Caps correspondent Brad Parker returns to look at the post-Dale Caps.
Dale Hunter told us he was heading home on Monday. Our former captain is now also our former coach. His time in D.C. (well, this time) was short, but he made a major impact. Here’s a look at which Caps will benefit now that Hunter’s heard London calling.
(Ed. note: Brad will be back later today with five that will suffer.)
1. Alex Ovechkin
Hunter’s system was not developed to highlight Mr. Ovechkin’s talents. Despite that fact, what Ovi did in the playoffs had his biggest detractors looking at him in a new light. Even Mike Milbury was praising his leadership and defense. But seriously, is that what we want out of the most talented offensive player on the planet?
It’s great that he’s blocking shots and leading by example, we want that effort to stay, but the Caps would be much better served by him making opponents adjust to his talent. Who knows who the new coach will be, and what sort of system he’ll employ, but I’d wager that it gives Ovi a little more freedom to create oh-fense.
2. Mike Green
Again, Hunter’s system was not a great fit. Two years ago Green was a finalist for the Norris, but not because of his defensive skills. Since then, injuries limited his time and under Hunter he struggled to score. Green is at his most dangerous on the power play but this year he didn’t get that chance.
An extended experiment using Ovi at the point and Hunter’s loyalty to Dennis Wideman kept Green off the PP’s first-unit. That finally changed late in the playoffs and quickly paid dividends. Regardless of system, you’d have to assume the new coach will at least let Green man the point while Ovi moves back to the slot for extra-man situations.
3. Mathieu Perreault
Remember him? On his way out of town on Monday Hunter mentioned that you needed speed guys in the playoffs, yet Perreault didn’t play a second in the Rangers series. He may not be a future all-star, but a new regime offers him a better opportunity of reaching his potential.
4. Dmtry Orlov
While the Caps perpetually struggled to score in the playoffs, Orlov never even got a sweater. A young, rested talent that can create opportunities never got a chance to gain valuable experience and potentially give the team some much-needed spark. Why, because in Hunter’s world you don’t win by scoring goals, you win by stopping the other team from scoring goals. And in 14 straight playoff games he decided Jeff Schultz or John Erskine was more valuable than Orlov could be.
Will a new coach use Orlov in the postseason? No one knows, but I can guarantee Orlov won’t play fewer than zero minutes the next time he’s in the postseason.
5. Mike Knuble
Knuble’s days in Washington may be over, but any chance of a return must have improved on Monday. Despite being the type of gritty player that seemed to perfectly fit his system, Hunter made Knuble a healthy scratch for much of the stretch run. He got back in the lineup during the playoffs but he couldn’t have been excited about the prospect of playing a full season for the guy that benched him. That guy’s gone, maybe Knuble stays.