Washington Capitals: Welcome Scott Hannan
The past week or two I’ve been sick, hence the lack of posts, and, coincidentally, so have the Washington Capitals. After being shut out twice in three games, by the Thrashers and Devils (losing the other game to the Flyers in a shootout), morale must have been low. However, the last couple of games, things have started to look up, with two wins over the Hurricanes and an excellent 6-0 thrashing of the Lightning. Semyon Varlamov has returned in style with a shutout against Tampa Bay, and the team as a whole have been much improved. But as we’ve seen, in this league this season, and as the Caps know from experience, a dip in form can expose weaknesses, and the Caps’ rough patch showed the defense to be in serious need of improvement, as without the injured Mike Green, the Caps have struggled. So, today the Caps traded Tomas Fleischmann to the Colorado Avalanche for veteran defenseman Scott Hannan.
I for one am very happy with this trade. It is the perfect trade for this team. As I have said before, Flash was a bit of a spare part, not really good enough at second line center, not fitting in on the third line, and too good to be playing fourth line. So GM George McPhee moved him. Why now? Well I think the answer comes in the form of Marcus Johansson. Lately his play has been much more consistent and he’s started to produce. Since he returned to the lineup after injury, he’s notched 2 goals and 2 assists in 8 games, producing the kind of hockey that shot him to the fore of fans’ minds during both rookie and training camps in the summer. With Johansson playing this well, it seems that the Capitals can now confidently place somebody on the second line to fill the role that Fleischmann was failing to perform well enough in (10 points in 23 games and he’s been a healthy scratch in a couple of games recently).
On defense, meanwhile, whilst John Erskine and John Carlson are having stand-out season, Karl Alzner and Jeff Schultz are playing as well as expected, and Mike Green and Tom Poti have played to their expected quality in the games they have played in, missing a fair few through injuries, defense has been a real issue for the team. Yes there have been injuries, yes it’s a highly offense-focused team, but the recent performances on the blue-line have exposed the Capitals’ back-line frailties. If the offense isn’t firing, or the goaltender isn’t unbeatable, the Caps could get easily beaten. With the youth in net and on the blue-line (Green, Schultz, Alzner, Carlson, Varlamov, and Neuvirth 25 or younger), the Caps need some veteran leadership, but more importantly, a big shut-down d-man. Scott Hannan is that man. In 81 games in Colorado last season, 31-year old, 6’1”, 225-pound Hannan managed 67 hits and blocked 144 shots.
Hannan will most likely be on the top defensive line with Mike Green, though he may start off with less ice time at first, with Schultz moving back to partner Tom Poti – unless the coaching staff decide to break up the Carlson-Alzner partnership, though those two have had excellent chemistry together. Meanwhile, Marcus Johansson should move to center the second line, with the likes of Hendricks and Steckel battling to take over the role of third line pivot.
Cap-wise, this leaves the organisation a little over 2 million dollars in cap space – plenty to play with if further trading is required. Hannan’s large contracted has been scrutinized, but, as George McPhee has said today, the Caps could afford it if it meant getting a player who could be a vital cog for the rest of the season. Hannan, like Fleischmann, has one year left on his deal.
I’m pretty confident that this will be the Caps’ last action before the trade deadline at least, barring some exceptional circumstances, and overall it certainly looks a very good move for the team.