Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bourque a Penguin

Chris Bourque did not clear waivers today and instead will now be a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In my personal opinion the Capitals must have felt that Bourque was not going to stick with the club so they just let him go. They had to know that it was likely he would get claimed by someone.

The Bears won't likely see Bourque in Wilkes-Barre as he would have to clear waivers again and I don't think he would although if Pittsburgh claimed him then a lot of teams passed on the diminutive winger.

There are surely lots of fans in Hershey who are glad he is gone. He didn't seem to be too well liked by many of the fans due to some reason or another but he was a talented hard working player who will be missed by the Bears.

His time in Washington was probably limited when Fleischmann returns from injury but everyone figured he would get a couple weeks to prove himself. Apparently the Caps were figuring that there COULD POSSIBLY be more talented and useful players put through waivers.

Not sure what to make of the entire situation but good luck to Chris Bourque, hopefully he makes it in Pittsburgh and stays in the NHL.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Giroux and Aucoin clear waivers

Both Alexandre Giroux and Keith Aucoin cleared waivers and have reported to Hershey. Surely both are disappointed in being in Hershey but both should know they are on the top of the Caps list for call ups.

Unfortunately for them they are part of an organization that is very deep at the forward position. Aucoin could end up in Washington IF the Caps are able to move Michal Nylander and his huge salary. Giroux will surely be the top call up IF a scoring line winger goes down with injury.

For all of you out there that question why Giroux is still in the AHL it is this simple...he is a scorer. But he isn't the fastest or best skater on the ice meaning he is unlikely to score as much on the top line. So the question for most teams is can he play on the penalty kill (probably not) or does he offer another type of play, physical or defensive, and he doesn't.

But you know who does....Chris Bourque. Bourque and Giroux play the same position, left wing, and while Giroux will surely score more goals he doesn't offer the other benefits. Bourque can score too when given the chance but if he doesn't score he can still kill penalties and plays very well in his own end.

Giroux is one of the best pure goal scorers in the game today. But his game is limited beyond that. I do think he could play in the NHL on a 2nd line but he needs to improve his consistency on that level first.

Hershey also sent 3 players to South Carolina today. Jake Hauswirth, Dylan Yeo, and Michael Dubuc will start the season in the ECHL. Dubuc was hurt by the Giroux reassignment as they are similar players. Without Giroux I think Dubuc would have gotten a chance on the first or second line in Hershey BUT he isn't a great defensive player so his value is low as a 3rd or 4th line guy.

Yeo was hoping to make the jump from ECHL to AHL this season after playing most of the season in the ECHL last year but with Alzner and Carlson both starting the season in Hershey it hurt his chances.

Hauswirth is a young kid who hasn't played above the USHL level. He has a bright future but needs a little seasoning.

Those cuts leave Hershey with 17 forwards (including Grant McNeill) and 9 defensemen. There is a possibility that no more cuts will be made prior to the season opener but who knows. At most I would think 2 more players could go but that would be it.

The two players most likely to leave...

Anton Gustafsson - the organization has to decide whether playing 3rd line minutes (or sitting some games) here in the AHL or returning to play in Sweden every night in a different style would be more beneficial. The biggest complaint about his play this fall has been his tepid play which is the European influence. So maybe allowing him to stay would get him ready for next year.

Patrick Wellar - he played very well for the Bears last season in the games he played but does it really make sense to keep 3 extra defensemen? With Alzner and Carlson surely playing every night and guys like Collins and McNeill who have really improved I don't think a player like Wellar will see much time.

There are obviously other players that should be concerned about their status but those 2 are probably the most nervous heading into Saturday.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Caps Make Final Cuts and Bears Cut 10

Keith Aucoin, Alexander Giroux, Brandon Sugden, and Karl Alzner were reassigned to the Hershey Bears this morning. Aucoin and Giroux will need to clear waivers but should be in Hershey tomorrow assuming they do.

I am sure it was tough for Aucoin and Giroux to hear that they didn't make the team but both will surely be the top call ups this season if they are in Hershey. Alzner really got caught up in a numbers game as the Caps didn't want to keep more than 7 defensemen on the opening night roster. Add that to the fact that Sloan would have had to clear waivers and Alzner didn't made the decision a little easier.

The Aucoin reassignment more than likely means that the Caps aren't planning on doing anything with Michal Nylander right now. Or they haven't been able to as of now anyway. If Nylander ends up getting moved I would expect Aucoin to make the jump up to the NHL but if Nylander stays in Washington then there really isn't room for Coiner.

None of the moves were overly surprising. Laing is a favorite of Boudreau's and Bourque has worked hard to get his chance. Had Fehr and/or Flash been healthy I don't think Bourque would have made it. And he better play his best hockey or he will be in trouble when those guys get healthy.

Check back tomorrow to see if Giroux and Aucoin can clear waivers and report in Hershey before Saturday night's opener.

As for the Hershey end 10 players have seen their final day in Hershey.

Andy Boudreau, Ben Boudreau, Joel Broda, Gavin Morgan, Rick Cleaver, Ben McLeod, Karl Sellan, Scott Langdon, Zach Tarkir, and Todd Ford.

Those cuts and the additions from Washington leaves the Bears with work to do before Saturday's opener. 19 forwards and 10 defensemen remain in Hershey plus 2 goalies. That would equal 31 players and the expectation is that the roster will be at 25 for the opening weekend. So after some simple math you can see that 6 players need to be cut. Those numbers include Sean Collins who technically hasn't been reassigned yet that I have heard and Grant McNeill who is out for a while yet with an injury. So I will say 5 cuts need to be made this week.

Of those 5 I am guessing that 2 will be defensemen and 3 will be forwards. There is no reason to have more than 8 defensemen in Hershey to start the season in my opinion (which lets be honest...doesn't mean much).

I thought the Caps had tough cuts to make for their final roster but the Bears might have it even harder.

My guesses....

On defense I think Patrick Wellar and Zack Miscovic will be headed to South Carolina to start the season.

At forward I think Anton Gustafsson will be headed back to Sweden for another year and Michael Dubuc and Jake Hauswirth will be headed to South Carolina. Dubuc is a great scorer but with Giroux in Hershey he is kind of without a roster spot.

The other players on the bubble are probably Josh Godfrey and Dylan Yeo on defense and Joe Finley and Trevor Bruess at forward.

It will be interesting to see what is decided and what the roster looks like for Saturday night.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bears Get 2 More

Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle were sent to Hershey today. Both are surely disappointed as both had excellent camps and were pushing for a spot. Expect both to be early callups for injuries this season.

Those moves leave the Caps at 31 players now (18 forwards, 10 d-men, 3 goalies) with about 5 days left to make it to 23. Below you can find my opinion of what will happen but the Peerless Prognosticator also gave his feelings earlier, check it out.

With Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann both injured you could effectively call it 16 forwards. Nylander is a wild card as the team obviously doesn't want him there but they can't seem to dump him. It will be interesting to see what happens there.

I would be surprised if they keep more than 7 defensemen to start the season. That means that more than likely we will see Alzner, Collins, and Sloan in Hershey before the Bears opener. The only way any of them make it is if either the Caps decide to scratch 2 defensemen every night or they make a trade which seems unlikely at this point.

Goalies is pretty straight forward...either Neuvirth or Varlamov will be in Hershey soon. The smart money is on Neuvy as Varly proved his NHL abilities in the playoffs.

Forward is where the waters get murky. With Fehr and Flash out (and assuming 7 D and 2 G) there are 16 open spots. Taking the free agent signees and last season's holdovers you can assume that 13 spots are already filled (including Nylander) that leaves 3 spots remaining.

You can't look at overall talent and ability and just assume they will make it....or Perreault probably would have stayed. What you need to look at is the roster make up and what they need.

With Fehr and Flash out there is a need for a complementary scorer. With Brashear gone there is a need for a tough guy. And the last spot is really the wild card spot.

In my opinion you will see Chris Bourque take Flash's spot and contribute on the 2nd/3rd line and maybe get some PP point time on the 2nd unit. Bourque is a talented high energy player that can score a few goals for you. And he is unlikely to clear waivers unless of course he is injured and a question which he is right now.

IF he is too injured to play and they decide to keep someone else and either IR him or send him down then I think Giroux gets his shot but I wouldn't count on it.

That leaves 2 more spots. My money is on Quintin Laing to be the wild card player. He can play 3rd/4th line style, is great in the locker room, and will put everything he has on the ice everyday. The perfect kind of player to inspire others. He WILL remain in Washington.

The last spot is a surprise to some. Brandon Sugden. While some figure he is a lock to get sent down I say not so fast. Brashear is gone and there is NO ONE left to really handle the fighting and protect the Ovi's, Semin's, and Nicky's of the world. Sure Bradley and Lainger can play physical but drop the gloves against the tougher guys...not likely. Sugden is still in camp for a reason. He can be the 14th forward and play every other game or so on the 4th line and be there for insurance.

Don't be surprised if that does happen and he stays.

As I mentioned before Nylander's situation is confusing. IF they are able to move him then I think Aucoin will be a Cap for a while. If not then Aucoin returns to Hershey (assuming he clears waivers).

I don't see how they move Nylander at this point but who knows, stranger things have happened.

So to sum up everything I said above expect to see Keith Aucoin, Alexander Giroux, Karl Alzner, Sean Collins, Tyler Sloan, and Michal Neuvirth in Hershey before next weekend.

Also keep in mind though that the Caps have to get under the cap and last year they never carried the full 23 healthy bodied roster. So if that issue presents itself again you would likely see Sugden and maybe Laing or Bourque also sent down.

They have until the 30th to get down to 23 players....expect the moves to come early in the week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Took In Practice This Morning...

I went down to Hershey to check out practice this morning. After yesterday's cuts there were enough guys where French could do a legitimate scrimmage session. Talking to the guy next to me he said that was the first scrimmaging he had seen this week. Good practice, high intensity and somewhat sloppy (not surprising considering first scrimmage in Hershey) from the guys as many of them are fighting for a roster spot.

It is tough to know who some of these young players are. I was close enough to hear the line announcements for the white side so I was able to get a decent look at some of those guys. The two I paid the most attention too were Jake Hauswirth and Anton Gustafsson. Other than that though there are so many faces that you don't recognize I am not going to pretend to know who they were.

Hauswirth looked good to be honest. He looks confident and skilled, might need a season in the ECHL to really be ready for full time service in Hershey but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Hershey this season. He is listed (and played) as a center which is not exactly a barren spot on the roster this season.

As for Gustafsson, you can see the skill he has. But he seems a little more hesitant to put his neck out there and go for it. I would say that him and Hauswirth are fighting for the same place in the organization. Judging from one scrimmage (which is definitely not enough) I would say Hauswirth has the upper hand.

The two players that stood out the most during the session was Amadio and Carlson. On two separate occasions Carlson jumped in during power play drills and had some good scoring chances. And Ammo seemed to be ready to play for real. He looked good and seems ready to be the vocal leader of this team. Great to see him back this season.

I am hoping to get down to the preseason game tomorrow night to get a better look at some of the younger players and hope to have some more insight after that.

Below are some of the pictures we got.

In other news, three more players were sent to Hershey today, Andrew Gordon, Kyle Wilson, and Oskar Osala. Doubtful that any of the three play tomorrow but maybe Saturday?

That leaves 33 players in Washington meaning 10 more will be sent to Hershey (or elsewhere) before September 30. Although 2 extra could stay IF Fehr or Flash are put on IR. I would expect to see at least another handful of cuts this weekend sometime.

Now the pictures:

French coaching up the white team

Carlson jumping up on the power play....Cash made the save though

Bouchard and Bacashihua

Ammo learning more

Ammo ready for the rush

Team meeting as French went over practice slate

Pinner waiting his turn

Opening faceoff of the scrimmage

Holtby looking bored at far end

Captain Helmer

Monday, September 21, 2009

First Round of Cuts and Practice Begins

Yesterday the Capitals cut 15 players from their camp. Most (if not all) of those players will head to Hershey for the opening of Bears camp this morning in Hershey.

Those reassigned were defensemen Zach Miscovic, Patrick Wellar, Dylan Yeo, Josh Godfrey and Vladimir Denisov, forwards Boyd Kane, Michael Dubuc, Joel Broda, Joe Finley, Anton Gustafsson, Trevor Bruess, Jake Hauswirth and Ryan Jasinsky and goaltenders Todd Ford and Braden Holtby.

No real surprises there. The organization was probably hoping Anton Gustafsson would show more and make it harder to send him away but he didn't. And Boudreau basically called him out saying Perrault and Wilson were both better then him during camp and the games.

Gustafsson is in a tough place though. He is a center and while the center position was an organizational weakness a couple years ago it is now a strength. In Hershey alone you have Aucoin, Wilson, Perrault, Beagle, Joudrey, and then players like Hauswirth and Bruess. There is so much depth at center in the organization now that you have to wonder IF Gustafsson wouldn't be better off going home to Sweden for one more season.

He is going to have to impress at Bears camp if he intends to play the season in Hershey. Right now I would say he will be in South Carolina or Sweden with the intent of being in Hershey next season. Although that could change drastically IF Aucoin and or Beagle make the Caps out of camp.

Camp starts this morning in Hershey with an on ice practice from 10-11:30. Most days this week practice will be at those times. For a complete schedule click here.

All on ice practices are open to the public so if you have a job that would allow it maybe take a morning and head down to Giant Center to see this years and future years Bears teams. Keep in mind that there are still 42 players in Caps camp meaning there will be at least 19 more cuts coming this week. So of all the players in Hershey to start the week they will have to compete with around 20 more players come the end of the week.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Depth...You Want Depth!

Last season most of us would agree was one of the deepest most talented Hershey teams ever. They played 4 lines every night all night which was truly the biggest difference over other teams. When your skating 4 lines while other teams are only skating 3 that gives you a distinct advantage.

After the season I was sure we would see lots of changes to the roster. I didn't think Bourque, Giroux or Joudrey would come back. And I wasn't sure about Alzner and Carlson and where they would end up in 09-10.

But I figured that this years Hershey team would be a little less talented and a little less deep. Well I might have been mistaken.

Looking at the roster I honestly think this team might be DEEPER then last years team. Assuming Bourque and Laing make the Caps opening night roster (which is VERY possible) this would be the potential opening night lineup in Hershey:

  • Michael Neuvirth
  • Jason Bacashihua
  • Karl Alzner
  • John Carlson
  • Tyler Sloan
  • Sean Collins
  • Patrick McNeill
  • Bryan Helmer
  • Greg Amadio
  • Dylan Yeo
  • Keith Aucoin
  • Alexander Giroux
  • Andrew Gordon
  • Kyle Wilson
  • Jay Beagle
  • Steve Pinizzotto
  • Oskar Osala
  • Mathieu Perreault
  • Francois Bouchard
  • Boyd Kane
  • Brandon Sugden
  • Anton Gustaffson
  • Andrew Joudrey
  • Darren Reid

That is an amazing roster. But now consider the players NOT mentioned there. Oh and if you count that includes 2 extra defense and 2 extra forwards for a complete lineup!

  • Braden Holtby
  • Zach Miscovic
  • Victor Dovgan
  • Josh Godfrey
  • Josh Hauswirth
  • Michael Dubuc
  • Trevor Bruess
  • Grant McNeill
  • Joe Finley

Any of the players just listed would start for damn near EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THE AHL! Dubuc scored 35 goals in 49 games last season for South Carolina. And by my count he is not in the top 14 forwards on the roster.

That is depth.

Obviously lots of things can still happen. Beagle is playing great during camp and is going to make it hard to send him back down. But facts are facts and there are currently 11 forward spots locked up (not counting Flash and Fehr) in Washington so Beagle is going to have to beat out an incumbent.

Any way you look at it this team might not be as strong on the first line...especially if Giroux doesn't come back...but top to bottom this team is (on paper at least) better than last years team.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Roster Spots Open in Caps Camp

I have mentioned before players that I think can make the Caps out of camp and have also explained why it will be tough for them.

Well it got a little easier for one player earlier this week....

Chris Bourque in my mind is now a Cap who has to get beaten out for the position after Tomas Fleischmann was listed as out until sometime in October due to a blod clot in his leg.

Sure a player like Alexandre Giroux COULD beat out Bourque for the spot but I doubt it.

Assuming Fehr does not start the season in Washington (or healthy) then there is another spot open on the roster. Currently (without Fehr and Flash) the Caps have 11 forward spots locked down with players from last season including Nylander. I definitely expect the Caps to keep 13 forwards IF they can stay under the cap.

I know the Caps want to move Nylander but they are going to struggle to do so with his contract. So assuming he is still in Washington I would say that there are 3 players vying for the 2 open forward spots:
  • Chris Bourque
  • Alexandre Giroux
  • Quintin Laing
In my opinion Bourque and Laing are the front runners for those spots. But I would love to see Giroux get his chance to play in the NHL on a 2nd line and get power play minutes. We will see.

At the other end of the ice it appears both Alzner and Carlson could be heading back to Hershey to start the season. Unless there is a trade or injury to one of the defensemen the Caps already have 7 guys back from last season. And Boudreau had this to say about the defensive battle:

"I don't know what he has to do. I don't want to sound like an idiot, but he's got to wow us. You look at the seven that have been here for the better part of two years, somebody's really got to beat them out of a job. I liken it to a championship fight: When you come to the 15th round, you either knock him out or you go to decision. And if you go to decision, usually the champion gets the call."

He was talking about Alzner chances in that response but I think you could lump Carlson into that discussion too.

Camp is going well and if you are looking for daily updates and news definitely check out Capitals Insider on a daily basis. They have lots of good updates and information from the practices.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Roster Moves you MIGHT see In Washington

With rookie camp open and training camp beginning on the 12th there are sure to be some good position battles to make the Capitals roster. Looking over the Capitals roster and considering the league mandated maximum roster size of 23 I would say that few Bears have a shot at the NHL this season.

Without including Alzner, Carlson, Aucoin, or Bourque and the Caps already have 22 players. Although that does include Eric Fehr who is reportedly rehabbing shoulder surgery and could spend a substantial amount of time in Hershey this season.

So assuming the rumors about Fehr are true then there are 21 spots filled with players who played regularly in the NHL last season. Looking at the numbers provided by it shows the Caps over the salary cap currently. That doesn't include Varly or Schultz but does include Alzner, Collins, Sloan, Fehr, and Aucoin.

Taking the above players out of the equation and adding Varly and Schultz the Caps are still right at the Cap.

Basically what I am getting at is there might be trades coming this year.

Obviously it is going to depend on who plays really well and who struggles but I think these players should be watching their backs:

  • D Shaone Morrisonn - still young at 26 and still good but he could bring some valuable picks or prospects and is expendable with Carlson and Alzner ready to play. With a salary of almost 2 million moving him would clear up significant space.
  • D Milan Jurcina - also only 26 he isn't quite as valuable as Morrisonn but does make almost 1.5 million and is not the best defensemen on the roster. Also like Morrisonn he is a free agent next season so trading him will at least give the Caps something in return.
  • D Jeff Schultz - I would be surprised to see him go but after getting burned multiple times in the playoffs last season I think lots of fans are ready to say goodbye. He is younger than the other 2 at 23 and is much cheaper as he is scheduled to make around 750k this season.

  • C Michael Nylander - obviously he is available but no one wants him. He didn't play well even when he got into games last season which obviously doesn't help his value. Also making way too much (almost 4.9 million) and has a no movement clause.....meaning the Caps can't trade him or send him to the AHL without his permission. Taking up valuable roster and cap space though so expect McPhee to try and move him.
  • LW Tomas Fleischmann - a fan favorite in Hershey he finally began to show his value and talent last season in Washington but then disappeared in the playoffs. Fans are beginning to lose patience and the organization isn't far behind. Boudreau has lots of faith in Flash but even he seems to be tired of waiting. He doesn't bring a ton of cap relief if moved though as he only makes 725k this season.
  • LW Chris Bourque - this name probably surprises some but hear me out. IF the Caps decide to keep Flash then where does Bourque play in Washington? He doesn't as he isn't a 4th line winger in my opinion. And if they send him to Hershey he is likely to be claimed on waivers meaning the Caps get nothing in return for him. So they might trade him for prospects or picks or could package him with another player to make a trade more appealing.

Honestly I think any of those players could be moved. For anyone who wonders why I didn't include Theodore on that list it is because there is NO WAY the Caps would go into the season with 2 rookie goaltenders as their only options. Theodore WILL be in Washington this season and WILL play.

I think you will see at least one of the above players move and you could see 2 or 3 of them in my opinion. Without the moves you would likely see Alzner, Carlson, Aucoin, Giroux, and possibly even Bourque headed back up to Hershey. Which I am obviously fine with.

It will be an interesting upcoming month.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Camp is here already

It feels like only a few weeks ago the Bears were flying home from Manitoba with a new piece of hardware.

Talk about a short offseason....87 days off!

The Caps rookie camp began yesterday down in Virginia and there are plenty of expected Bears and hopeful Bears taking part. For a full roster click here but these are the names Bears fans should expect to hear sometime this season or next:

  • Joel Broda - probably going to spend another year in juniors but expect him in Hershey for 10-11
  • Trevor Bruess - potentially a Bear this season, if not he will be a top call up from SC
  • Stefan Della-Rovere - is not eligible for Hershey this season but will probably be back for 10-11
  • Michael Dubuc - great offensive talent is probably looking at another year in SC
  • Joe Finley - moved to LW which could mean a season in SC to get used to the position
  • Anton Gustaffson - 1st round pick is going to fight for time in Hershey, could get it
  • Jake Hauswirth - big power forward probably on outside looking in for Hershey
  • Dmitri Kugryshev - apparently out of shape for camp, probably headed back to juniors
  • John Carlson - not going to see him in 10-11 but he could be back in Hershey for this season
  • Josh Godfrey - deep defensive core could put him back in SC for another season
  • Eric Mestery - probably headed back to juniors but could see him in 10-11
  • Zach Miscovic - going to fight for playing time in Hershey this season
  • Braden Holtby - originally was going to back up Neuvy in Hershey, now looking at time in SC
  • Michal Neuvirth - will either start in Hershey or back up in Washington
  • Simeon Varlamov - will either start in Hershey or in Washington

Those are the players you should know now. There are others obviously (23 players total at camp) but they are more fill ins and future prospects.

I think Neuvy has a CHANCE (small but still a chance) to unseat Varly in Washington which in my opinion would mean Varly returns to the A while Theodore and Neuvy play in Washington. BUT Neuvy would have to have the camp of his life to do that.

The Bears roster is so deep that many of the top prospects are probably headed for South Carolina at least for a while. It is absolutely sick to look at the potential roster and realize how much talent is legitimately there for another run at a cup.

On my list for what I expect to be a 25 man roster (2 G, 8/9 D, 14/15 F) I have 3 goalies, 11 defensemen, and a ridiculous 22 forwards that COULD play in the AHL this season.

What I am trying to say is.....South Carolina fans....expect another very talented group!

Check back tomorrow as I take a look at some potential roster combinations. I will be back regularly now that the season is almost here.