
- Career Year: A celebration of Ovechkin's greatest year
- A Decade Older: Ovechkin and his young ASG captains