The Washington Capitals, a day after trading for Dustin Penner and trading Martin Erat, traded for goalie Jaroslav Halak. A lot of Washington Capitals fans are probably mad that they didn’t get a top 4 defenseman. There are plenty of things to be mad at George McPhee for. The Halak trade is one of them, but not getting a top 4 defenseman is not one of them. There was nothing that he could have done. The Calgary Flames have no desire to trade Ladislav Smid. The Vancouver Canucks needed to be blown away to trade Alexander Edler.
The Washington Capitals problem, in my mind, isn’t that they lack a fourth top 4 defenseman. I think that they have four top 4 caliber defenseman in Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Mike Green, and Dmitry Orlov. They have another one (albeit in a small sample size) in Hershey in Nate Schmidt. Alzner and Carlson are one heck of a defensive pairing. They are not a part of the problem at all. They are definitely playing like top 4 defensemen. No arguing that. Same with Orlov and Green. Orlov and Green are an intriguing duo. They have a ton of offensive upside, but they also have a problem playing defense. However, their contributions on offense usually off-set any damage they cause on defense. So why have the Washington Capitals been allowing a ton of shots lately? The third defensive pairing, that’s why. It might be easier to show you.
As you can see, yes, Alzner and Carlson (Carlzner) do allow a good number of shots. That is, however, to be expected because they are playing against the highest level of competition and play a ton of minutes. Green and Orlov (Greenlov) actually allow less shots against per 20 minutes than Alzner and Carlson, but they also aren’t facing the best like Carlzner do. The problem is the third pairing of Connor Carrick and John Erskine (Carskine). Despite facing the lowest level of competition, they allow the most shots on goal. That’s not good. So how do we fix that? We fix the third defensive pairing of course.
The Washington Capitals have enough cap space to add some players. According to Capgeek, once they send down Philipp Grubauer and Ryan Stoa, they’ll have $2,136,540 in cap space. One of them is obviously going to be Evgeny Kuznetsov. Let’s say he gets $900,000. That leaves the caps with $1,236,540. Nate Schmidt has a $925,000 cap hit. Call him up and have him either play with Green on the second pairing or keep Orlov and Green together and let Schmidt play on the third pairing.
So that makes the new pairings:
Those question marks stand for one player: Jack Hillen. I would like to see Hillen at least get a chance to prove that he’s better than Erskine and Carrick. I truly believe that Hillen is better than those two, solely based on the principal that he really can’t be much worse than Erskine or Carrick. One slight problem: Hillen’s a lefty, and we all know how obsessed Adam Oates is with lefty-righty combinations. However, I think that it is best for the team if Oates ignores the fact that there are two lefties in the third pairing. The Erskine-Carrick pairing is not working at all. Why not try something new: Play your best six defensemen regardless of what hand they happen to favor?
All I’m saying is that McPhee has the pieces for Adam Oates. Whose fault is it if those pieces are not used optimally?