The Washington Capitals are once again a valid fantasy hockey option.
Once we finally get the chance to watch NHL hockey games this season, one thing I look forward to seeing is how the Washington Capitals adjust to new Head Coach Adam Oates. Having a former player and an elite offensive one at that, should be a godsend for the Caps players, fans and fantasy owners. Oates knows that players must be at least reasonably happy in order for them to produce at an elite level.
When I talk about players needing to be happy to be successful, look no further than Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Ran out of Philly and separated, the Kings reunited the two and the end result was a Stanley Cup...okay, okay, Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown might have had something to do with the Cup win as well.
One major change will be the atmosphere in the Caps locker room. This talented team was in dire need of some kind of positive shake up. The coaching change and allowing Ovechkin's good buddy Alexander Semin to walk (to Carolina), while trading for Mike Ribeiro, the Caps have suitably changed the dynamic in the dressing room.
Of course Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are the obvious beneficiaries of an expected return to a more offensive style. Remember Ovechkin is a guy who over his first five seasons averaged 54 goals and 106 points. The last two years haven't been so kind to the Russian sniper, as he's averaged only 35 goals and 75 points. In his NHL rookie season, Backstrom recorded 69 points and went on to score 88, 101, 65 and 44 points (in 42 games). The low end for these two superstars is in the point-per-game range.
Don’t forget about the recently acquired Mike Ribeiro. We’re not sure exactly how the lines will play out, but rest assured with his offensive skill, he will find his way onto PP1 in short order. He's recorded 40 assists in five of his last six campaigns, including three with over 50. It's not inconceivable that in an effort to spread out the offence, Backstrom is shuffled to the second line, putting Ribeiro up with Ovechkin. All it takes is a spark. Ribeiro's career high is 83 points recorded back in 2007-08.
Red Dead Redemption
Imagine if Sens Coach Paul MacLean forced Erik Karlsson to play more of a defensive role? Do you think Karlsson would be comfortable or happy playing to say 60 or 70 per cent of his ability while playing it safe? No way José, he would be at best unhappy, at worst seriously put out. Of course Mike Green could be a better defensive player, but the offense he is capable of providing is something that can't be coached.
Over the past two seasons, Green has had to deal with multiple coaching changes, while trying to change his style to suit his bench bosses desires. Add to that a string of untimely injuries and you have a player whose value has plummeted further than than my stock portfolio over the last two years. From 2007-08 to 2009-10, Green's point totals were 56, 73 and 76 points. Have faith poolies, this year, Green will take advantage of his opportunity for redemption and be fantasy relevant once again. Do you believe?
An unheralded free agent signing this off-season, 26-year-old Wojtek Wolski could be one that surprises. Selected by Colorado eight spots before Mike Green in the 2004 entry draft (and 20 spots after Ovechkin), Wolski made the jump directly from Junior hockey to the NHL during the 2005-06 season. He managed six points in nine NHL games following his last season of junior in which he recorded 47 goals and 123 points in only 56 games.
In his first full NHL season, Wolski recorded 50 points. He followed that with 48 points during the next season and 42 the year after that. His fourth year was his best statistically, recording 65 points over 80 games. It was during that season in which he was dealt to Phoenix (for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter), where he scored 18 points in 18 games with his new team. Phoenix then sent Wolski to the Rangers (for Michal Rozsival) in the middle of his first full season in the desert.
Last season, he was traded for the third time in three seasons, this time ending up in Florida. His numbers have been in decline since his 65 point effort in 2009-10. The talent is there and if he can find some chemistry on one of the Caps top two lines, then Wolski may indeed be a sweet sleeper candidate.
Once again it should be safe to pick a Capital this pool season.
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