Thursday, July 29, 2010

Caps Add Some Sandpaper with Signing of D.J. King

In what has been a super slow summer for trades, the Caps made a necessary step adding some grit to their roster with yesterday's signing of enforcer D.J. King from the St. Louis Blues. The team acquired the 6’3”, 230-pound, left winger from the Blues in exchange for prospect Stefan Della Rovere. Since the departure of big, bad Donald Brashear, the Caps have been lacking a tried and true veteran enforcer, despite the best of efforts of various players to take the task of on-ice law enforcement upon themselves. HM for one will welcome a replacement for Matt Bradley, who gladly accepted the call to defend his team mates one too many times last season, often leaving the ice looking like a horrid scene from "Saw II". On Frozen Blog has laid out the welcome mat for the newest member of the Capitals - check it out here.

King has had a full dance card throughout his 101-game NHL career, dropping the mitts with such tough guys as Colton Orr and Derek Boogard. He posted nine points (four goals, five assists) and 185 penalty minutes in his time with the Blues. King played 12 games in St. Louis and 10 games for Peoria of the American Hockey League (AHL) in 2009-10, seeing limited time due to a broken finger. He is under contract through the 2011-12 season.

Originally selected in the sixth round, 191st overall, by the Blues in the 2002 Entry Draft, King played junior hockey for Lethbridge and Kelowna in the Western Hockey League, topping 100 penalty minutes in each of his three seasons. He won the Memorial Cup with Kelowna in 2004.

Here's a glimpse of D.J.'s handiwork from back in his days playing junior hockey:

Welcome to Washington Mister King! HM is hoping that Penguinette Max Talbot may have a few regrets about his recent Ovechkin comments (stick tap to the head honcho, Ted Leonsis for the video link) with a new bad boy rocking the red on the other side of the ice...the Winter Classic just got a hell of a lot more interesting, if that's even possible!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Winter Classic Preview: Caps Sign Fleischmann on Eve of Arbitration

In the midst of what will certainly be known as one of the hottest summers on record, hockey fans got a brief glimpse of winter as the representatives of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins converged on the Steel City for the first Winter Classic press conference. During the event held at Heinz Field, the League also unveiled the official logo for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the special team logos for the Pens and Caps.

HM is on day two of my "staycation" so I watched the hullabaloo on the NHL Network (and spotted Tarik El-Bashir in the media scrum). Judging from Commish Bettman's Pens-centric comments, one almost forgot for a moment that the Winter Classic is a League event. But Capitals' president Dick Patrick repped the Caps proudly, as did players Mike Knuble (rocking a groovy pair of black wraparound shades) and David Steckel. Sitting over on the "dark side" were Penguins' owner Mario Lemieux, captain Sidney Crosby and his BFF Maxime Talbot. Of course it's never too early for the requisite smacktalking between these two teams, and Talbot got the ball rolling with some comments equating our beloved Alex Ovechkin with a feminine hygiene product. Let the games begin....
Meanwhile back in D.C., the team came to terms with forward Tomas Fleischmann on the eve of his arbitration hearing. The contract is a one-year deal worth a reported $2.6 million. "Flash", 26, set career highs in goals (23), assists (28), points (51) and plus/minus (+9) in 2009-10. He finished sixth on the team in goals and seventh in points and ranked sixth in the NHL with a 19.0 shooting percentage. He scored 10 of his 23 goals in the first period and scored eight goals in the 10 games that Alex Ovechkin was missing from the lineup. He established offensive career highs despite missing the first 11 games of the season recovering from deep vein thrombosis in his leg. Despite a stellar regular season, Flash has drawn some ire from diehard Caps fans for his post-season performance (in other words, he was one of the "passengers" on the bus that Gabby alluded to after the dust had settled). His signing leaves the Caps with about $5.9 million in cap space - enough for GMGM to bring up some of those fiesty youngsters from the farm.
And in closing, Hockey Mom wants to wish a happy first birthday to the fabulous writers over at Russian Machine Never Breaks!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Caps Team Up to Help Wounded Warriors Ice Hockey

The Washington Capitals are teaming up with the NHL, Verizon Wireless and the Congressional Hockey Caucus tomorrow to help some of our country's true heroes participate in the sport they love. The group will aid those who've so bravely served and sacrificed to preserve our freedom starting at 10:30 a.m. at Capitals Kettler Iceplex by donating multiple multiple sets of official NHL-licensed ice hockey equipment and apparel in support of the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program. The donation will be made prior to a special on-ice clinic featuring former NHLers, the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Team and representatives from the NHL and Verizon Wireless. Following the clinic, former NHLers will visit wounded warriors hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Verizon Wireless will donate equipment used during the production of two TV spots for the 2009-10 NHL season. The spots, “Tarmac” and “Encore,” promote the new NHL Ice TimeTM mobile application, available exclusively to Verizon Wireless subscribers,and feature players from the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, including Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Richards.

Grant Fuhr, Five-time Stanley Cup Champion and Hockey Hall of Famer; Joseph Bowser, Retired SGT. First Class & Hockey is for Everyone Ambassador; Ken Martin, NHL Vice President of Community Affairs; Bob Woods, Washington Capitals Assistant Coach, Karen Hadley, Verizon Wireless Associate Director of Partnerships; Bob Banach, President of the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program; Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), co-chair of the Congressional Hockey Caucus; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), co-chair of the Congressional Hockey Caucus; and Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), co-chair of the Congressional Hockey Caucus will all be on hand to support this terrific program and the honorable men and women from the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program.

Following the presentation, there will be a ceremonial puck drop & on-ice clinic led by Fuhr and Caps' assistant coach Bob Woods.

The USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program is a non-profit organization that provides programming for U.S. military personnel wounded in combat. In conjunction with the USA Disabled Hockey Program, the Program's mission is to organize and administer an ice hockey program that provides a recreational, educational and therapeutic experience for its participants.

The Congressional Hockey Caucus is an informal, bipartisan group of Members of Congress dedicated to advocating for the expansion of youth hockey programs in America, with special attention to programs for disadvantaged youth who might not otherwise be able to afford to participate in the sport. Co-chaired by Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), the Caucus recognizes the profound effect that youth hockey has on the development of children in our community.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hockey Mom Hiatus Comes to an End

I'm back in the D.C. area after a wonderful visit with my family down in Thrasherland (or would that be "Blackhawks South" now)? And as I expected, there were no blockbuster trades made while I was on vacation on the part of the Washington Capitals - or any other team for that matter. But I did miss this year's Development Camp, which showcased some red-hot young talent with a few mean Joe Finley fights mixed in. HM was wishing she had Big Joe on Twin A's lacrosse field yesterday when he took a painful illegal slash to the ribs (which of course the ref didn't call - must have been blinded by the blistering heat). Needless to say, Joe Finley would have put an abrupt stop to those shenanigans just by standing there...

In all seriousness, the fabulous folks over at Russian Machine Never Breaks have a fantastic recap of all the week's happenings along with the fun-filled Fan Fest that took place on Saturday (while HM was sweating buckets on the lacrosse field - lovely). Meanwhile, the ongoing saga of where Ilya Kovalchuk would sign (Kings, Devils, KHL, back to Kings - no, wait) has ended. The Russian sniper has ended the crazy LeBronesque speculation by announcing today that he resigned a multi-year deal with the New Jersey Devils.  Other than that, there's really been no spectacular hockey happenings to report to get us through these sizzling dog days of summer - is it October yet?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Eric Fehr Signed; Development Camp Schedule Released

So amidst the ridiculous hype of the "Lebronathon" (good grief, did we not already know the King was going to the Heat? We needed a one-hour primetime special for that?), the Capitals locked up another cog in the wheel with the signing of winger Eric Fehr to a two-year contract.

Fehr, 24, set career highs in goals (21), assists (18), points (39), plus/minus (+18) and shots (145) while averaging 12:07 of ice time. He finished seventh on the team in goals and ninth in plus/minus rating. Each of the 105 other NHL players who scored at least 20 goals this season averaged more ice time than Fehr; only Alex Ovechkin (1.90), Alexander Semin (1.71) and Sidney Crosby (1.68) averaged more goals per 60 minutes of ice time than Fehr (1.50). The Capitals were 16-3-1 when Fehr scored a goal and 27-4-3 when he had a point. Fehr scored three goals in the playoffs, third-best on the team, and tied for fourth on the team with four point and did I mention he's just a super nice kid from Manitoba?

That leaves only one player, Tomas Fleischmann, left to sign. Despite a stellar regular season (which started late due to the blood clot he suffered in the pre-season), Flash was missing in action during the playoffs. Many fans and media types have been "thinking out loud" and expressing opinions that Flash, Semin and some of the other "passengers" Bruce Boudreau alluded to after being rudely knocked out of the first round, should be dealt in exchange for a more consistent, gritty and veteran player. Time will tell but GMGM is certainly playing the patience card. If you haven't read this post from On Frozen Blog about shoring up the defense, it is a must-read and I couldn't agree more. While Jeff Schultz is a good player, I'd like to see him use that ginormous body of his much more to knock some heads around and scare the daylights out of opponents in front of our crease. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if GMGM has anything up his sleeve....

Meanwhile, the team has released the schedule and roster for next week's Development Camp. For those looking to get a glimpse of some possible future Capitals and beat the heat at the same time, here goes:

Capitals Summer Development Camp On Ice Schedule:

Sunday, July 11 Players arrive

Monday, July 12 Group A on ice at 9:45 a.m.; Group B on ice at 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 13 Group B on ice at 9:30 a.m.; Group A on ice at 11:45 p.m.

Wednesday, July 14 Group A on ice at 9:45 a.m.; Group B on ice at 11:15 a.m.; scrimmage at 3:15 p.m.

Thursday, July 15 Scrimmage at 9 a.m.

Friday, July 16 Group A on ice at 9:30 a.m.; Group B on ice at 11:15 a.m.

Saturday, July 17 Scrimmage at 10 a.m.

Hockey Mom will be in Thrasherland next week visiting the non-hockey fan part of the family so keep up with all the fun from Development Camp with the great people on my blog roll! Meanwhile I'll still be following all the sources if any trade action should emerge...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Capitals Sign Jeff Schultz and Boyd Gordon

The Capitals came to terms with two players over the past 24 hours, putting to rest any notion that GM George McPhee has been on a Tahitian vacation since the start of free agency. Many fans have expressed frustration that the team didn't jump on any "big" names once the free agency period started, while others don't want to have to trade away key pieces in the future for one season of glory (i.e. read this great post over at OFB about the tough decisions recently made by this year's Stanley Cup champions). Of course there are still plenty of free agents that haven't been signed (stick tap to From the Rink for this list of UFAs as of this afternoon). You can now scratch Rob Neidermayer and goaltender Evgeni Nabakov from the list as they are headed to new teams, with Nabby leaving the NHL for his home country of Russia to play in the KHL.

So while this is shaping up to be a pretty dull free agency period (with the exception of the Kovalchuk drama dragging on like an episode of The Bachelorette), the Capitals are still tying up loose ends. Yesterday saw the signing of forward Boyd Gordon to a one-year deal. "Gordo" is the longest tenured player on the team, after completing his seventh professional season with the Capitals in 2009-10. He registered four goals and six assists in 36 games. Unfortunately, Gordon's ice time was limited due to injury but he led the team with a 61.0% faceoff rate, which would have led the league had he taken enough draws to qualify. He ranked third on the team in average shorthanded ice time (2:39 per game) and had a goal and an assist, both while shorthanded, in the playoffs.

And today, defenseman Jeff Schultz signed a four-year contract worth a reported $11 million. Schultz, 24, played 73 games for the Capitals in 2009-10 and led the NHL with a +50 rating, the best single-season rating in franchise history. He became the first defenseman to lead the NHL in plus/minus rating since 2005-06 (Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden) and the first Capital to lead the league in that category. Offensively he recorded career highs in assists (20) and points (23) and averaged a career-high 19:51 of ice time per game. He led the team with 129 blocked shots.

So that leaves Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr as the only Capitals who might possibly be headed into arbitration. We'll have to wait and see if GMGM decides to tinker with his roster prior to the season. Meanwhile, as the Capitals' stellar PR staff gears up for next week's Development Camp and Fan Fest, they received some well-deserved kudos from The Hockey Writers. Unfortunately, looks like HM will be missing the action next week as I will be on vacation, but the PR team will be hard at work as usual, even taking time out during Development Camp to host a workshop for media-credentialed bloggers.  The Caps have always been at the forefront of technology, recognizing the power of the internet and the hunger fans have for information outside of traditional news sources. Keep up the great work guys and gals!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

No Free Agency Fireworks for the Capitals

The free agency period officially kicked off at 12:01 p.m. July 1, and within ten minutes Pens' d-man Sergei Gonchar had inked a lucrative deal with the Ottawa Senators. While the Caps faithful waited to see if GM George McPhee would make a splash with a signing of a second line center or bruising, shot-blocking blueliner, the hours ticked by and the Caps saw no movement. Many Caps fans wondered if McPhee had forgotten the date or forgot to set his alarm, judging by the numerous funny "tweets" on Twitter. But the head honcho has his plan (stick tap to Tarik El-Bashir) and that does not include paying the ridiculous prices commanded by some of the heralded free agents like Dan Hamhuis, Anton Volchenkov and Ilya Kovalchuk, among others.

Hockey Mom likens McPhee's plan to a  Nordstrom shoe sale. When you've got several lovely pairs of  Jimmy Choos in the closet, why go out and buy a similar shoe of lesser quality (until they go on sale, which they eventually will). While shot-blocker extraordinaire Volchenkov topped many fans' free agent wish lists, the Capitals didn't want to trade the farm for the $25.5 million he got from the New Jersey Devils. Several free agent defensemen found new homes on July 1, including Paul Martin (Devils) and Zbynek Michalek (Phoenix), who'll be shoring up the blueline over on the dark side (that would be Pittsburgh of course). The highly sought after Dan Hamhuis (Nashville) will be joining my second favorite team, the Vancouver Canucks. Meanwhile, several teams in Washington's Southeast Division (often jokingly referred to as "Southleast") bolstered their rosters. The Atlanta Thrashers added goalie Chris Mason from the St. Louis Blues after aquiring Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel from the Cup-winning Blackhawks. Florida Panther's GM Dale Tallon (who is the one behind building the current Blackhawks team) made a few moves of his own, adding Christopher Higgins. The Cats also did some wheeling and dealing during the draft, trading picks and picking up Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner from the Canucks and Dennis Wideman from Boston. And new Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was a busy bee, extending the contract for sniper Marty St. Louis, and aquiring goalie Dan Ellis (Nashville), d-man Pavel Kubina (Atlanta) and dealing winger Alex Tanquay to Calgary.

Back at the ranch, George McPhee did make a few minor moves, one of which included the signing of goaltender Dany Sabourin. Sabourin is a 10-year professional who has played 57 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. He spent 2009-10 with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League (AHL), posting a 28-27-0 record in 56 appearances with a 2.67 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and three shutouts. He finished third in the AHL in saves (1,579), fourth in minutes (3,278) and tied for sixth in wins. He'll likely aid Braden Holtby in Hershey as Varlamov and Neuvirth should be be donning Caps sweaters this season.

And we bid farewell to Hershey Bear fan fave Alexandre Giroux, who is headed to the Edmonton Oilers. Fellow Bear Kyle Wilson will also be leaving Chocolate Town to join the Columbus Blue Jackets. Caps fans also have to say goodbye (again) to big man Milan Jurcina, who is headed up the road to play for the New York Islanders. Gee Juice, we hardly knew ya. The Isles are rumoured to be front runners in the Ilya Kovalchuk race. Kovy is a seeking a phat, multi-year contract for his talents and the rumor mill has been off the charts since the free agency period began.

So that's it for now. Hope all you sports fans have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July and HM will be sure to keep you posted if any fireworks of the free agency sort spark! Cheers....