The Washington Capitals released their 2011-12 regular season schedule today. You can check it out on the Caps website. Here are some of the key dates on the slate:
Oct. 8 – Home opener at Verizon Center vs. the division-rival Carolina Hurricanes.
Oct. 10 – A Columbus Day rematch of the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinal series vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Oct. 22 – The 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings make their first visit to Verizon Center since 2010.
Nov. 23 – Team Winnipeg makes its first appearance at Verizon Center.
Nov. 25 – The New York Rangers return to Washington the day after Thanksgiving for the first time since the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
Dec. 1 – Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins make their first visit to D.C. of the season.
Jan. 3 – The Capitals kick off 2012 when they host the Calgary Flames at Verizon Center for the first time since 2010.
Jan. 24 – Washington welcomes the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to Verizon Center for the first time in 2011-12.
April 5 – Washington concludes the regular-season home schedule at Verizon Center vs. the Florida Panthers.
The first round of the 2011 NHL Draft is on Friday night on VERSUS at 7 pm from Minnesota (rounds 2-7 are on the NHL Network starting at 11am on Saturday). The Capitals pick 26th in a draft that GM George McPhee stated lacks difference makers. In the recent past Washington has picked up some quality players late in the first round including Mike Green, Semyon Varlamov, John Carlson, Marcus Johansson, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. This year getting a player of that caliber that late seems very unlikely. Based on what McPhee told us on his conference call last week, the GM seems open to making some deals to improve his club, if they are there for the taking, so don’t be surprised if he moves his first round pick.
The Caps have a very solid young core but lack experience and leadership, as I blogged in my 2010-11 season summary back on May 17th, so I expect the GM to be active this summer to improve Washington’s chances at going deeper in the playoffs next season.
Speaking of trades, the Philadelphia Flyers went radical today trading their top two centers, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, in two different deals. Richards, the former team captain went to the Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, and an undisclosed draft pick. Carter was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek, the Jackets 1st pick in the 2011 draft (8th overall), and a third round pick. They basically dumped two high priced long term contracts in return for two young promising players in Schenn and Voracek, a third line grinder in Simmonds, and draft picks.
GM Paul Holmgren did this because the Flyers signed 31 year old goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, to a mammoth nine year, $51M deal with an average cap hit of $5.6M per season. So Philly now has a ton of money locked up in both the former Coyotes/Ducks goalie and Chris Pronger. This is a huge risk for the Flyers and I don’t see it panning out. Carter and Richards each apparently had internal team issues so I am not surprised they were moved, plus both are coming off of injuries, but the decision to put so much money in a goalie that has never single-handedly won a playoff series is mind boggling. I do like Voracek and think he can be an impact player, but overall, I think the Flyers traded one set of problems for some new ones.