It seems like a long time ago when Mike Green was in the conversation for best defenseman in the NHL.
But that’s exactly what he was. And it wasn’t actually that long ago.
Green was a back-to-back finalist for the Norris Trophy in 2008-09 and 2009-10, after piling up 73 and 76 points, respectively, for the high-flying Capitals. He didn’t win the voting for the award, but there was no real shame in losing to Zdeno Chara and Duncan Keith, a pair of future Hall of Famers.
Flash forward to the present and new Washington coach Barry Trotz is hoping to get Green’s game back to that level.
“I think what we’re going to do as a team will be right up his alley,” said Trotz, per NHL.com. “Right for his skill set, all the areas of handling pucks and moving pucks and getting up on the play and being active and being a part of the attack, that will all be a part of what we do.
“The areas he needs to work hard, around the cage, some of the boxing out, some of those areas around the net where he can get better. He does that. His skillset when he skates and with his hands are phenomenal.”
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The Capitals, cognizant of having allowed too many clean and controlled zone entries last season, plan to restructure their neutral-zone coverage; this should help Green and others in retrieving the puck. If executed properly, the Capitals, who often had difficulty exiting the defensive zone last season, should quickly reverse the flow up ice led by their mobile defensive unit.
That’s the plan, at least. We’ll have to wait and see how it works out.
It’s no coincidence that Green’s production fell as the Caps opted for less running and gunning, with the objective (misguided as it might have been) of becoming a better playoff team. Injuries were also a major factor for the right-shooting d-man.
For Green, 2014-15 will be an important one, as the 28-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent. In fact, he’s got the highest cap hit of ($6.083 million) of any pending UFA d-man.