Sunday, August 22, 2010

Applying the 2007 Ducks model to the Capitals

A little while back, user "The '67 Sound" on Pension Plan Puppets had a post about how Brian Burke built his 2006-2007 Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks. The post is really worth a read (as is everything on Pension Plan Puppets save the Chatty Cathy threads).

Anyways, even though George McPhee and not Burke is general manager of the Capitals, can we apply the model to the Caps? There's no need to re-invent the wheel when we already have several templates of roster structure that work.

First, the Ducks' D corps. Per the post:

"In fact, the Ducks broke camp with three veteran defencemen (Niedermayer, Pronger and O'Donnell); one second-year player who would play a major role (Francois Beauchemin); one AHL journeyman (Joe DiPenta) with only one NHL season under his belt, who would only play another 23 NHL games after '06-'07, and who was making $500,000; one rookie (Shane O'Brien) who was traded midseason and effectively replaced by Ric Jackman in a separate trade; and another aging AHL journeyman/NHL rookie in Kent Huskins.  Ian Moran and Aaron Rome, one at the end of his career and the other at the beginning, both played one game."

What do the Capitals have?
Mike Green ~ Scott Niedermayer.
Jeff Schultz ~
Tom Poti ~ Sean O'Donnell
John Carlson ~ Francois Beachemin
Karl Alzner ~
John Erskine / Tyler Sloan / Willie Mitchell / Kevin Bieksa / other ~ Kent Huskins

No parallel--Chris Pronger, Joe DiPenta, Ric Jackman

On paper, the Ducks' defense at the top is better since Niedermayer was better than Green and Pronger about Niedermayer's equal, while the Caps have no one else remotely near as good. The Caps though have arguable five, and in a while maybe six, top-4 defensemen, while the Ducks had four. The Ducks, though, would split up Pronger and Niedermayer and not give the third pairing much time on ice, so basically the Ducks had a lock hall-of-fame defensemen just past his prime on the ice more than 50 minutes a game, I'd guess. Both teams look to have a few replacement-level-types to round out the D-corps.

On the F corps, again great breakdown from the post:

"They actually had a Top 10 and bottom 5.  The Top 10, in order of overall ice time: Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald, Sami Pahlsson, Chris Kunitz, Rob Niedermayer, Todd Marchant, Ryan Getzlaf, Travis Moen, Dustin Penner and [Corey] Perry.  Remarkably, every one of these players but Marchant played 81 or 82 games--seriously, this team was ridiculously lucky with its health.  Their even strength ice time saw similar ranks, though Perry, Getzlaf and Penner dropped to the bottom--those three were 4th, 5th and 6th in power play TOI.  So if you go by ice time, the Ducks' Top 6 were Selanne-McDonald-Kunitz (1st line), and Pahlsson-Niedermayer-Moen (2nd line).  Getzlaf-Penner-Perry were the 3rd line, Marchant also significant minutes, while Shawn Thornton-George Parros-Ryan Shannon-"Who the [expletive] is"-Brad May shuffled in and out of the 4th line/press box and played minimal minutes."

This top-9/10-bottom-3/4 breakdown agrees with a recent Copper and Blue post that states that most of the time top-6 forwards would be more accurately called top-9.

How were the Ducks broken down? It looks like Selanne-McDonald-Kunitz make up a top scoring line, Pahlsson-Niedermayer-Marchant/Moen a checking line that played a lot of minutes, and Penner-Getzlaf-Perry a second scoring line that, considering the youth of the three, probably got easy minutes.

What do the Capitals have? Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble is better than the Ducks' top line, I'm fairly sure. The Caps don't have a checking line, but that top line already plays relatively tough minutes and excels. Semin-Belanger-Fehr (though that may be wishful thinking) could prove to take some of those shutdown minutes; even though Belanger and Fehr didn't play tough minutes, they had below-average teammates as well, and Semin already has been handling tough minutes. Chimera-Fleischmann-Laich should be able to play soft minutes and score--that's what Fleischmann has been doing for a couple of seasons now, though whether it happens later in the season is questionable. A fourth line of Matt Bradley along with two of Boyd Gordon, DJ King, and David Steckel looks better than the Ducks' fourth line, though the Ducks' fourth line carried solid pugilists in Thornton, Parros, May, and Shannon.

In goal, the Ducks had Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov (who would later be put on waivers and claimed by Phoenix). Is one of the Caps' young goalies as good as Giguere? Maybe, but Giguere was a proven goalie, having taken the Conn Smythe Trophy in the Mighty Ducks' losing effort against the New Jersey Devils in 2003. I'd take Neuvirth or Varlamov over that Bryzgalov, for what it's worth.

Can the Ducks model be applied to the Caps? The differences aren't many, though important (Pronger-types are tough to find), but that Ducks team was very tough and nasty. I don't mean in the fighting sense, though any of those players aside from Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, and Andy McDonald would probably willingly drop the gloves--but they were nasty, in-your-face types, like Jason Chimera, or just plain frustrating to play against because of solid defense, like Mike Richards. In that sense, everyone outside of the top line, Jason Chimera, DJ King, Mike Green, and John Erskine doesn't really fit.

I guess if GMGM wants to apply the model he needs to find a good two-way second line center (Patrice Bergeron anyone?), replace Fleischmann with a 20-goal 45-point gritty winger, and find an elite minute-munching defenseman to play on the second pairing. Fixing the PK would go a long way towards helping, too.

I think a better model would probably be the 2009-2010 Blackhawks or, especially, the 2005-2006 Hurricanes. This is definitely worth a future look.

Thanks again to The '67 Sound for a great idea and permission to use his post.


  1. This is a terrible comparison. Here's another one - comparing this years capitals with the 87 nordiques. Both teams had 4 lines of forwards, six defenseman, and two goalies. The caps could have a similar performance in 2010-2011.

  2. LOL at "Mike Green ~ Sott Niedermayer

  3. The Ducks are probably the 5th best team since the lockout, after (in no particular order) the 2010 Hawks, the 2009 Pens, the 2009 Red Wings, and the 2008 Red Wings. All those teams were immensely successful. What we're trying to do here is learn from those teams.

    Look at the Ducks' F corps. They have a 1st scoring line and a 3rd scoring line. They have a 2nd that is good two ways. They have a 4th that will hold its own but won't play a big role. Just like the Caps.

    Look at the D corps. It looks like they just got lucky. The Hawks didn't have two world class Dmen this season, and the Flyers did, and look where that got them. The Caps have superior depth than those Ducks, though at the top the Ducks had more depth than any team since the Niedermayer-Stevens Devils.

    Fact is, the Ducks' model worked. Burke's model there worked, and he put it together very quickly. You probably saw Peerless' post on experience in the D corps and that the entire Ducks' D corps was put together in, basically, two seasons. That proves to me that it's possible to change the complexion of a defense for the better in a very short time. Maybe I didn't make it clear that the point was to see where the holes in the Capitals are, to *learn* from these champs.