Defenseman Patrick Wey worked his way through Boston College and made his NHL debut with the Washington Capitals on Oct. 7, 2013 at the age of 22. After suffering multiple concussions though, he’s decided to hang up his skates, per the Capitals’ official website’s Mike Vogel.
He sustained his first concussion in what proved to be his final NHL game on March 30, 2014 during a fight with Predators forward Rich Clune. The fact that an experienced combatant like Clune agreed to spar with the rookie didn’t sit well with the Capitals.
“They had a little tangle before the fight and they were talking to each other a bit and Weysie seemed to be a willing combatant,” Troy Brouwer said at the time. “But at the same point guys who are known to be fighters, they have to have enough respect to pick their spots to know when guys are able to fight fighters.”
CHICAGO — It’s hard to believe now, but in 2007, when John McDonough was named president of the Blackhawks, the franchise had devolved into an afterthought in the Windy City.
Monday at the United Center, right before Jonathan Toews hoisted the Stanley Cup for the third time in the last six years, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman proclaimed to the fans, “I’d say you have a dynasty.”
Funny what assembling a core of four future Hall of Famers — Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Marian Hossa — can do for a franchise’s fortunes.
Add secondary stars like Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, get a good coach, a smart general manager, draft well, develop well, throw in a little luck, and the result is the first team worthy of the “dynasty” label in the salary-cap era.
“We’ve had to fight through some things, but it was worth every second of it,” said McDonough, speaking to reporters at center ice while the players and their young families celebrated around him.
“To see these guys mature into young adults, into grown men. Most of our guys when I started here were single. Now there’s babies all over the place.”
There will be those who question whether these Blackhawks are truly a dynasty. They haven’t won four straight Cups, like the Montreal Canadiens did from 1975-79, or the New York Islanders from 1980-83. They haven’t won five in seven years like the 1980s Oilers. Twice in the past six years Chicago has been eliminated in the first round.
When asked to weigh in on the dynasty debate, Kane replied, “I don’t know what that means. We’ve got three in six years. I know that’s pretty good.”
Similarly, general manager Stan Bowman deferred to others.
“I don’t think that’s really for me to say,” he said. “That’s really for other people to make those proclamations. All I know is that we’ve got an amazing group here, they’ve accomplished a lot together, and I’m really proud of the effort they’ve given year after year. It doesn’t always go your way, but they’ve accomplished quite a bit and we’re not finished.”
Bowman has another tough summer ahead. The Blackhawks won’t be back in their entirety next season. Some will be forced out due to the salary cap. That’s the “reality” of the situation, as Johnny Oduya put it. That reality is why the likes of Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, and Antti Niemi are playing elsewhere now.
“I think we’re going to enjoy this one for a bit,” said Bowman. “I’ve been thinking of that stuff for a long time. It’s not like it’s going to surprise me. We’ll make it work. We’ve got a plan in place. That’s really for another day. Right now we’re pretty thrilled with this whole scene in here.”
A decade ago, the Blackhawks were playing games before a half-empty arena, an Original Six franchise ignored.
Monday, they kicked off one of the great sports celebrations in this city’s history.
It happened again; the Washington Capitals fostered high hopes, but Alex Ovechkin & Co. fell short of the conference finals.
That doesn’t mean he’s getting the same heat he once did for a playoff exit, however. Mike Milbury and Keith Jones believe that he didn’t have the same burst in Game 7, yet they acknowledged his hard work, as many others have:
Of course, that graying hair brings up a troubling question: what if Ovechkin’s best days are behind him?
He’ll turn 30 during the offseason, and as blogger-turned-front-office-employee Eric Tulsky once pointed out, things tend to really slide when you pass the big three-oh:
In addition, we now have an estimate of how even strength scoring ability changes through a player’s 30’s. On average, players retain about 90% of their scoring through age 29, but the drop from there is pretty sharp — they hit 80% at age 31, 70% at age 32-33, and 60% at age 35.
The easy counter is that Ovechkin isn’t like other snipers.
He’s a special player who could very well live off of his ridiculous power-play shooting. Then again, there’s also the wear-and-tear of being one of the most physical star forwards of his generation. It’s estimated that Ovechkin has thrown 1,224 hits since 2009-10; that’s a ton of extra collisions, even if his opponent received the brunt of the impact in every instance. His reckless style might lose some of its appeal as he goes grayer.
What we know happens next and what we don’t
For one thing, it’s clear there will be no rest for the weary:
That might be a bit challenging for a guy who seemed spent after Game 7:
Anyway, the biggest question marks revolve around the makeup of a Capitals team that may look very different in 2015-16. The impression is that one or more of key free agents such as Joel Ward and Mike Green may not return. It’s also clear that RFA Braden Holtby’s impending raise could make Washington’s estimated $21 million in cap space look like an illusion.
As much as Barry Trotz may request even more defensive prowess, Washington would be wise to focus on giving Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom a little more support. Just look at the drop-off in production after those two:
Ovechkin – 79 points
Backstrom – 79 points
Joel Ward – 49 points
Marcus Johansson – 44 points
Troy Brouwer – 43 points
Ovechkin – 81 points
Backstrom – 78 points
John Carlson – 55 points
Johansson – 47 points
Mike Green – 45 points
It’s plausible that Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov might make big strides next season, but one could argue that the Caps should still shop for more offensive help.
Long story short, Ovechkin is likely to remain a star for some time, yet Washington has to hope that he defies broader stats about snipers falling sharply after they turn 30. It should be fascinating to see if all the talk about growth ends up being justified, especially for “The Great Eight.”