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Capital losses

Right wing Jaromir Jagr with the Washington Capitals, where he played from 2001-04. (Photo by Victor Decolongon)

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Right wing Jaromir Jagr with the Washington Capitals, where he played from 2001-04. (Photo by Victor Decolongon)

You know what I’m most thankful for this year? I didn’t have to do a “hockey-things-I’m-most-thankful-for”-themed column.

I’m always thankful for the slew of questions that continue to be directed to my attention, though. Let’s address the hell out of as many as possible. 

Adam,

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Washington Capitals were always competitive. Then in 2004 everything went horribly wrong. They had to trade their star players, Peter Bondra, Robert Lang, Jaromir Jagr and Sergei Gonchar. What happened? What went wrong?

I don’t really understand the situation. It was the most out of touch I’ve ever felt with the Caps and I've been a Caps fan since I came to D.C. in the late ‘80s. So why did they make all those terrible trades?

Martell Sanders, McLean, Va.


Martell,

For a detailed rundown of the Capitals’ mid-decade demo job, click on this link to read my interview with team owner Ted Leonsis.

You’ll see that he and GM George McPhee chose to strip the team of its recognizable, veteran stars because they had their sights set on a long-term rebuild that was hastened with the good fortune of drafting Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and a few other key young stars.

I’ve got a question for you, Martell – why are you looking back on the Caps’ struggles almost a half-decade ago when you should be enjoying what likely will be the best era in franchise history right now?

I know of a good couple million Torontonians who would promise never to say or even think of the names Fred Boimistruck, Lonny Bohonos or Brandon Convery ever again if it meant the Leafs trading current lineups with Washington. Live in the now, my good man!

Adam,

I was just wondering if the NHL was thinking of expanding any time soon?

Michael Meckler, Toronto


Michael,

With the state of the global economy, I think it’s safe to say there’ll be no NHL expansion in the next few years.

Although part of me would love to see Gary Bettman completely lose it and announce the creation of a pair of new teams as of tomorrow; the worldwide laughter generated by the news could be harnessed to power most of Asia well into the next century.

Adam,

I know it may seem like a stupid question, but for the life of me, no matter where I look or who I ask, no one can tell me what 'plus/minus' is. Could you please help me!

Rachel Hart, Center Cross, Va.


Rachel,

Yes I can! Although there’s no need to end your question with an exclamation mark instead of a question mark! It denotes a sense of urgency that isn’t appropriate for this forum!

On a calmer note: the plus/minus differential for each non-goaltending player is arrived at by counting the number of even-strength or shorthanded goals the skater is on the ice for when his team is scored upon and contrasting that total with the number of even-strength or shorthanded goals the skater is on the ice for when his team scores. (Goals scored on the power play don’t count toward either total.)

If a player is on the ice for more of the goals his team scores than he is when goals are scored against his team, he is known as a “plus” player. If the reverse is true, he is a “minus” player.

Hey Adam,

What do you think about the NHL creating a goalie rating system similar to the NFL’s rating of quarterbacks?

Jeremy Blumes, Calgary


Hey Jeremy,

I think of new NHL stats the way I think of new advancements in audio/visual/cell phone technologies: I’m all for them, so long as I won’t be forced to learn anything about them or ascribe any real importance to them.

If the number-nut community derives pleasure from working out new formulas to label somebody “good” and anotherbody “better,” who am I to tell them they can’t? I think my philosophy is closer to that held by old-school hockey scouts; those gentlemen don’t need stats to tell them who can play the game – and I don’t need stats to enjoy the game.

Hey Adam,

Do you really think it is fair for the Southeast Division to send a team to the playoffs this year? Holy crap! Besides the Caps, every team in the division should be replaced by their American League affiliate. And I bet the Panthers clear waivers.

Brian Donnelly, Houghton, Mich.


Hey Brian,

It’s funny ‘cause it’s true. And if the Centre Ice Package isn’t proof enough of it, here’s a stat (yeah, I know the answer I just gave) that is: the Southeast Division has combined for 18 road wins (usually a good indicator of an elite team) this year. That’s eight fewer than the next-closest division (the Pacific, with 24 road W’s) and 12 less than the Northwest’s league-best 30 road victories.

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Furthermore, the Southeast is the only division with four teams that have allowed more goals than they’ve produced. I’ve got two letters for that: ‘P’ and ‘U’.

Adam, do you see the floundering Oilers coach Craig MacTavish hanging on to his job to the end of the season? Does this guy have any strengths as a coach?

William Auger, Edmonton


MacTavish’s inability to correct the Oilers’ lukewarm start to this season may have him on the precipice of unemployment right now, but let’s not forget this is the same guy who helped younger, less talented teams overachieve during his tenure.

It’s clear MacTavish’s shelf life in Edmonton has just about expired. It’s also clear he’s done enough over the years to interest another team down the line.

Adam,

I was wondering how old you should be when you start tying your own skates?

Jimmy Abbott, Cleveland


Jimmy,

The name of the skate-tying game isn’t about what age you are, it’s about finding a balance between skates that are tied too tight (making you feel uncomfortable) and skates that are too loose, which won’t allow you to properly move on the ice. You can always try on your own, but you should be working with adults at the same time to figure out if you’ve got the balance correct.

Also, this may be the cutest question I’ve received for the mailbag. Unless you’re 22. In which case, it’s one of the more disturbing.

Hey Adam,

I'm making my X-mas list and would like to include some hockey-themed books or DVDs. Any recommendations? I looked for books authored by you, but only found listings for your Top 60 Since 1967 collaboration with Ken Campbell. Are there any others?


I've read your contributions to THN mag, but only recently started to read you online. I love your work. I appreciate your satire, humor and knowledge of hockey, but I especially enjoy your willingness to write what you think, even if it's unpopular and/or negative.

It cracks me up when readers get pissed and write nasty comments. I don't always agree with what you write, but I always like to read it. Thanks for all of your hard work.

Monica, Minnesota


Monica,

Thanks for your kindness. Alas, my book authorship career has thus far only produced the one title you noted. (Hopefully, there will be more in the coming years. In advance of my autobiography, I’ve already copyrighted the title Pale Menace: Typings and Snipings of a Sun-Starved Hockey Scribe.)

Gift recommendations? In terms of DVDs, The Chiefs remains one of my favorite hockey films; it’s got the natural advantage of being a documentary – and as all doc-philes know, the truth is always more fascinating than fiction.

As for books, I’d recommend The Road To Hockeytown: Jimmy Devellano’s 40 Years In The NHL.

Not only is it a great account of the life of one of the most accomplished management men in the history of hockey, it’s also put together by Devellano himself, as well as veteran Toronto journalist Roger Lajoie.

For me, it’s doubly nice that such an enjoyable product was created by two of the best people I’ve encountered in the business.

Adam,

Is the NHL going to cut back down with the Europeans and other foreigners entering the league?

Philipp F., Ottawa


Philipp,

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to answer this with a question to my regular readers.

In the words of Bugs Bunny: He don’t know me very well, do he?

Ask Adam appears Fridays only on TheHockeyNews.com. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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