Looking back at the 'Almost Season' for the Washington Capitals

mikeknublerobbed.jpgAs you know, only one team can win a championship (with the occasional exception in college football, maybe?). Some absolutists will say that anything less is a failure, but really, there are only a few teams in each sport every year that should really kick themselves and wonder “what if?” as they look back. Some franchises get oh-so-close but never quite make it, like the Chris Drury/Danny Briere-fueled Buffalo Sabres teams during the first couple post-lockout seasons.

The window hasn’t closed on the Washington Capitals by any means, but losing in the first round after an incredible Presidents Trophy run left many of them shaking their heads in disbelief. Sirius XM Radio and NHL.com will premiere a new show called “Hockey Diaries: The Almost Season” that chronicles the disappointment felt by the Caps. The show will begin tonight between 7 and 9 pm ET.

Here is more from NHL.com.

Having chronicled their personal journeys through the eventful 2009-10 NHL season by recording their thoughts and observations, Washington Capitals Mike Knuble and Tyler Sloan will give fans a first-hand account of life in the NHL tonight with the premiere of “Hockey Diaries: The Almost Season,” presented by NHL Radio and broadcast on Sirius XM Radio and streamed on NHL.com .

Knuble will appear in person and in front of a live audience at Sirius XM’s Performance 1 Studio radio theater in Washington, D.C. Sloan will join via telephone as both players take questions from those in attendance and those calling in. Sirius XM will air the event live from 7-9 p.m. ET – the documentary for the first hour followed by the studio Q & A that will be hosted by Sirius XM’S Glenn Younes – on NHL Home Ice XM 204 and SIRIUS 208.

The show encourages NHL fans to call in with questions during the live special. The number to submit questions is 1-877-645-6696.

Sounds like it should be an interesting listen, whether you’re a Caps fan who may or may not need to heal those wounds or a fan of hockey in general.

I haven’t come across anything that indicates that this would be a continuing series, but if it’s successful, I’d love it if the series extended to other disappointed teams (maybe the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks?) as well as clubs from other eras of hockey. Either way it’s a great idea and hopefully the execution matches the concept.

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    NHL says it isn’t bothered by Coyotes’ salary cap methods

    PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 02:  Dave Bolland #36 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers skate after the loose puck in Game Three of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Wachovia Center on June 2, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is deftly playing the system when it comes to the salary cap to the point that some might accuse him of exploiting loopholes.

    If the NHL bristles as such tactics, they’re at least not showing it in public.

    In taking on the absolutely dead money of Chris Pronger and Pavel Datsyuk along with the possibly dead money of Dave Bolland, the Coyotes are getting to the cap floor while saving money in the actual cash they’re dishing out.

    The Score’s Ian MacLaren succinctly explains the savings they’re enjoying thanks to these clever trades:

    That’s how the league is viewing Arizona taking on the salaries of Chris Pronger, Pavel Datsyuk and Dave Bolland. The cap hits amount to almost $18 million but result in less than $2 million in actual salary paid out by the club, while simultaneously allowing it to reach the cap floor.

    Honestly, it’s difficult to shake the image of Gary Bettman & Co. bristling at the tactics of a franchise they’ve defended year after year amid myriad arena issues.

    Today’s Slapshot’s Craig Morgan caught up with Bill Daly, whose overall message is that the league is OK with what Arizona is doing.

    “I would say that it’s a matter that we monitor, like all other areas of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), and if we believe it starts to be abused in a way that is inconsistent with how the system is designed to work, at that point, we would try to correct it in collective bargaining with the union,” Daly said. “I would say we aren’t at that point on this issue — we do not view it as the loophole that‎ some describe it as.”

    One key point from Daly is that he doesn’t view Bolland’s case as the same as that of Pronger or Datsyuk. The critical distinction is that Bolland at least hopes to become healthy enough to play again.

    (Chakya’s update wasn’t particularly optimistic in that regard, but a return isn’t totally inconceivable since Bolland is just 30.)

    Best of both worlds for Coyotes

    Again, the Coyotes are really reaping the benefits of this gameplan. Not only are they saving real dollars by absorbing other teams’ dead money, they’re using those trades to acquire promising assets like Jakob Chychrun and Lawson Crouse.

    These are the sort of moves that make the team look bright today and possibly terrifying for opponents in the future, even if the 2016-17 product may be a little hit-or-miss.

    Time may tell how the NHL truly feels

    To some extent, we probably won’t know how the NHL truly feels about this situation until the next CBA eventually gets hashed out.

    Then again, the league did make a big stink about cap circumvention during the memorable days of Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract negotiations, so perhaps such maneuvering really doesn’t bother the NHL?

    Maybe, but you’re free to picture Bettman grumbling about Chayka’s moves either way.

    (H/T to the Score.)

    Alex Ovechkin tweets about tying the knot with Nastya Shubskaya

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    via Alex Ovechkin's Twitter page
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    Alex Ovechkin shared the news via his official Twitter feed that he married Nastya Shubskaya.

    His message includes a caption that translates to “This is happiness,” according to NHL.com.

    Washington Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks indicated that the two got married during a small, private ceremony, so it might have actually happened a week or so ago.

    Here’s the Ovechkin tweet from Sunday:

    This continues a run of big news for Capitals players, with a life-changing event for Ovechkin’s partner-in-crime Nicklas Backstrom as well:

    There were some fun jokes on Twitter about the happy news, with this one possibly taking the cake:

    This summer figures to be a busy one from a hockey standpoint for Ovie, as he’s been part of various activities and will represent Russia at the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

    In case you’re wondering, Ovechkin will soon turn 31.

    Martin Jones is still pretty ‘new’ to this

    SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06:  Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks stands in goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    You’d have to be an awfully harsh critic not to be impressed with what Martin Jones did last season.

    He “didn’t flinch” under the pressure of a run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer described his efforts as some of the best championship round work of “all-time.”

    His signing really made the Sharks look smart. With a strong .919 career save percentage in the regular season and a fantastic .923 playoff save percentage, the 26-year-old has succeeded more or less whenever called upon.

    That brings us to the interesting part, though: there’s not a lot of tape, so to speak, on Jones as an NHL goalie.

    Small sample

    The 2015-16 season was just his third of NHL action, and he’s now at just 99 regular season appearances. That fantastic run of 24 playoff games makes up a significant chunk of his overall experience at the top level.

    Jones has excelled when tested, but if you have any concern with him, it’s just that he’s relatively inexperienced at carrying that No. 1 workload.

    He started in 65 games during the 2015-16 season, towering over his work as a Kings backup (15 appearances in 2014-15, 19 in 2013-14).

    On the bright side, the Sharks have additional evidence that he’s not just a flash in the pan.

    Strong numbers at each level

    Looking at his AHL stats and even going as far back as his WHL days, his numbers have almost always been good to downright impressive.

    It all continues the pattern of Jones looking like the real deal, but next season presents the latest test for the promising goalie.

    So far, he’s passed all of them with flying colors.

    What will Brent Burns’ new contract look like?

    SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 29:  Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at SAP Center on February 29, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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    This is part of Sharks day at PHT…

    There’s only one Brent Burns, that much is clear. Both on and off the ice, there’s no one like him.

    So, what do you pay a guy that’s always imitated, never duplicated?

    That’s the dilemma the San Jose Sharks will be faced with in the coming weeks/months.

    If you were impressed with Bruns’ 17 goals and 60 points in 2014-15, then his 27 goals and 75 points in 2015-16 was out of this world.

    Over the last three seasons, not many forwards have produced as much as Burns, let alone defensemen.

    Since being acquired by San Jose in 2011, Burns has hit double digit goals in all but one year (he scored nine in 30 games in 2012-13).

    “You know how we feel about Brent. Phenomenal year,” GM Doug Wilson said back in June. “When we acquired him it was a big piece to acquire. There’s no doubt he’s important to us. We want him. I think he loves being here. Those conversations will take place shortly.”

    Time to talk numbers…

    It sounds like Burns enjoy playing in San Jose, so him taking a bit of a discount is possible. But if we look at the closest comparable…

    Dustin Byfuglien, who is 31-years-old like Burns, signed a five-year $38 million contract with the Jets this winter. That comes out to an AAV of $7.6 million.

    Both are big, physically imposing and have put up some great numbers in the last few years.

    Over the last three seasons, Byfuglien has scored 19, 18 and 20 goals for a total of 57. Burns has scored 27, 17 and 22 for a total of 66.

    That’s not a huge difference over three years, but Byfuglien wasn’t coming off a 27-goal season and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final when he signed his contract.

    Although we haven’t really heard much regarding Burns’ contract demands, it wouldn’t be shocking for the final cap number to be in the 8 or 9 million range.