[Ed. Note: Rock the Brock will be a reoccuring post from Brock Kerchner, co-host of the Old Barn Hockey Show on 1460 The Ticket in Harrisburg, featuring a weekly chat on all things Hershey Bears]
My Repentance- Let it be publicly known that I have black and orange in my blood. Let it be known that I own one red jersey and 14 orange. Let it be known that I have led cheers for the orange and black at the Verizon Center and cheered at the puck hitting the twine of the home goal. It has been instilled in me since childhood. I will continue to cheer first for the orange and black but the team affiliated with my beloved Bears will be my number 2. I apologize. Please forgive me. However, I am passionate to who I support! Case in point: Me, in my autographed red sweater, with former Capitals Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. I am introducing my daughter, Gabby, to her namesake.
StrawBERRYs and CHAMPAGNE- The next course for the Hershey Bears will easily be this dessert. RW Alex Berry in 3 Hershey preseason games put up 2 goals and an assist leading the team. Berry did not play last season at all due to a serious arm injury. It won’t be long before he joins the Chocolate I am sure. His time with the Royals will really be getting him back up to game speed. C Joel Champagne doesn’t fit the bottle mold standing in at 6’4” and 217. He has the size and can move that size on the ice very well. He is young but some time in Reading will be good for his experience. I expect to see him in Hershey later in the season as injuries start to stack up.
A new Holtby- Rico Suave is in the crease. A different Rico this year so far though. Last year it would have been a cocky Rico. Hershey knows Holtby as an image of former Bears goaltender Ron Hextall. It appears Olaf Kolzig has sculpted Holtby into a mold more true to his image since we last crossed paths. Cool, calm, and collected is what we saw in preseason. Precise and clean work moving the puck as opposed to the more quick and sometimes dangerous maneuvers of old. Holtby is a great goaltender. No doubt about it but you used to be able to get him off his game easily by some bumps or interrupting his rituals. Sunday, I specifically noticed a linesman in the crease in the way of his “Beginning the Period” ritual. He just paused and waited for the linesman to finish checking the net. He then finished the ritual and settled in for the faceoff. The old Holtby would have tried to finish while making it known the linesman was not welcome and then storm around unhappy which could lead to a costly penalty or mistake. Seems like Hotlby is a changed player after reaching the big dance.
The Return of Sjogren- We woke up and there wasn’t even a note on the pillow. He didn’t even say goodbye. Needless to say Mattias Sjogren’s departure last year from the Bears to head back to Sweden was sudden. Bears Fan wasn’t impressed. His best game was the season opener last year in Binghamton. He looked great… finesse, hands, great awareness… but it disappeared quickly and so did he. He popped up back in DC in mid April and practiced with the Capitals until their playoff run was over. Well Sjogren is back. He looked great in preseason. I saw more hustle and a little down in the corners from him that I hadn’t seen before. It looks like he has matured in the past year on and off the ice. I truly feel he got some bad advice from his agent who was having a disagreement with GM GM. Forgive and Forget. Wear the Chocolate proudly Mattias.
DC Hockey Hiatus- This is gonna be brutal. Let’s not shy away from the truth. Let’s get it out in the open. Don’t hold it in, Let it out, Scream, Weep, etc. It could be a while until hockey returns to DC, so let’s talk about a trip to your roots. Make a visit down to the farm. You can easily hit a Reading Royals and Hershey Bears game in a weekend. 3 hours to Reading and less to Hershey. Make it happen. You won’t find more of an NHL atmosphere anywhere else in the world then at Giant Center. Who says time travel is a joke? Come see the future now in Hershey and Reading.
If you want to learn more about me and my story, visit a previous story published here. I dedicate this weekly culmination of thoughts to my grandparents who loved working down on their farms. They taught me to do my best and take pride in everything I do. And a Happy Birthday to my sister who Rocks the Red hair. Go Bears.
In what I hope will become a weekly event, we here at Rock the Red present a new Washington Capitals comic strip, 50 Shades of Red. This isn't going to be a philosophical humor strip like Calvin and Hobbes, or Doonesbury-type political satire, or even Tank McNamara sports humor. We're poking fun at our beloved Caps and all their quirkiness.
Afterall, you just can't take yourself too seriously.
One of the most recurring statements about history is “history repeats itself”. While doing some research for my Ethics class presentation on a labor dispute of my choice (guess which one I picked?) I realized that the statement could be applied to the NHL’s ongoing labor issues. History, indeed, repeats itself, with the same issues being argued over again and again every few years.
Since it was founded in 1917, the NHL has had three work stoppages, since 1992. All of the stoppages are the result of disagreement between the NHL team owners and the NHL Players Association negotiating a Collective Bargaining Agreement. By doing a little research, we can examine the issues that have presented a problem throughout the years and have now caused a fourth labor lockout six years after the last one.
Rock the Red is now selling T-shirts for Sticks for Troops (light color, dark color). Sticks For Troops provides hockey sticks and gear to American and Allied troops stationed at Kandahar, Afghanistan, to enjoy the coolest games in one of the hottest places on earth. All proceeds from the sale of these T-shirts goes directly to Sticks for Troops.
As someone whose wife is deployed to Afghanistan now, I can tell you she has seen the troops playing some seriously intense hockey games. It brings a little taste of home and a big morale boost to be able to play hockey so far from home. I know they will appreciate your support.
Shirts designed by nazarcruce
Caps fans can expect to see another familiar face back this season, as the team has decided to bring back Brett Leonhardt as a video coach. Formerly a web producer for the Caps, Leonhart left his position last February to work as a video editor for the NHL.
Photo Credit: ESPN
Leonhardt, known to fans as ‘Stretch’, was more than just a web producer for the team. During warm-ups at home games in Verizon Center, he would play the role of DJ to get the guys pumped and excited to play, as well as entertain the fans who arrived early. He also hosted a podcast for the team, Capitals Report, with Mike Vogel up until his departure. More than likely, though, fans will remember Leonhardt most for being the back-up goalie when Jose Theodore was hurt and Semyon Varlamov was on his way to Washington from Houston after a last second call-up. Leonhardt took part in warm-ups and backed up Brent Johnson until Varlamov arrived.
Leonhardt will be working with Caps assistant coach Blaine Forsythe who manages the video coaching responsibilities. Best of luck, Stretch! (Maybe you can throw a beat or two around, too, for old time’s sake?)
Follow Tara Colison on Twitter here:https://twitter.com/TaraC_RtR
Access Brett Leonhardt's playlists here:http://capitals.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=65109
Photo by Getty Images North America
With the acquisition of Mike Ribeiro in mid June, the Washington Capitals finally plugged a hole in their lineup that they have had since the summer of 2009 – a second prime center.
Ribeiro, 32, is a playmaking pivot who has spent the last six seasons of his career with the Dallas Stars – recording 50 or more points in each and every one of those seasons. He is, without question, the type of player that Washington has lacked for the last three seasons, and he adds a new depth of scoring to a lineup that badly needed some skill following the presumed (at the time of his acquisition) and now actual departure of Alexander Semin via unrestricted free agency.
As always, the dog days of summer have left most with nothing left to ponder, as almost all free agents have been signed and almost all trades have been made. And so, fans and media alike have begun to prognosticate – and many believe that Ribeiro belongs on the second line, and that Nicklas Backstrom should return to his post on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin.
I don’t believe that to be the case, and the reason is simple: Ribeiro playing with Alex Ovechkin could, should, and likely will be better for both players and the entire team.
While in Dallas, Ribiero was a positive puck possession player in all but one year that such statistics have been recorded; that was this past season in which his corsi relative to his teammates was a disconcerting -4.4. Every other year, however, Ribiero had a positive relative corsi (corsi rel), and those four years averaged to 6.73, an admirable number. Of course, we all hope that last season was simply an anomaly - but I digress.
Two years in particular stand out when analyzing Ribeiro's numbers: 2007-08 and 2008-09. Those two seasons, the Quebecois had an average corsi rel of 10.05, easily his best two years – and those came against the weakest relative competition that he faced in that five-year period (combined corsi rel average of -.306 compared to .711 in the other three years). Not surprisingly, those two seasons also produced the two best point totals of his career: 83 and 78 points, respectively (for more in depth analysis on Ribeiro’s last five seasons from Japers Rink, click here).
So what does this tell us about Ribeiro, and how does that tie in to Ovechkin?
The Washington Capitals have announced goalie Sergey Kostenko has signed a contract with the Hershey Bears for the 2012-13 AHL season. Kostenko, 19, was the Capitals' 7th round draft pick (203rd overall) last month and had an impressive showing at the second half of the Capitals' Summer Development Camp after arriving mid-week from Russia.
It is unusual fo teenagers to play in the AHL because of the rules surrounding Canadian Major Junior players who are not eligible until age 20, but recent Capitals draft picks John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov both played in the AHL as teens. This is likely the best thing for Kostenko's development, as Russia is not known for consistently producing technically sound goaltenders. The last Capitals' Russian goalie draft pick, Semyon Varlamov, stayed in Russia for another year after the draft but hired a Finnish goalie coach to help his technical game.
It is not clear what Kostenko's role will be with the Bears with Dany Sabourin returning to the team and Philipp Grubauer's expected promotion from the ECHL. Based on past experience, it is quite likely Kostenko will open the season with the ECHL Reading Royals, which will give him plenty of playing time and give Capitals' goalie coach Olaf Kolzig plenty of time to work with him. It is likely he'll get a look at the AHL level, and he may even open the season with the Bears if Grubauer has not fully recovered from his surgery by opening night.
This is unexpected news, but certainly good news. Only time will tell, but the Capitlas may have stolen a forgotten Russian goalie at the end of the Draft and now have convinced him to play in North America next season so he can better develop into a potential NHL regular.
Read Alex DeYoung's scouting report on Kostenko here.
When free agency began on July 1st, many Capitals fans hoped that GM George McPhee would make a splash in free agency, as he has almost every year in his tenure. However, in the days and weeks following the opening of free agency, McPhee has filled his roster with low-risk signings that have potential. One of these signings with an especially high potential reward is winger Wojtek Wolski, who was signed to a one-year, $600,000 contract on July 11.
Wolski, 26, was born in Poland but has spent the majority of his adolescent life and entire career in North America. After playing major junior with the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League, for which he holds 11 franchise records and shares another, he began his NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche, who picked him 21st overall in 2004 – the same draft that saw Washington pick Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Jeff Schultz selected in the top 30.
Standing 6’3” and weighing over 200 pounds, Wolski is a big, skilled forward who has the talent to immediately help the Caps fill the void left by Alexander Semin’s presumed departure. Though he did not expressly say it, McPhee hinted at this when asked about Wolski on the final day of the Caps’ annual summer development camp.
“A former first round pick that’s had some real productive years in the League, then sort of fell off,” he said. “I get seduced by talent from time to time. I like it, and we have a good group of forwards that are big and play hard and this is an opportunity to add some talent in there. We like the move and hope that it works out for him and for us.”
Unfortunately, Wolski’s last couple of seasons have not been up to par for a former first round selection. The 26 year-old winger has been on five different teams since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, and both of his last two campaigns have been derailed by injuries.
“Last year was a lost year for him,” McPhee added. “But here’s a guy with some ability, and there’s an opportunity here. The ability is there, and I think the commitment is there as well.”no comments
Monday afternoon, the Washington Capitals announced that they had signed defenseman Mike Green to a three-year contract worth $18.25 million. The deal, which covers two summers of unrestricted free agency for Green, has an annual salary cap hit of just over $6.08 million.
“It’s been a long process,” the defenseman said on a conference call Monday. “With the setback of the injury, we were going to wait. It’s been pushed back, but I think that obviously I wanted to be in Washington and they wanted me back.”
The Capitals should have wanted Green back, because they needed him. As I wrote just hours before Green was signed, he is one of their best defensemen and, when healthy, is one of the best puck-moving rearguards in the entire NHL.
"Since Green signed his four-year contract before the 2008-09 season, only five defensemen have collected more points than Green's 180 – Nicklas Lidstrom, Dan Boyle, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, and Zdeno Chara. Only one, Weber, has scored more goals. That is without doubt elite company, and though Green is by no means in the same class as these defensemen at this current moment, it shows just how good he has the potential to be.
His defense is improving. Not only has Green visibly been better at blocking shots, holding coverage in his own zone, and making plays on the body, but he has been the Capitals’ best possessor of the puck on the blue line each of the last four seasons – despite the fact that his offensive zone start percentage decreased in each of those four seasons. That is definition improvement, and even if you don’t believe in 'fancy stats,' he has yet to have a plus-minus season in the red since becoming a regular. He’s not great defensively, but he is better."
Still, the signing is undoubtedly a risk. A big risk. When you look at the last two season’s of Green’s career, he has suffered with bad injuries – a bum ankle, a concussion, and an abdominal injury, to name a few. Committing this type of money and term to a player with that type of recent injury history is scary. But for his part, Green feels as though he is through with consistently being hurt and is ready to work harder than ever to return to his old form – that of one of the premier offensive defensemen in the NHL.
“I think they [the Capitals] know what I’m capable of,” he added. “It’s been unfortunate the last couple years that I’ve suffered from injuries but I think I’m over them now, I think I’ve got them all out of my system. I think that as happy as I am that they’re happy and they know that I’m committed to the hockey team and doing whatever I can to be the best that I can. “