Despite a strong 7-2-1 run in their last ten, the Washington Capitals remain in sixth place in the tough Metro, four points out of a divisional playoff spot. As they chase down the teams ahead of them, though some reinforcements are coming. Tom Wilson donned a regular jersey at practice today and skated on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, though the return for the first two is still a little way down the road. Wilson and Backstrom will not travel with the team to Ottawa according to Samantha Pell of the Washington Post, though Nic Dowd, Alex Alexeyev, and Darcy Kuemper will.
Wilson, 28, is one of the most unique players in the league, able to contribute at a high level offensively while still acting like a pseudo-enforcer on the ice. Racking up at least 93 penalty minutes in each of his nine NHL seasons, he had 24 goals and 52 points in 78 games last season. Since the Capitals never put him on long-term injured reserve, they can activate him without worrying about cap implications. Backstrom, whose $9.2MM cap hit has sat on LTIR all year, is a different story; the team will need to clear quite a bit to get him back on the roster.
- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev’s bank account took a little hit today, as he was fined $5,000 for slashing Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting last night. That is the maximum allowable fine under the current CBA. While it doesn’t seem like much, the incident will be considered in any future supplementary discipline decisions, and could lead to increased punishment down the line. For Tampa Bay, they at least are escaping Toronto with no suspensions, after being pummeled by the Maple Leafs in a performance head coach Jon Cooper called “a complete bag of you know what.”
- As expected, Arvid Holm has been returned to the minor leagues by the Winnipeg Jets, meaning Connor Hellebuyck has recovered enough from his illness to return to action. In his absence, David Rittich stopped 35 of 36 shots in a win over the Ottawa Senators, raising his save percentage to .909 on the year – his highest since 2018-19.
“…while still acting like a pseudo-enforcer on the ice.” I’m not sure Tommy is really acting, and he may very well be the polar-opposite of a method actor. Tommy has only one answer to the question, “What is my motivation for this character?”, and that is “Carnage! Incite lots of carnage on the ice!”
Enforcers were never gone, it has just been redefined and the last few years have shown clearly that there is still a need for enforcers only now we require them to be able to play hockey and actually be productive in addition to doing enforcer related things. The reference to Wilson as a “pseudo-enforcer” is a sort of denial that enforcers are still a thing and are coming back in a big way. It just won’t be the enforcers of old, but modern enforcers that can put up 50 points a season and force teams to reintegrate this strategic element when building a roster. The NY Rangers probably wouldn’t be where they are if not for Wilson pushing them to restructure their roster and get serious.
Having said that, it would be a miracle if Backstrom is able to return and play at a level that made him the player he is known for being.
Just to clarify, the Rangers were a good team before the Wilson incident, but they took a huge step forward in response to it that may not have happened so quickly absent that incident.
@sessh – Tommy is the most productive power forward that can peg the Fear-O-Meter regularly. And, I wholeheartedly agree that he has redefined the role of enforcer, but most other teams don’t have that same well to draw from. Some try, but they have to settle for second-best, if they’re lucky. And count me in as somebody who would really like to see Nicky Backstrom back and playing at a high level, if at all possible. It would be a shame if he was forced into early retirement due to injury like this.
True, but if the demand for these types of players keeps growing, we will see more emphasis on players who develop their game to meet these demands. It won’t happen overnight, but the demand is there. Supply will start increasing in drafts eventually.
As for Backstrom, the fact that he seems to be progressing with no reports of setbacks or any issues whatsoever is encouraging. I think we’ll see him back. The only question is how much of his ability has he lost?
@sessh – I hope the answer to that question is very little, but we’ll have to wait and see. Selfishly, I’d like to see Nick be able to come back and play a few more years, as he is a treat to watch, IMO.