During the thirty days of September, I'll be trying to preview the seasons of thirty players currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and who have a good chance of spending some time in red, white, and blue this season. Advanced stats are given from behindthenet.ca ranked against other players at the same position--forward, defense, or goalie--in the same organization, at 5-on-5, unless otherwise noted. Age is on opening night. Teammates are those listed at 10% or greater and at even strength (though the percentage includes all manpower situations). Today, Mike Green)
Mike Green: age 24, 6'2", 208 pounds, shoots right.
Contract: $5.25 million, RFA in 2012, per Capgeek.
2009-2010 linemates: 40% Jeff Schultz, 21% Shaone Morrisonn
2010 playoff linemates: 56% Jeff Schultz
2009-2010 raw stats:
NHL: 75 GP, 19-57-76, +39, 205 shots, 54 PIM
Playoffs: 7 GP, 0-3-3, +1, 23 shots, 12 PIM
2009-2010 advanced stats: 4th in Corsi QoC, 5th in Corsi Rel QoC, 2nd in Corsi QoT, and 1st in Corsi Rel QoT. Zonestart 57.4% offensive zone (first) with Zonefinish 52.6% offensive zone (first). Do note that Zonestart and Zonefinish percentages do not include neutral zone faceoffs.
2010 playoffs advanced stats: 3rd (of 8) in Corsi QoC and in Corsi Rel QoC, 6th in Corsi QoT and in Corsi Rel QoT.
(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)
WOWY (yellow is how much better the player is with Green, green how much better Green is with the player):
In the 2004 NHL Entry draft the Capitals held three first round selections--#1 overall (Alex Ovechkin), #27 overall (Jeff Schultz), and #29 overall (Mike Green). The organization is very lucky that Dallas picked Marc Fistric #28 overall, since in the six years since that draft Mike Green has won a Calder Cup, led all NHL defensemen in goals three times (including the 12th best goal-scoring season by a defenseman in the modern era history without factoring in games played), led all NHL defensemen in points two times, scored at a point per game rate or higher two times (one of two active defensemen to do even once: Nicklas Lidstrom), and was the runner-up for the James Norris Memorial Trophy twice...all before his 25th birthday.
Despite these Hockey Hall of Fame-esque numbers in his first four NHL seasons, Green has many, many detractors in all fanbases, even the Caps' own. These detractors do have a bit of a point--the very same numbers that point to Green as the best offensive defenseman over the past three years also point to rather pedestrian 5-on-5 goals against per sixty minutes rates over the past three years of 2.46, 2.21, and most recently 2.37, all with low quality of competition (Corsi Rel QoC 0.315, -.108, .112, all not higher than 3rd among Caps D) and high quality of team ratings (Corsi Rel QoT 1.047, 1.217, 2.114, all top-3 among Caps D), along with very favorable Zonestart and lots of power play time. These detractors also note that Green does not perform up to par in the playoffs. The latter point is not very arguable--while Green was very, very good in the 2008 playoff series against Philadelphia, he--for all sorts of theorized reasons ranging from weight gain to new sticks to separated shoulders from an infamous Pronger hit to the flu--did not statistically produce even near his regular season rates. After scoring almost a goal every two games during the 2008-2009 regular season, for example, he only scored once in fourteen playoff games, and failed to score a goal in seven games this spring. While some would argue this is simply regression to the mean, for worse, worse, and better, respectively, of his 2010, 2009, and 2008 PDOs, it really is
What often gets overlooked amidst this criticism is just how much value Green has offensively. For example, Green drew penalties at basically the best rate among NHL defensemen and only took two more than he drew, a ratio that's very good for defensemen. He put the Capitals on the power play a lot, and once at 5-on-4, Green was solid on the power play, especially when one considers his power play ice time, all giving him the best offensive GVT of any defenseman in the league and actually sixth among all skaters. In fact, Green's offensive prowess is so unparalleled--the way he carries the puck up the ice, sets up the power play, and executes creative passing plays on the attack--that maybe, maybe one active defenseman can surpass him in the near future: the second-youngest Norris Trophy finalist ever, Drew Doughty.
Green in a more pure defensive role can also play well. While at even strength he was very aggressive, on the penalty kill, when he had to be more conservative, he was decent. While his 7.15 goals against per sixty minutes of 4-on-5 ice time was only middling on the Caps, he had a pretty good plus-minus per sixty (and his penalty killing is simply spectacular if you go back to 2008-2009). In more qualitative terms, Green for about two seasons was the only Caps D who could effectively clear the puck out of the defensive zone--the anti-Tom Poti--especially on the Caps' already-poor penalty kill. Now with the emergence of Jeff Schultz, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner, Green may no longer be alone in this regard. Bruce Boudreau could manage Green's minutes more effectively--I'm in favor of less power play ice time and more shorthanded ice time--and thus keep him fresher for the playoffs, as well as help him better round his game.
Of course, Bruce Boudreau is the coach, not me. So I expect Green to play upwards of four minutes per game on the power play, more than 24 minutes a night overall, over a minute shorthanded per game, and put up a point per game again with a big plus rating. I really look to his 2008-2009 season for reassurance--he got a below-average on-ice save percentage at 5-on-5 of .906 and a PDO of only 98.5%, yet still had his best season to date (in my mind). While he probably won't have the obscene shooting percentage required for 30 goals (anyone else notice how his wrist shots from the slot stopped being automatic top-shelf glove-side goals?) he can be more effective and involved in the offense as long as he keeps rushing and being aggressive. Hopefully, his new training style this offseason should help him get back that 2009 speed and clear exorcise the mainstream media demons that seem to haunt his play.
Green is such a critical part of that because he's the defenseman that best embodies Bruce Boudreau's coaching philosophy. In fact, I think he's the only Caps defenseman who does. As long as that Mike Green shows up for the full regular season and the playoffs, the Caps should keep playing hockey well into May.
And have added another roughly $6 million worth of cap hit for 2013-2014.