Washington columnist calls for Caps to clean house

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The Washington Capitals’ listless loss to the Carolina Hurricanes was like a miserable cherry on a sundae of sadness. So far, things haven’t been much better on Wednesday as the Caps are down 2-0 against the surging Ottawa Senators through 20 minutes.

With the team’s woes in mind, some critics are calling for extreme measures. Even with that in mind, The Washington Times’ Dan Daly’s stance might startle you. He doesn’t just want changes; he wants the team to clean house – and that wouldn’t stop at Alex Ovechkin.

As each month passes, I’m more and more convinced that only a change of scenery — if that — will ever bring back the Ovechkin of three years ago. If he stays in D.C., “wrapped up” in his “rock star status” (in Olie Kolzig’s words), he’ll go right on scoring 30 to 35 goals a season, and the club will go right on being a disappointment.

File that last paragraph, by the way, under: Words I Never Imagined Writing. But after watching the Capitals come apart against Tampa Bay in last year’s playoffs — and after seeing too many no-shows this season (like the 5-0 abomination Monday night in Carolina) — it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that something is rotten at the Caps’ core.

Interesting stuff. If you ask me, the hockey world might look back at the Capitals as “The team that conventional wisdom and the media destroyed.”

Panic button planning

Instead of sticking with the attacking system that made them horrifying for other teams and elating for fans, the franchise bowed to the sentiment that their system wasn’t good enough. Perhaps it wasn’t, but should anyone be surprised that their stars are struggling to adapt to a style that doesn’t play to their strengths?

For every moment when a Steve Yzerman or Mike Modano can adapt from a high-flying mode to a two-way commitment, there are a ton of round-peg-in-square-hole scenarios.

Return to fun instead

As much as Daly harps on the fact that Ovechkin and Mike Green have been around for seven years, those two players are still in their primes. Maybe the team would be better served blowing up an illogical system and ignoring what everyone else has to say rather than panicking and starting from scratch again?

It’s easy to go nuts when the chips are down (see: Patrick Kane trade rumors) and apparently it’s even easier to forget the really bad times when things get better. The Capitals should remember where they came from and what’s gotten them to a higher level rather than trying to please pundits – myself included.

Caps re-sign Copley, who could be Holtby’s future backup

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Pheonix Copley, who returned to Washington this season as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk trade with St. Louis, has signed a two-year extension worth $1.3 million, the Caps announced on Wednesday.

The key wrinkle in the deal is that year one is of the two-way variety, while year two is of the one-way.

It’s worth mentioning because Philipp Grubauer — Washington’s current backup to starter Braden Holtby — is currently a restricted free agent, and believed to be have No. 1 potential.

The 25-year-old has capably served under Holtby for the last two years. He’s coming off an excellent campaign — 13-6-2, .926 save percentage, 2.05 GAA — and sounds like he’s ready to make the next step in his career.

“I would like to stay here; Washington is awesome and the whole organization’s been awesome the last couple of years,” Grubauer said, per the Post. “But I’m ready if the opportunity comes to make the next step and try to be a starting goalie somewhere.”

Grubauer was made available to Vegas at the expansion draft, but Golden Knights GM George McPhee opted to take blueliner Nate Schmidt instead. There are still rumblings that Washington might dangle Grubauer in trade talks.

Copley has a very small NHL resume — just two games, both with St. Louis — but fared very well with AHL Hershey last year. In 16 regular-season games he went 11-5-0 with a .931 save percentage and 2.15 GAA and, in the playoffs, went 5-4 with a .933 save percentage and 2.13 GAA.

Report: Ryan Miller may land in Anaheim

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The Anaheim Ducks might be getting a former Vezina Trophy winner as their backup.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, “there is a lot of expectation of Ryan Miller to Anaheim for approximately $1 million, although I’m not sure if bonuses will be added to that.”

Miller, an unrestricted free agent, has spent the last three years in Vancouver. The Canucks would like to keep him; however, his wife, Noureen DeWulf, is an actress, so Southern California has always been a potential landing spot.

Also, let’s face it, Miller would have a much better shot at winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks, and that’s something the 36-year-old has never done.

As for the Ducks’ motivations, signing Miller would give them a viable starting option should John Gibson struggle or get hurt again. Recall that Anaheim’s last backup, Jonathan Bernier, had a tough time after he was forced into action in the Western Conference Final.

Related: What does the future hold for Ryan Miller?

Jets have contacted Mason about goalie gig

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Though most signs point to Brian Elliott in goal for Winnipeg next season — see here and here — there are other options out there.

Per the Winnipeg Sun, the Jets have reached out to ex-Flyers netminder Steve Mason during the free agent interview window.

Mason, 29, just wrapped the last of a three-year, $12.3 million deal with a $4.1M average annual cap hit. He’s spent the last four-plus seasons with the Flyers but, over the last two, had been part of a platoon with Michal Neuvirth.

Mason played 58 games to Neuvirth’s 28 this year, but didn’t fare especially well, finishing with a .908 save percentage.

We bring this up because whoever signs in Winnipeg will likely have to concede some starts to Connor Hellebuyck, the one-time goalie of the future that struggled mightily through ’16-17. Hellebuyck is still only 24 and the hope is that last year can be spun as a positive learning experience.

“We went through a growing period and the goaltenders were exactly like that,” head coach Paul Maurice said of Hellebuyck’s campaign, per the Free Press. “Put them back in the net after a tough night, yanked [Hellebuyck] early a bunch of times.”

The Sun reports that Winnipeg was “one of several teams that inquired about Mason,” which isn’t surprising. He’d make for a high-caliber backup and a likely upgrade in a number of markets.

 

Bruins re-sign Acciari — two years, $1.45 million

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Looks like Noel Acciari will be around Boston for the foreseeable future.

Acciari, who has spent most of his career shuttling between AHL Providence and the NHL, has signed a two-year, one-way deal worth $725,000, the B’s announced on Wednesday.

Acciari’s contract comes after he appeared in 29 games for the Bruins last year, scoring five points. He also appeared in four of the club’s opening-round playoff games against Ottawa, scoring once.

The former Providence standout, who went undrafted, caught on with Boston in ’15-16 and quickly worked his way into the mix at the NHL level.

There’s a pretty decent chance he’ll eclipse the 29 games played last year, especially if the club doesn’t return veteran forwards Dominic Moore and Drew Stafford, both of whom become unrestricted free agents on Saturday.