Capitals

Manning still crossing paths with Chargers

Manning still crossing paths with Chargers

SAN DIEGO (AP) Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf?

It was the big question going into the 1998 draft and one that was quickly answered that fall.

Indianapolis made the right choice and Bobby Beathard and the San Diego Chargers were stuck with a colossal mistake.

Nearly 15 years later, Manning is still crossing paths with the Chargers. On Monday night, he'll bring his Denver Broncos (2-3) to Qualcomm Stadium to face the AFC West rival Chargers (3-2).

It'll be the first time the Chargers have faced Manning since he joined the Broncos in the offseason.

It turns out the Chargers have owned Manning, in a sense. The Chargers are 5-1 against Manning since 2005, when they ruined Indianapolis' shot at a perfect season. They also eliminated Manning and the Colts from the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

But they never owned him in the way that really would have mattered.

In the spring of 1998, the Chargers were looking to replace Stan Humphries, the only quarterback who ever got them to the Super Bowl. Humphries had been sidelined midway through the 1997 season with a concussion and then decided to retire.

Indianapolis had the No. 1 pick. San Diego had the third. Beathard sent a king's ransom of draft picks and players to Arizona to move up one spot. He said he tried to move into the top spot but Bill Polian, then the Colts' GM, didn't want to make the deal.

Beathard knew which of the two he would have taken, if given the chance to pick first.

``Absolutely Peyton Manning. Absolutely,'' Beathard said a few days ago while visiting San Diego.

``I even called Archie,'' Beathard said, referring to Manning's father. ``In fact, I called Bill Polian to try to make that trade and Bill said they weren't sure which one they were going to take, so he didn't want to do that.''

Beathard - the only GM to build a Super Bowl team in San Diego - can't remember what he offered Polian for the top pick, only that he wanted it.

He didn't get it. Indy got a quarterback that would eventually win one Super Bowl, get his team to another and has been chosen NFL MVP four times. San Diego got a quarterback who hurled obscenities and interceptions at an alarming rate before his career flamed out.

Beathard remembers coming back from a fact-finding trip to Pullman, Wash., aware of Leaf's talent - he had led Washington State to the Rose Bowl the previous season - but unaware of his combustible personality.

``The thing is about Peyton, we knew them. I knew Archie. It would have been a slam dunk,'' said Beathard, who retired in 2000 and now lives in Tennessee. ``Polian told me later, `I'm not sure which one is better.' There's no question Ryan was good in college. But all the off-field stuff, they were things that I know their coach didn't divulge and he stuck up for him when I went up there.

``It was a mistake we made that was hard to recover from. We would have taken Peyton, no question about it. It wasn't even a hard decision.''

Beathard has another regret. When Indy wouldn't give up the No. 1 pick, Beathard thought about trading down and grabbing another quarterback.

``I can't remember who, and I wish I had done it,'' Beathard said.

Beathard always loathed first-round draft picks, treating them as if they were nuclear waste. He often dealt them to stock up on lower-round picks and then take flyers on players from lesser-known schools. Some panned out. Many didn't.

In this case, though, the Chargers were stuck.

``The thing didn't come out well,'' Beathard said. ``We were scared to death we'd be stuck without a quarterback. We knew we had to get one of the two guys. We unanimously agreed on Peyton, but we couldn't make that trade up, so we thought we'd at least be fortunate to get one of them. But then all hell broke loose.''

The Chargers opened 2-0 in 1998 before Leaf's meltdown began, on and off the field. He had an abysmal performance in a loss at Kansas City. The next day, he berated a reporter in the locker room, unaware that a television cameraman was taping the entire exchange.

After the team's bye week, reports surfaced that Leaf acted obnoxiously while bar-hopping during a visit to Pullman to contribute $200,000 to his alma mater. His poor performance on the field led the Chargers to bench him, and he finished that season with 15 interceptions, two touchdowns and a 39.0 passer rating.

During his long career, Beathard had a hand in building seven Super Bowl teams in jobs ranging from scout to GM. One of his greatest successes was hiring Joe Gibbs as coach of the Washington Redskins in 1981. Together, they won two of the three Super Bowls they reached in the 1980s.

He wasn't as lucky in 1998.

``It was really bad,'' Beathard said. ``There were people in the league that thought we made the right choice, that we got the better of the two. In hindsight, it really made us or me look silly that we didn't know all that. But we didn't. I went up there, asked everybody if there were any problems and was told, `He's a great kid' and all that stuff. There were a lot of them up there that stuck up for him.''

Leaf missed the 1999 season after injuring his right shoulder during training camp and still managed to get into trouble. While rehabbing his shoulder that November, he was suspended for four weeks for cussing at Beathard and others in the organization.

Leaf got the heave-ho in February 2001 by then-GM John Butler. Recently, he's faced drug and burglary charges in Texas and Montana.

For Beathard, it's hard to forget.

For Manning, he doesn't want to remember recent losses to San Diego, although he did beat them his first three tries, including a showdown against Leaf as rookies in 1998.

``For me, I'm playing for the Broncos right now. This is my first time playing the Chargers under these circumstances,'' he said. ``There is some newness to this game and some unknown in terms of what they'll do. We have new things we're working on and developing at the same time. I think it's hard to draw comparisons to years past.''

The Chargers also will always be linked with Manning's younger brother, Eli. The Chargers took Eli Manning with the first pick overall in 2004 despite Archie Manning's request that they not do so, then swapped the player's rights to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers and additional picks.

Eli Manning has gone on to lead the Giants to two Super Bowl victories.

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2016 NHL Draft: How much does a successful draft depend on the first round?

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2016 NHL Draft: How much does a successful draft depend on the first round?

The NHL Draft takes place on June 21 and 22. The Capitals hold the 25th overall pick and will be looking for future stars among all the hopeful prospects.

But just how successful has Washington been in finding those stars? How much value have the Caps found through the draft?

NBC Sports Washington will be looking at how Washington has drafted over the last 10 years. Today’s draft: 2016

26th overall pick (first round): Traded

The St. Louis Blues elected to trade up in the draft sending Washington a first and giving back their third-round pick which the Blues acquired as part of the package for T.J. Oshie. St. Louis used the pick for forward Tage Thompson who ended up playing 41 games for the Blues in the 2017-18 season. St. Louis ultimately traded him away to the Buffalo Sabres as part of the package that got them the now Conn Smythe-winning Ryan O’Reilly.

28th overall pick (first round): Lucas Johansen D

This Caps moved only two spots back in the trade with St. Louis and selected Johansen, a talented but undersized defenseman. Johansen has spent the last two seasons in Hershey. He has added some size, but that no longer is the biggest concern with his play. Despite being a talented puck-mover, Johansen seems uncomfortable with the puck on his stick, almost jumpy. Getting a quick first pass off is an important skill to start breakouts, but it does not appear like he makes quick, smart decisions up the ice, he is just trying to get the puck off his stick quickly whenever it gets close which leads to some bad decisions. Some of this could be due to the upper-body injury that forced him to miss significant time this past season. Either way, he desperately needs to learn to be more comfortable with the puck.

If you take away the puck-moving skills, then you just have an undersized defenseman. He needs to get the puck skills back if he hopes to make it to the NHL.

57th overall pick (second round): Traded

Washington traded this pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in February 2016 as part of the package to get Brooks Laich’s contract off the books. The Leafs used the pick on forward Carl Grundstrom who Toronto sent to the Los Angeles Kings as part of the package to land defenseman Jake Muzzin.

Grundstrom ended up playing in 15 games with the Kings with five goals and an assist so he is definitely a player to watch heading into next season.

87th overall pick (third round): Garret Pilon F

This was the pick attached to the first-round pick St. Louis swapped with the Caps to move up. Washington used it to select Pilon, son of former NHLer Rich Pilon.

Pilon had a strong WHL career with Kamloops and Everett and was impressive in his first season in Hershey with 10 goals and 23 assists in 71 games. He has potential as a third-line NHLer, maybe second line but that would be a real reach. He has a great hockey IQ. You can see the plays he is trying to make on the ice, he just can’t always finish the job whether it is getting a cross-ice pass over to an open teammate after drawing the defense to himself or getting enough power behind a shot from a high-danger area. Another year in the AHL to hone his skills and he should have a real shot of making the jump to the NHL.

117th overall pick (fourth round): Damien Riat F

Riat has yet to make the jump from Europe to North America, but Swiss Hockey News reports that he will participate in development camp and training camp for the Caps this year.

145th overall pick (fifth round): Beck Malenstyn F

When the Caps packaged Laich with Connor Carrick and a second-round pick, they did not just receive cap relief. They also got Daniel Winnik and a fifth-round pick. Washington turned that pick into Malenstyn.

Malenstyn has a solid mix of skill and physical play that led Hershey Bears head coach Spencer Carbery to declare, “he’s our Tom Wilson.”

Now let’s temper expectations here. While Malenstyn may play a similar role for the Bears as Wilson does for the Caps, do not take that to mean Malenstyn is a top-six NHL forward. He’s not. He scored seven goals and nine assists in his first professional season, but the way he was able to have an impact on the ice is certainly impressive. There is some potential here for him to be an NHL fourth-liner.

147th overall pick (fifth round): Axel Jonsson-Fjallby F

Jonsson-Fjallby has NHL speed and is a similar type of player as Carl Hagelin. He is not going to light up the scoresheet, but his speed always makes him a threat and he can be a strong, bottom-six player and penalty killer at the NHL level.

I thought there was a legitimate chance he could compete for the Caps this year if Hagelin left. Hagelin, however, is back for another four years. That’s not to say it is time to move on from him, just that there was room for Jonsson-Fjallby to be a Hagelin replacement and now he can go back to Hershey and work on his game and adjusting to the North American style of play. That’s good news for Washington since Jonsson-Fjallby chose to go back to Sweden early last season and has only 16 games of North American experience.

177th overall pick (sixth round): Chase Priskie D

Priskie just wrapped up a fantastic college career at Quinnipiac where he won a national title, was a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and scored 17 goals and 22 assists in his senior season…as a defenseman.

Unfortunately for Washington, since Priskie just wrapped up his fourth season in college he is eligible to become a free agent in August if he does not sign with the Caps before then. Priskie informed management in April that he would not sign with the team and that he intended to become a free agent. Priskie is a right-shot, puck-moving, offensive defenseman who would be a high-end third pair defenseman, but could also develop into a second-pair guy. His decision not to sign with Washington is a definite blow to the Caps and the pipeline.

207th overall pick (seventh round): Dmitriy Zaitsev D

After two seasons in the WHL, the Capitals chose not to sign Zaitsev to an entry-level contract prior to the 2018-19 season thus forfeiting his rights. He elected to return to his native Russia and split time over the season in the KHL, MHL, and VHL.

Takeaways

First the good news. The Caps found a lot of value in this draft. Past the second or third round, you are basically drafting lottery tickets and hoping your number gets called. I am not quite sure what to make of Riat, but besides him, Pilon, Jonsson-Fjallby, and Priskie all have NHL potential. Malenstyn could as well but may be a reach. Sure, these would all be depth guys, but that’s a lot of NHL potential in one draft.

Now on to the bad news. First, the defenseman with the highest upside is probably not their first-round pick, but Priskie and the Caps know they are going to lose him as a free agent. That is his right as written into the CBA so you cannot fault him for taking advantage. Having said that, it really stinks for the Caps who snagged him in the sixth round of the draft just to see him walk after showing off his potential.

Second, the Caps may have found a lot of potential NHLers in this draft, but if they miss on Johansen, was this draft a bust for them? That is not to say Johansen is a bust or that he will never live up to expectations as a top-four defenseman. But if he does not learn to be more comfortable with the puck and learn the difference between quick thinking and panicked reaction, he is not going to make it to the NHL. At this point, it looks like he will need another year in Hershey and if he does not improve, then it is time to wonder whether he has a future at all.

How do you evaluate this draft if you find value in the later rounds—which is extremely hard to do—and miss on your first-round pick? It’s a tough question to answer.

 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS

Premier League Roundup: Everton parting ways with captain Phil Jagielka

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Premier League Roundup: Everton parting ways with captain Phil Jagielka

Premier League teams are making grandiose plans for the upcoming 2019-20 season. For Everton, those plans are coming with a new captain as Phil Jagielka will leave the team after 12 years in Goodison.

Here's the latest news about the Premier League:

Player Notes

Burnley: Goalkeeper Tom Heaton rejected a contract extension from the club after a strong second half to the season. Coming off a dislocated shoulder injury a year ago, Heaton looks to be fielding options elsewhere. 

Chelsea: It was widely reported that defender Antonio Rudiger could miss the start of the 2019-20 season as he continues to recover from knee surgery. There were no complications with his procedure but that the club has no intention of rushing him back.

Everton: Two of the Toffees defenders, Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams, will leave the team after their contracts expire this summer. Jagielka has been the team's captain since 2013 and played in 386 games for Everton. 

Arsenal: Defender Hector Bellerin will miss the start of the 2019-20 campaign as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury.

Arsenal: Goalkeeper David Ospina is signed on a permanent transfer after a successful year-long loan from Arsenal.

Source: Rotoworld

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