Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Open Letter to Mike Green

Dear Mr. Green,

First of all, I'd like to thank you for helping make the Capitals good again. Your skating is worth the price of admission in itself and your great wrist shot and playmaking abilities are a nice bonus. I love your play enough that I decided to leave the Ovechkin and Backstrom jerseys until later and picked up a 52 off the rack of the Caps store at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

I understand that the past year and a half have been rough on you. First, those crummy Habs fans and their automated voting programs robbed you of an all-star game spot. Then, Chris Pronger dislocated your shoulder for the rest of the season. I'm sure it was painful, and that certainly wasn't nice of him. After that historic goal-scoring streak you ran out of your favorite Easton stick and had to switch just in time to face Pittsburgh in the playoffs, also after having girlfriend troubles, and while you weren't bad per say, you weren't Mike motherf'in Green, he of 31 goals in 68 games, he who inspired articles on NHL Fanhouse pondering whether he could hit 50 goals or 100 points, anymore. To be fair, Sidney Crosby is one tough SOB to stop. I think you'll be happy to know that he's decided to move into his own place, finally.

Then things started to look better. You got healthy. Steve Yzerman seemed to run drills perfectly suited for you at Olympic camp. But then, you started getting away from your game. You tried to be Nicklas Lidstrom, to be Duncan Keith, to be a traditional quarterback from the point. The result? No Team Canada (which I think even then is a mistake, as Dan Boyle isn't three-fourths the player you are).

Just know that I can relate. I've had girl troubles of my own, and I know it was tough. Sometimes that calls for a change in mentality, letting yourself be caught up in what you're doing and not letting your mind wander. I'm sure, as a professional hockey player and a possible future hall-of-famer, you stay focused a lot. I think though that the media has thrown both you and your buddy Alex Ovechkin off your games. I've been thrown off my game before, though in soccer and basketball and not ice hockey. I've had to switch cleats and shinguards right before tournaments. Through this I learned to just focus on the game and block out everything else. I let the adrenaline of the ball coming to me and having to make a play make me react, as opposed to my head. I took pride in being, while not the most skilled and in fact the least skilled, the smartest or one of the smartest players on the field or court. The result? I was a complete shutdown force. Same thing in basketball--I couldn't play offense for my life, as I panicked with the ball, but I was able to keep the other team to the outside as much as a single player could. While in practice playing defense was pretty boring, in-game it was really fun, and I never forgot that. It's fun. I had fun. I let that love of the game carry it to new levels.

That's Caps hockey: fun, run-and-gun, exciting, and high-octane and very talented. It will not be Red Wings no-turnovers keep-away hockey, nor New Jersey trap-you-to-death hockey, but high-risk, high-reward. You seemed to get away from that too much. While after the Olympic break you looked great and certainly made the Norris race a whole lot more exciting, that game didn't translate to the postseason. Play your game. Don't over-think things, like physicality, like pinching, like moving on the power play. Just channel your 2007-2009 Mike Green, the one who was a threat all the time. And please pass the message along to Alex Ovechkin too. He worried all of us by stopping his usual exuberant goal celebrations. Several writers around the internet have speculated that he was focused too much on the end result and not enough "in the moment," and I agree. Nicklas Backstrom was certainly having fun, and his game will have earned him the third-richest contract in Caps history, if not the second, if the rumors are correct.

I've been a staunch supporter of yours since 2008. And quite frankly, haters gonna hate. You can't please everyone. But you can play to your strengths--skating, speed, agility, vision, and shooting. That will make your game most effective and prevent future playoff underwhelmings. That's how James Mirtle ranked you as one of the best defensive defensemen in the league for 2008-2009. That's how your Behind The Net advanced plus-minus stats are so terrific. That's how you own every other defenseman at even strength. Play like Scott Niedermayer, like Bobby Orr. You compare favorably to both (considering no one will ever touch Orr's greatness). Play like 'em and you'll get results like 'em. I know you're a playoff warrior. Now play like the guy that got that reputation in Hershey and in 2008 in Washington. Play like a Norris trophy winner, not two-time runner-up (Duncan Keith almost certainly wins this season). Who cares that the media thinks you're bad in your own end? They don't know Caps hockey as well as us Caps fans. And we know that Mike Green 2009 > Mike Green 2010.

Go out there and make us proud. Have fun. And win that Stanley Cup. We'll be supporting you, no matter what happens.


P.S. Can you take a hometown discount on your next contract?

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