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Locked out Caps head to Gold's Gym


Locked out Caps head to Gold's Gym

A little more than a month ago, when the NHL lockout was in its first week, Matt Hendricks walked into Gold’s Gym in Arlington and asked the operations manager if a handful of Capitals could use the gym’s workout facilities.

As luck would have it, fitness director Serge Sejour happened to walk in on the conversation.

A former cornerback in the Canadian Football League who had a brief stint with the Redskins in 2003, Sejour had trained NFL players Vernon Davis, Joe Haden and D’Qwell Jackson, but had never worked with hockey players.

“To be honest, it’s not that much different,” Sejour said. “Both are very physical games and they’re both going short distances as fast as they can. Hockey players run into walls at full speed and can get hit at any moment. The only difference is that hockey players have to be quicker laterally.”
With that in mind, every Tuesday and Thursday morning, from 7:45 until 9:15, a small group of Capitals – Hendricks, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and John Carlson – began working out with Sejour and pushing themselves to the limit.
“His workouts are 100 percent all out,” Beagle said. “You’re destroying your body. When you leave the gym you’re toast.”

Sejour, 31, said he designed individual workouts for each of the players he’s worked with, reviewing hours of YouTube videos of them skating. What were his first impressions?

“I saw Matt’s explosion,” Sejour said of Hendricks. “I saw Chimera’s quickness. He’s quick as a cat, but his explosiveness doesn’t last. I think in the third period the way he’ll perform is on parallel to what he did in the first period.”

Sejour said Beagle and Carlson came to him with strength but lacked flexibility. Chimera lacked mobility in his shoulders and Hendricks, who has since returned to Minnesota, was a fitness machine.

“Matt Hendricks is like a perfect technician,” Sejour said. “Every single workout we’ve done he’s the one I use to show how it’s done. He’s so perfect with his execution.”

Defensemen Mike Green and Karl Alzner have also participated in a few of Sejour’s workouts.

“Training during the lockout to just maintain is not the way to go,” Sejour said. “I want to train them to be faster, quicker, stronger and have a lot more power while maintaining flexibility. I told all of them you have to play your third period as you played your first period. It’s worked wonders for them.”

Hendricks said the goal is to be ready to go in the event the NHL labor dispute ends quickly and players are given just a week of training camp.

“Physically, you can’t keep climbing that ladder,” he said. “You’ve got to have some down time and then build back up. If you keep climbing you burn yourself out. Our job is to stay in shape and be ready to play hockey when this thing gets done.”

Sejour said he mixes up his twice-a-week workouts, focusing on core strength, balance and explosiveness. On Tuesday Sejour had the Capitals bouncing off medicine balls and hopping laterally through rings while holding a hockey stick.
“There’s no sense doing 500-pound squats and then you’re stiff as a brick when you hit the ice,” Sejour said.

“I need to make sure I wear the muscle out without wearing the athlete out. I don’t want them peaking until the season starts.”

When that will be is anyone’s guess. But whenever the NHL returns to action, it will have one more fan.

“I can’t wait to go to a game and see all the hard work they put in here translated onto the ice,” Sejour said, “and know I had a part in that.”

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Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?


Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?

Very few teams have the luxury of having a backup goalie they can rely on for an extended period of time while the starter goes through a massive slump. The Capitals had that luxury in 2017-2018 thanks to Philipp Grubauer.

Not every team in the NHL has a dependable starter, let alone backup, so when a backup goalie goes 15-10-3 in a season with a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage, that is likely to catch the attention of general managers around the league.

The 2018-19 season will likely be a season of transition for the Capitals behind Braden Holtby. General manager Brian MacLellan expressed his willingness Wednesday to possibly trade backup goalie Philipp Grubauer this offseason. With the season he just had, he could potentially yield the Caps a solid return.

But, if Grubauer is indeed moved, that leaves the question of who will play backup for the Capitals this season?

The initial plan appears to be to promote Pheonix Copley from the AHL.

“Yeah, I think he's capable of it,” MacLellan said when asked if he saw Copley as an NHL backup. “Obviously, he's unproven. I think he's done what he could do at the American League level. Got through probably a little bit of a tough patch this year recovering from an injury, but I think he has potential to be that guy, yes.”

Copley, 26, played last season with the Caps’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears. He had a tough season with a 2.91 GAA and .896 save percentage in 41 games.

As MacLellan alluded, Copley suffered a serious injury at the end of the previous season and it clearly affected his season. The year prior, Copley managed a 2.15 GAA and .931 with Hershey in 16 games. He was considered Washington’s No. 3 goalie this season and was recalled for the playoffs as an emergency backup behind Grubauer.

Copley’s career includes only two NHL games.

There is another internal candidate who some fans may be hoping to see next season. That of course, is 2015 first-round draft pick Ilya Samsonov.

Samsonov, 21, signed an entry-level contract with Washington in May and will make the jump from the KHL to North America next season.

But don’t expect to see Samsonov backing up Holtby to start the NHL season.

Samsonov will be adjusting to the North American game and the smaller North American rink. Because of that, MacLellan believes he will benefit from time in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL.

"I think he needs time in Hershey,” MacLellan said. “We'll start him in Hershey I would anticipate and see how he grows, see how he gets accustomed to the small rink and hopefully get some good coaching, get our guys in that work with him. It'll be up to him. I think he'll adapt fairly quickly given his skill set.”


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Devante Smith-Pelly is hopeful he has found a home with the Capitals

Devante Smith-Pelly is hopeful he has found a home with the Capitals

“I didn't think I'd be here a year ago,” Devante Smith-Pelly told the media Wednesday. “That's for sure.”

In 2017, Devante Smith-Pelly was a member of the New Jersey Devils and thought that’s where he would play the 2017-18 season. Instead, Smith-Pelly was bought out of the final year of his contract, something that he was not prepared for as he only received word of the team’s decision on the same day they made the move.

New Jersey’s loss turned out to be Washington’s gain as the Caps signed Smith-Pelly for one year and he proceeded to score seven goals during the Capitals’ postseason run to the Stanley Cup.

“Obviously, at the start of the year, not knowing exactly where I would be to at the parade on Constitution, it's crazy," Smith-Pelly said. "I haven't really sat down and taken it all in, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I had an amazing time this year. Obviously, it's the best year of my life.”

Now as a restricted free agent, Smith-Pelly is hoping he has found a home in Washington.

Despite being only 26-years-old, Smith-Pelly has already had somewhat of a journeyman’s career. The Caps are the fifth team in which he has played for.

The issue for much of Smith-Pelly's career has been consistency.

The 2018 playoffs was not his first breakout performance. He scored five goals in just 12 playoff games for the Anaheim Ducks in 2014, but he failed to live up to that level of production again until this year’s postseason with Washington.

“I don't think I needed to prove anything,” Smith-Pelly said. “I knew what I could do, it's just me getting a chance to do it and that's it. I got a chance here and I guess it worked out.”

Expecting him to score seven goals every 24 games in the regular season is likely unrealistic, but the Caps don’t need him to do that. Smith-Pelly developed a role with the Caps being a bottom-six player, a role that he thrived in throughout the season.

“He's become a big part of the team,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He brings good energy, he's a good teammate, he's well-liked. You could tell the teammates really migrate towards him, they like him and then the crowd also likes him. They're chanting 'DSP' all the time so it's been fun to watch how he's got everybody to embrace him and his personality.”

Given when Smith-Pelly was able to do in the postseason, it is no surprise that the Caps would be interested in keeping him around. But at what cost?

Smith-Pelly was a bargain for Washington last season with a cap hit of only $650,000. He will be due a raise, but with John Carlson expected to get a monster contract, how much will general manager Brian MacLellan be willing to spend on a bottom-six winger like Smith-Pelly?

Despite the phenomenal postseason, Smith-Pelly had only seven goals and 16 points in the entire regular season. When it comes to a new contract, MacLellan will likely want to pay for that player while Smith-Pelly will no doubt look to be paid like the player who scored seven times in 24 playoff games.

As of Wednesday when he spoke with reporters, Smith-Pelly said he had not yet had any talks with the team about a new contract, but also noted that, as a restricted free agent, “there’s no real rush.”

The Caps own Smith-Pelly’s rights which helps their bargaining position. Smith-Pelly, however, is arbitration eligible and his postseason stats will undoubtedly bump his value when viewed by a neutral arbitrator.

But there's a good chance it may not get anywhere close to that point.

“On the ice and off the ice I feel like this is the best situation I've been in,” Smith-Pelly said. “Obviously, never know what's going to happen but I found a place and I want to be back.”