While a lot of things have changed since the lockout, the Washington Capitals team of 2003-04 may be the best example of what to do with a veteran filled roster that is proving to be far less then the sum of its parts.
On paper, the Capitals of 2003-04 should very well have been a playoff team. Names like Robert Lang, Sergei Gonchar, Jeff Halpern, Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Dainius Zubrus, Mike Grier, Brendan Witt and Olaf Kolzig were the backbone of a team that just the year before had finished 2nd in the division. But the year before they had narrowly missed the playoffs and the team was looking to be at a crossroads.
So what happened? Well, simply put, management decided to “blow it up”.
Peter Bondra: traded on February 18th 2004 to Ottawa for Brooks Laich and Ottawa’s 2nd in 2004.
Robert Lang: traded on February 27th 2004 to Detroit for Tomas Fleischman, Detroit’s 1st in 2004 and a 4th round pick in 2006.
Sergei Gonchar: traded on March 3rd 2004 to Boston for Shaonne Morrisonn, Boston’s 1st in 2004 and 2nd in 2004.
Mike Grier: traded on March 9th 2004 to Buffalo for Jakub Klepis
Brendan Witt: traded on March 9th 2006 to Nashville for Nashville’s 1st in 2006.
what the Caps got as a result of their trades and ineptitude over that 3 year stretch?
Alexander Ovechkin (#1OA in 2004)
Jeff Schultz (#27OA in 2004) via Boston’s 1st
Mike Green (#29OA in 2004) via Detroit’s 1st
Chris Bourque (#33OA in 2004)
Mikhail Yunkov (#62OA in 2004) via Boston’s 2nd
Sami Lepisto (#66OA in 2004)
Nicklas Backstrom (#4OA in 2006)
Semyon Varlamov (#23OA in 2006) via Nashville’s 1st
Michal Neuvirth (#34OA in 2006)
So for two actual seasons of ineptitude they essentially were able to draft the majority of their core that isn’t named Alexander Semin. Bourque has since been picked up on waivers and Yunkov has yet to sniff the NHL, but Ovechkin, Green, Backstrom, Schultz and Varlamov are among their core players. Lepisto and Neuvirth are also both highly touted players and will likely be contributors down the road.
Now why do I bring this up? Because right now we have a Carolina Hurricanes team that is FAR less then the sum of its parts. But we also have some impending UFAs that could bring in some serious return at the deadline over the next year or so. Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen, Scott Walker, Joe Corvo, Aaron Ward and Niclas Wallin are all coming off the books after this season. With the exceptions of Walker and Wallin all are players that could bring significant return at the trade deadline.
With the strength of this years draft, especially on the wings as that is one area the Canes need the most help, it would be stupidity not to take advantage of the situation. Names such as Taylor Hall, Cam Fowler, John McFarland, Vladimir Tarasenko and Kirill Kabanov are already well know around hockey circles. But there are other excellent prospects in the top 15 such as Tyler Seguin, Brandon Gormley, Mikael Granlund, Erik Gudbranson, John Merrill and Alex Burmistrov that I am very high on this season. That’s not to say that GMs will be willing to overpay to the same extent that they did for the Caps players in 2004. But they also might be willing to pay more then a lot of people think for our impending UFAs for a shot at the cup. Lest we forget the examples from the past of Adam Foote going back to Colorado, Tkachuk to Atlanta and our very own acquisition of Doug Weight. All veteran players with plenty of post season experience and performance history… although Tkachuk is still confusing on that one years later. Here’s how I think our guys could play out value wise:
Ray Whitney: Mid to late first. Possible late 2nd-mid 3rd round pick or prospect as well depending on the team trading for him and the prices at the deadline.
Matt Cullen: 2nd round pick, prospect
Aaron Ward: late 2nd round/early 3rd round pick
Scott Walker: 3rd round pick
Joe Corvo: the real wildcard of our bunch. He could be worth anywhere from a first plus to a 2nd rounder depending on the prices and need for an offensive defenseman at the deadline.
If we go through with this it could suck for a couple years to be a Caniac. Or we could outright do a Philly type turnaround and use the extra cap room this year to bring in a legit first line talent to go with what core we do have. The question is if JR wants to go through with it. But I think even JR realizes that the window for a championship with this core is over and that we have the perfect opportunity to go through an overhaul, due to impending UFAs, that we never have had shy of the post-lockout season. Personally I’d keep the following roster regulars: Eric Staal, Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu, Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, Cam Ward, Chad LaRose, Andrew Alberts
I’d be quite happy with a core that looks like this in 2-3 years, even if it does mean the pains of an actual rebuild:
Zac Boychuk-Eric Staal-Tyler Seguin
Drayson Bowman-Maxim Kitsyn-Tuomo Ruutu
Jussi Jokinen-Brandon Sutter-Chad LaRose
Nic Blanchard-Stefan Chaput-Nick Dodge
Joni Pitkanen-Tim Gleason
Jamie McBain-Jarred Tinordi
Brett Carson-Andrew Alberts
ahhh to dream the impossible dream. Faster, younger and most definitely more exciting to watch then what we have out there right now. But of course knowing that, JR would never go for it. Of course, IMO he’s part of the problem, but we’re not getting rid of him until he decides to step down and we all know that.
But Mo Must Go next offseason, plain and simple. We need a REAL coach. Don’t get me wrong, Chairman Mo did a great job of getting a defensive system in place with a team where the forwards probably didn’t know the name of the backup goalie under Lavihockey. But frankly we need someone that actually knows what an offensive zone concept is, yet alone has one. Ted Nolan has crossed my mind, as have some people from the Dub such as Don Hay and Willie Desjardins. If you want a real blast from the past how about former Whalers great Kevin Dineen, who has won the AHLs coach of the year award. Just SOMEONE that knows what they’re doing offensively to go along with a new team.
But that’s probably too much to ask. And knowing my luck now that I’m outright advocating to blow it up they’ll turn it around just in time to get close enough to the playoff picture to keep us from going through with the rebuild just to miss out in the end. And that my friends would be the worst possible outcome for the season.