Thursday, September 29, 2011

How the Caps can reach out to women

 Some of my high school girls' hockey team during a practice. I'm 7th from right.

As we all know, I'm on Twitter quite often. Earlier this evening, I saw a tweet from the Anaheim Ducks advertising a girls' hockey clinic in partnership with USA Hockey.

After I had a little rant Wednesday night about the still-controversial Scarlet Caps, the wheels started turning.

Why don't the Scarlet Caps take a page from the Ducks and host a hockey clinic?

I know that some women enjoy the Hockey 'N Heels event, and that's just fine, but personally, it's not for me. As someone who played hockey for my high school girls' team, I don't need to pay money to stand on a carpet in the middle of Kettler's ice having a current Capital teaching me how to shoot a puck. I already know how to shoot a puck. I did it several times a week in high school.

What Scarlet Caps needs to do is reach out to the women who already know how to play hockey, or even participate in local women's leagues. This is an area of the market that Scarlet Caps has missed out on while focusing on women who are just beginning to learn about hockey and want to learn the basics.

So why not host clinics for women and girls? I, for one, would enjoy that type of event. Sweeten the deal by having clinics led by Capitals/Bears coaches (players would be great but not necessary), and I'd be willing to shill out money to be learning from some of the best coaches in the world while actually playing the game on my skates and learning how to become a better player.

After I retweeted the link from Anaheim and brought up the idea of having women's and girls' clinics sponsored by the Capitals and Scarlet Caps, I got a lot of responses from women who thought it was a great idea. A selection of the responses appear below:

"That would be so much fun."
"Completely agree. A clinic for the girls, a clinic for the ladies who DO play, and one for the wannabes. There's some perspective."
"Get a bunch of people and email Ted about it."

Well, the last response is sort of what I'm doing by bringing attention to it. I think it would be a great outreach for the Capitals, and a smart way to market to women. The idea of a clinic treats women as equals, as opposed to the sort of mentality that says, "Here, put on some heels, and stand on this carpet in the middle of the ice while a man teaches you to shoot a puck into a net, because you wouldn't know how to do it otherwise." 

A women's hockey clinic would truly bring women into the action instead of sitting on the sidelines. It's an approach with which I hope the Capitals would agree.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Miskovic ready to take on new role

photo by Caps in Pictures
At this time last summer, Zach Miskovic wasn't having such a great training camp in Washington. In fact, he wasn't having one at all. In last year's July development camp, Miskovic sustained a hit by the massive Joe Finley during an intersquad scrimmage, and Miskovic injured his left knee.

The injury didn't require surgery, but it meant that Miskovic didn't even set foot on the ice again until he'd already been sent down to Hershey's training camp in late September 2010. He played in 58 games with the Bears last season (missing some time due to a separate injury mid-season).

After a healthy summer this year and a new one-year contract to extend him through the 2011-2012 season, Miskovic has renewed focus. Finally getting in a normal off-season training routine during the summer was "really exciting" for Miskovic. He says he feels good and is ready for the season, and is looking forward to see how Hershey's recent changes pan out.

Thinking of new players on the Bears roster like Christian Hanson, Ryan Potulny, and Jacob Micflikier, Miskovic said, "I think the team's looking great. Obviously Washington and Hershey want to put together the best team there that they can and I think they brought in a lot of skilled players that can bring a lot to the table. I'm looking forward to start."

Last year, Miskovic had said that his sophomore season greatly benefited from having defensive veterans like Brian Fahey, Sheldon Souray, and Lawrence Nycholat as mentors. Now with those players leaving Hershey, Miskovic, 26, has to become somewhat of a veteran himself.

"I've talked with [Hershey head coach] Mark French and [assistant coach] Troy Mann about [taking a mentorship role] and they expect me to step in and be more of a leader on the back end and help some of the younger guys that are coming up, since I know the system. I think I can be that," Miskovic said. "I'm excited for that potential role and we'll see how it plays out. We've got a lot of good defensemen that have come in and I'll work hard to be in that [leadership] position."

In particular, Miskovic may serve as a mentor to Dmitri Orlov, with whom Miskovic was paired during Sunday's drills. It's a pairing that has the potential to be a real game situation for the Bears. Already Miskovic has chemistry with the Russian rookie, despite the obvious language barrier. 

"It's fun to play with him," Miskovic laughed. "Obviously communication's a little difficult at times, but he knows how to play the game. It's just reading off one another and see what happens."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Invitee Frazee Intent on Earning a Contract

 photo by Bridget Samuels/bridgetds

I did a little research on invitee Thomas Frazee back in development camp. After his exit meeting in July, Frazee knew he was coming back for rookie camp. Development camp wasn't a walk in the park for any player in attendance - Washington is notorious for having one of the most difficult camps in the league - but Frazee was happy to get an invite back to Washington in September.

The big, high-scoring forward compares himself to San Jose's Joe Thornton. "I like to set up my linemates and try to make everyone around me a little bit better. I think I'm a bigger guy who can skate and make plays," says Frazee. "I always looked up to Joe Thornton when I was little."

But even Joe Thornton was probably intimidated in his first NHL camp, and it was no different for Frazee. "[Development camp] was pretty nerve-wracking," Frazee said Wednesday. "I think as I settled in, it got a lot better." 

His quick adaptation to camp could have been a result of having Caps coaches and management directly in the mix with the prospects. "It was really cool to see Bruce [Boudreau] and George [McPhee] right in there with us, talking to us all the time, telling us what we need to do to get better," he said.

Frazee has had to adapt quickly many times in his career. He spent his WHL career with five different teams: Portland, Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw, Regina, and Kamloops. Playing so many different systems may have helped him to pick up the Capitals' systems more quickly.

"When you come to an NHL camp, the tempo is so much faster and the guys are so much better. It's different everywhere you go, but it does help that you've learned a bunch of different systems along the way," Frazee said.

Frazee does admit to being a little starstruck in his first training camp experience, expressing his excitement to go to Philadelphia and play in the rookie game at Wells Fargo Center. "It's gonna be really exciting, especially playing where the Flyers actually do play regular season games."

That excitement extended to the Capitals facility as well. "It's really cool seeing everything here on 24/7 on HBO and being here, it's a really cool experience," he said.

Frazee has been recruited to the University of Calgary Dinos, but if all goes according to plan, he won't be heading there come Fall. "I have every intention on playing pro, wherever that is, wherever they tell me to go," he said. "I'm just kind of being told what to do here and hopefully everything turns out for the best."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Capitals' Eakin Making Strides

 photo by Bridget Samuels/bridgetds

At the conclusion of this summer's Capitals development camp, Cody Eakin wasn't sugarcoating how he felt about his performance at the week-long camp. "I’m not in the best shape, there’s no excuse for it," Eakin said.

Though he did have a bit of an excuse: his season had just finished five weeks prior. While other players were in the gym doing their offseason training, Eakin was still on the ice, competing for a Memorial Cup.

Even though Eakin didn't stand out as much as he had in previous development camps, Coach Bruce Boudreau stood behind the rookie. "I’m not at all disappointed in Cody," Boudreau said. "Sometimes we forget he just finished playing five weeks ago. I thought he competed hard, but I think he’ll be better in September."

Boudreau explained how Eakin could look so out of shape after finishing up his last year of junior hockey. "Hockey is such a draining sport to keep going at the same level that you’ve been at, for 12 months is difficult," he said. "I'm not making an excuse for [Eakin], because he didn’t have a bad camp at all, but at the same time, maybe the expectations from everybody else around him are so great that I think he’s going to come and tear it up."

"Tear it up" he didn't, but coming into this week's rookie camp, Eakin was more prepared to compete for a roster spot. As Boudreau said Monday, "His goal, being a graduate of junior hockey, was not the [development] camp, his goal was this camp." 

After development camp, Eakin was happy to get into a more consistent offseason routine, spending five days a week in the gym, instead of just resting as he had in the weeks between the Memorial Cup and development camp. He arrived a few days early and joined informal skates with some of the team's veterans ahead of official camp.

Sunday, Eakin spoke about how his own disappointment in development camp propelled his offseason training routine. "I think development camp scared me the most, obviously not having a lot of time before that and coming in not in the best shape," Eakin said. "The whole summer, that was in the back of my head giving me the extra motivation."

His improved conditioning and focus has been immediately noticeable at rookie camp.  "He's in great shape. You can tell he's determined. He's here to fight for a job, and he's putting his best foot forward," Coach Boudreau said. "You can see a little bit more determination on his face."

While Eakin looks good so far in practices, Boudreau knows that it will probably take a few preseason games to tell if he's ready for the NHL.

"He's going to be a good one," Boudreau said. "It's just a matter of is it going to take a little time, or is it now?"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Tragic Day

I don't know if he was fan or friend, but shortly after the Capitals took the ice to skate this morning, a man in the stands waved Alex Ovechkin over to the tunnel that splits the Kettler bleachers. 

At first I thought he was asking for an autograph. But the two briefly exchanged words, and Ovechkin leaped back onto the ice and shouted over to Stanislav Galiev and Dmitri Orlov, who had just gotten onto the bench.

Ovechkin spoke with them for a moment, and Galiev, who had been standing, immediately sat down on the bench. Ovechkin left the ice and went back to the dressing room. A few seconds later, Orlov and Galiev followed him to the dressing room.

The news of the plane crash that killed most of the KHL team Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, coaches, and of course flight crew had just hit Twitter about 10 minutes before the Capitals began their morning skate. The man had been telling Ovechkin about the tragic accident.

The Russians took a few minutes in the dressing room to collect their thoughts, perhaps make some phone calls back home, and they returned to the ice about five minutes later.

Ovechkin, I think, put on a brave face for the two young Russian rookies. During a scrimmage, he was his usual self, hollering after scoring a goal. Galiev was visibly upset throughout the skate, but seemed to be comforted by the recent arrival of friend Cody Eakin, who joined practice for the first time today. Orlov was reserved, but focused his attention on the task at hand.

Ovechkin did leave the ice much earlier than his teammates. He returned to the bench in regular clothing while the skate was still going on, and spoke some more with Galiev and Orlov, as well as Jeff Halpern. While he was talking with them, Halpern was shaking his head in disbelief.

All three Russians had friends or national teammates on the flight. Nicklas Backstrom and Tomas Vokoun also had friends on board the plane.

Right now, it shouldn't matter if these players ever made it to the NHL or not. These men were fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, and friends. In a truly horrific offseason, we mourn the lives of those lost today.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Focus on Prospects: Patrick Wey

 photo by USA Hockey
 
Name: Patrick Wey
Position: D
Shoots: Right
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 210 lbs
Birthdate: 1991-03-21
Hometown: Mt. Lebanon, PA

I've noticed that more attention is generally given to prospects that come out of Canadian major junior - think Cody Eakin, Stanislav Galiev, even John Carlson several years ago as a member of the London Knights. But the Capitals possess strong prospects that are currently playing college hockey. Like Patrick Wey.

Wey was selected by the Capitals in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in the 4th round at 115th overall. He enters his junior year at Boston College this fall. As a freshman at BC, he was part of the Eagles team that won the 2010 NCAA Division I championship. He was also part of the bronze medal-winning Team USA in the 2011 World Junior Championships.

After being invited to WJC camp the previous year only to be sent home, Wey said that making the 2011 World Junior team was "unexpected." "Going into the camp, I didn't really expect to have a great shot at making the team," he said. "As it turned out, I made it, and it was a tremendous experience."

Wey was held pointless in six games, but he is not the type of player to put up big points. A puck-moving defenseman, he's more stay-at-home than drive to the net to score. Though Wey was just +4 his freshman year, he only played 27 games, missing 15 due to illness and injury (a broken wrist and concussion topped off with mononucleosis before the Frozen Four tournament).

He bounced back strong his sophomore year, ending up +20 in 37 games. He added a goal and 7 assists to his stats that year. He continues to get more comfortable with the speed typical of higher leagues. Going into college from the USHL, Wey indicated that the speed in college threw him for a loop as he adjusted from major junior. His experience at the 2011 World Juniors shows that he has even further adjusted to a faster-paced game, as he held his own playing against the best in the world in his age group.

Wey possesses ideal size and speed to play at a higher level, and it's not unreasonable to assume that the Capitals will sign Wey after he graduates in two years. Depending on how well he's developed, he could transition quite well to the Bears, and possibly the Capitals.

Wey certainly has the motivation and energy to make it. After an afternoon scrimmage at this summer's development camp, Wey said that he couldn't even take a nap before the scrimmage, explaining, "I was so excited."