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Caps GM McPhee faces very critical week

Posted on 27 March 2013 by Ed Frankovic

Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee is arguably facing his most critical week in his 16 year tenure.

His Caps sit at 15-17-1, 11th place in the Eastern Conference and 23rd overall in the NHL, with the trade deadline just one week away on April 3rd at 3pm.

It is waters they have not chartered since 2006-07 and a team that won four straight Southeast Division titles from 2008 to 2011 with 94, 108, 121, and 107 points, respectively, and had 92 points and finished eighth in the East last season, is currently moving towards a location often called “No Man’s Land.”

No Man’s Land is a spot in the NHL where you aren’t good enough to contend for the Stanley Cup, likely won’t make the playoffs, but also aren’t bad enough to land one of the top three spots in the draft. It is a position where it is very difficult to get better quickly, just ask the Calgary Flames or the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have been the President and Vice President of No Man’s Land in the NHL the last several years. Those teams, who have rabid and demanding fan bases, have recently routinely gone with the mind set that they are only a player or two away from the playoffs or contending in them. Both have been reluctant to take a critical step back in order to possibly move two or three steps forward (that might finally be changing in Calgary this spring, but is it too late?).

The Capitals were headed to No Man’s Land once before, in the days of Jaromir Jagr, but owner Ted Leonsis and McPhee went the “blow it up” route and started over. For the most part, especially from a business standpoint, they had success and it landed them Alexander Oveckhin, who is worth the price of admission on most nights, all by himself. It is important to note that hockey is first and foremost a business to many owners. So the bottom line is vital. Thus the push to just get into the playoffs can often be the difference between being in the red or black. The bottom line can drive an approach that constantly looks at the short term solution instead of the bigger picture.

This is a danger I see for the Caps right now. They are a team that has an incredible home sellout streak of 169 games and the marketable product in Ovechkin. But everyone knows in the Baltimore/DC area that winning is your most marketable item. This region demands a winner and when a club can’t consistently do that, the fan base erodes exponentially (see the Baltimore Orioles for 14 years). So owner Ted Leonsis surely is leery of what the impacts of a losing season or missing the playoffs would do to his club that generates full building after full building these days. So it can be a risk to have a losing season.

Clearly the Caps would love to make a run and reach the postseason this year but after last night’s loss to New York Islanders, they are seven points out of first place in the Southeast Division and four points behind the Rangers for eighth place overall in the Eastern Conference. With no Western Conference matchups, it is very difficult to make up ground. To reach the post season, the Capitals will likely need to go 11-4 or something along those lines. Is that really doable with this team, one that is finally healthy and still couldn’t beat John Tavares and company, at home, in a very important game?

That is a question that McPhee needs to ask himself because the way I see it right now he has three options over the next week:

1. Stand pat and do nothing

2. Become a buyer and try to make the post season

3. Sell off some assets ensuring a post season miss but put yourself in position to snag one of the elite players in what appears to be a draft with some impact players at the top.

In option one it will be difficult to make the postseason and the Caps likely end up 9th or 10th in the East. They would have low odds to win the new draft lottery to pick first overall and probably would draft around the 10th to 14th spot in New Jersey in June. In addition, unless they sign Mike Ribeiro, they likely lose him to unrestricted free agency after the season.

In the second choice, McPhee would really need to add an impact player to get this team to go 11-4 down the stretch. It would have to be a top line winger and to do that they have to give something up, likely their first round pick this year or perhaps one of their recent first round picks (Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg, or Tom Wilson). It is a mortgage the future type of move that might get them in the postseason but likely doesn’t put them in a real position to contend for the Stanley Cup given what the Pittsburgh Penguins roster looks like now after acquiring Brenden Morrow and Doug Murray. Making the playoffs would help the bottom line but would the price be too great? Then they’d still have the issue of trying to sign Ribeiro along with the asset they acquired at the deadline. The Caps currently have only $15M of salary cap space for 2013-14 with just 15 players under contract. Two top six forwards would eat up much of that and McPhee still has to sign defensemen Karl Alzner who is a restricted free agent, as well as some other players. Sure the competitor in me would like to give it a shot but depending on what you have to give up this season for a top six forward asset, doesn’t appear to make a lot of sense.

Therefore, option three seems to be the smart move. Signing Ribeiro is going to be awfully tough to do and with number 9 at 33 years old and wanting a five year deal, it just doesn’t seem like a wise option on his terms. Remember Michal Nylander? That signing in 2007 arguably cost McPhee the salary cap space he needed in 2009 to shore up a Washington defense that was likely the biggest thing holding them back from beating the Penguins in 2009 and going on to win the Stanley Cup. So why hamstring yourself with a big contract to an aging player and risk that scenario all over again when you are planning on contending again?

But if you can get a number one draft pick or more this year for Ribeiro, then you should deal him. Sure you will definitely miss the playoffs but you also now have two first round picks and could package them to possibly move up to number one, two, or three and get one of Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, or Jonathan Drouin. Jones, according to my sources, is the best player in the draft and NHL ready now. He very likely will be a number one defensemen on a team in the NHL in a couple of years. He’s a team changer. Snag him and you suddenly have options to possibly move some of your other defensemen, like Mike Green, who you are paying $6M a season now.

In addition to Ribeiro or Green, there are other guys on this roster that teams might be interested in such as Marcus Johansson or Joel Ward or one of the three goalies (Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth, or Philip Grubauer) at the trade deadline.

What McPhee and his staff need to do is work to the Baltimore Ravens model of “Right Player, Right Price.” You have to know the value you place on every player on your team and in the league and make moves accordingly. Washington’s pro scouts will really need to be doing their jobs well and feeding the GM the info he requires to make some hard decisions. If you do it right you don’t overpay for your own guys and can end up with better players at or below that price (see the Ravens getting Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, and Marcus Spears for the same overall amount the Cleveland Browns paid for Paul Kruger).

McPhee has made some very smart decisions on players before, such as Semyon Varlamov, who he traded for a 1st and 2nd round pick. The 1st rounder is now Forsberg while the Capitals haven’t taken any hit at all in the goaltending department. Sergei Fedorov for Theo Ruth was another blue ribbon deal by the GM that made the Caps a legit Stanley Cup contender for two straight springs. But he’s also had some not so good decisions (re-signing an aging Tom Poti for two years, the four year deal for Jeff Schultz, and the two years given to an aging Roman Hamrlik). Those contracts have impacted Washington’s salary cap while not yielding quality results on the ice.

With Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, and John Carlson having long term deals clearly they are the guys for McPhee to build around going forward. Everyone else should be up grabs. It is Asset Management 101 at this point for Washington. They need to do what they can to transform a team that was one of the best in the league from 2008 to 2010, but has steadily declined, back into a Cup contender.

Sure its a risk from a marketing standpoint, but the fans in this area recognize when you are going in the right direction and will have the patience to endure a reshaping of the roster, especially if they believe it will eventually lead to Washington’s first Stanley Cup. So it’s a low risk play and if the moves are done right and there is a championship in the next few years or so, then you have people locked into your team long term (see the Philadelphia Flyers, who still sell out despite not winning a Cup since 1975).

So this is a huge week for McPhee and one he has three roads he can possibly take. They aren’t easy decisions and only he and his staff really know what options are going to be available to him in return for his current assets.

The path he ultimately chooses will likely make or break his and the Capitals future.

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Orioles-Blue Jays game postponed, doubleheader scheduled for Sept. 24

Posted on 26 August 2012 by WNST Staff

Sunday’s game between the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays has been postponed due to rain. The teams will play a single-admission doubleheader on Monday, September 24 beginning at 4:05 p.m., with all gates opening at 3:00. Game two will not start before 7:05.

Tickets for Sunday’s game may be exchanged for seats of equal value for the September 24 doubleheader or any remaining non-prime home game during the 2012 season, subject to availability. Ticket exchanges must be made by September 26.

Tickets for the September 24 game will be valid for both games of the doubleheader.

Ticket exchanges can be performed at the box office or submitted in writing along with the original tickets and mailed via certified mail by September 26 to:

Baltimore Orioles
Attention: August 26 Rainout
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

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After being named Caps coach, Oates elected to Hall of Fame

Posted on 26 June 2012 by WNST Staff

TORONTO (June 26, 2012) — Bill Hay, Chairman and CEO of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jim Gregory and Pat Quinn, Co-Chairmen of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee, announced today Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Player Category. The vote took place today at the annual meeting of the Selection Committee in Toronto.

“The Hockey Hall of Fame is proud to welcome these four hockey legends as Honoured Members,” said Jim Gregory. “Their contributions to the game of hockey are well documented and their election to the Hockey Hall of Fame is richly deserved.”

Pavel Bure, a native of Moscow, Russia, joined the Vancouver Canucks for the 1991-92 NHL season and that season won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. A six-time NHL All-Star, he was named to the first team in 1994. As a Florida Panther, he was the NHL’s top goal scorer for two consecutive seasons, from 1999 to 2001, before finishing his career with the New York Rangers in 2003.

Adams Oates played three seasons with RPI of the ECAC before signing as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Red Wings in 1985. He went on to play 19 NHL seasons with seven teams, including four 100-plus point seasons. The sixth all-time NHL career leader in assists with 1,063, Oates retired in 2004.

“Growing up I was a guy who was kind of overlooked and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to RPI and have the time for my game to mature,” said Oates. “This is a tremendous honour and I look back and realize how lucky I was to have great coaches to help me along the way.”

Joe Sakic grew up in Burnaby, British Columbia, before starring with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, winning the CHL’s Player of the Year Award in in 1987-88. Drafted 15th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1987 Entry Draft, Joe moved with the team to Colorado and went on to play his entire 20-year career with the same organization. Sakic captained the team for 17 seasons, second longest in NHL history and won Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001. An NHL First Team All-Star on three occasions, Sakic also played for Canada at three Olympic Games, winning gold and being named MVP in 2002.

“As a kid I always dreamed about making the NHL, but never really thought at all about the Hockey Hall of Fame,” said Sakic. “I was fortunate to play 20 seasons, which gave me the opportunity to build on my list of accomplishments. Having great teammates and coaches was a key component of this.”

Mats Sundin was born in Bromma, Sweden and was the first European born player to be drafted first overall in the NHL Entry Draft, in 1989 by the Quebec Nordiques. Mats spent 13 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in goals with 420 and assists with 567. Sundin is the first Swedish-born player to reach 1,000 points in the NHL. He represented his home country internationally on 14 occasions, with the culmination being an Olympic gold medal in 2006.

“Three years have passed since I retired and it makes me realize how privileged I was to play my entire career in Canada, where hockey really matters,” said Sundin. “Having my hobby and love for a sport become my livelihood really allowed me to live out my dream.”

The 2012 Induction Celebration will be held on Monday, November 12th at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

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Blue Jays ink veteran lefty Moyer to minor league deal

Posted on 26 June 2012 by Luke Jones

After deciding he longer wanted to wait for the Orioles to promote him, veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer signed a minor-league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.

The 49-year-old will report to Triple-A Las Vegas and presumably join the starting rotation. He has not received any assurances of a call-up, but the Blue Jays’ recent rash of injuries in their starting rotation increases the likelihood of Moyer receiving another chance in the big leagues. Toronto has lost starters Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison to the disabled list in recent weeks and Henderson Alvarez departed from Monday’s game with elbow soreness.

Moyer made three starts for Triple-A Norfolk, allowing three runs in 16 innings while striking out 16 and walking none. He requested and was granted his release on Saturday after the Orioles did not select his contract and asked him to make at least one more start for the Tides.

Making 10 starts for the Colorado Rockies earlier this season, Moyer went 2-5 with a 5.70 ERA before being released in early June.

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Jones just behind Bautista in AL All-Star voting

Posted on 18 June 2012 by WNST Staff

FROM PRESS RELEASE:

Center fielder Adam Jones has jumped up to fourth place among American League outfielders. He is still the top-ranking vote-getter among Orioles players with 1,959,207 votes and is closing in on Toronto’s Jose Bautista (1,996,940 votes) for the final starting OF spot.

Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy are both in third place among their positions with 1,242,247 and 968,963 votes, respectively. Other Orioles in the running include Robert Andino, who is in fifth place among second basemen and Nick Markakis ranks 13th in the AL outfield race.

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Ravens to rename practice facility Under Armour Performance Center

Posted on 08 June 2012 by WNST Staff

Baltimore, MD (June 8, 2012) – The Baltimore Ravens, who play at M&T Bank Stadium in Camden Yards, and Under Armour (NYSE: UA), the leader in performance apparel, footwear and accessories, whose global headquarters are located downtown at Locust Point, are joining forces in a wide-ranging collaboration that will feature multiple community-focused initiatives. The ten-year agreement also includes naming rights for the Ravens’ practice facility in Owings Mills, which will be renamed the Under Armour Performance Center.

These dynamic organizations are led by nationally-recognized business and civic leaders.  Both Steve Bisciotti, owner of the Baltimore Ravens, and Kevin Plank, the Founder, CEO and Chairman of Under Armour, have enjoyed tremendous success both in the United States and abroad.

“I love the Under Armour brand and am proud that it is Baltimore-based,” Bisciotti said. “They started with football wear that players wanted, and still do. They produce great products. Under Armour is the only partner for our training center. Their success has been off the charts, and this partnership will serve as a long-term platform that will showcase to the nation the best of what two of Baltimore’s strongest companies have to offer.

“We’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Steve and the Ravens over the years.  The Under Armour Performance Center is a facility that reflects our shared commitment to making all athletes better and to help the Ravens players excel on game-day,” said Plank. “We are even more excited that our partnership extends off-the-field, and will allow both of us to implement meaningful changes in the community.”

While both the Ravens and Under Armour have been active in improving the community, the two companies will combine to empower local youth and schools through football initiatives.  Specific youth football programs include the creation of annual grants, multiple clinics and statewide competitions.  Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and his assistants will play an active role in some of these programs, including a free Under Armour-sponsored clinic for over 400 Carroll County youth on June 16 at McDaniel College.

The creation of an annual 7-on-7 high school flag-football tournament, which already has attracted registration from 72 schools and more than 1,400 students for 2012, highlights the competitive elements of the agreement.

A visible component of the partnership is the renaming of the Ravens’ practice facility to the Under Armour Performance Center, which will host local and national media throughout the year and will showcase two of the city’s most successful corporate entities.

Under Armour recently announced the launch of a local community-based empowerment program, entitled “WIN Baltimore.” The platform is designed to spark positive social change throughout Baltimore and its surrounding neighborhoods by fueling the social, educational and physical advancement of the boys and girls who will serve as the future business and community leaders of the region.

The Ravens franchise, founded in 1996, won Super Bowl XXXV in January of 2001. The team has earned playoffs berths in five of the last six seasons, and they are the NFL’s only team to appear in the playoffs in each of the last four seasons – posting at least one victory in each of those postseasons. Long recognized for their community involvement, the Ravens’ mission is to win football games, serve their fans and be a positive force in the community.

About Under Armour, Inc.

Under Armour® (NYSE: UA) is a leading developer, marketer, and distributor of branded performance apparel, footwear, and accessories. The Company’s products are sold worldwide and worn by athletes at all levels, from youth to professional, on playing fields around the globe. The Under Armour global headquarters is in Baltimore, Maryland, with European headquarters in Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium, and additional offices in Denver, Hong Kong, Toronto, and Guangzhou, China. For further information, please visit the Company’s website at www.ua.com.

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Hammel hopes to help Birds avoid sweep

Posted on 30 May 2012 by WNST Staff

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Orioles look to Arrieta to play stopper against Jays

Posted on 29 May 2012 by WNST Staff

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Orioles activate Reynolds, place Pomeranz on 15-day DL

Posted on 28 May 2012 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles today announced that they have reinstated infielder Mark Reynolds from the disabled list and placed right-handed pitcher Stu Pomeranz on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 26, with a left oblique injury.

Reynolds was placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 11 with a strained left oblique. He is batting .191/.324/.337 with two home runs and nine RBI in 27 games for the Orioles this season. He has hit safely in five of his last seven games before going on the DL, batting .348/.484/.739 with five extra-base hits in that time.

Pomeranz has pitched to a 3.00 ERA (6.0IP, 2ER) in three appearances for the Orioles. He did not allowed an earned run in 10 appearances this season with Triple-A Norfolk (five games, 10.0IP) and Double-A Bowie (five games, 13.1IP), striking out 35 and walking three.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 28 May 2012 by WNST Staff

Honorable Mention: Boxing-Antonio Tarver vs. Lateef Kayode (Saturday 9pm from Carson, CA live on Showtime), Gabriel Rosado vs. Joel Julio (Friday 9pm from Bethlehem, PA live on NBC Sports Network); WNBA: Minnesota Lynx @ Washington Mystics (Wednesday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet); Pro Lacrosse: MLL Chesapeake Bayhawks @ Denver Outlaws (Saturday 9pm from Denver live on ESPN3.com)

10. Zac Brown Band (Thursday 5:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Capital Jazz Fest feat. Indie.Arie, Bill Cosby (Friday-Sunday Merriweather Post Pavilion); Radiohead (Sunday 7:30pm Verizon Center); Miranda Lambert/Jerrod Niemann (Sunday 4pm Jiffy Lube Live);  City and Colour (Wednesday 7pm Rams Head Live); Smile Empty Soul (Saturday 5pm Recher Theatre); Crossfade (Monday 7pm Baltimore Soundstage); Dandy Warhols (Tuesday 7pm 9:30 Club); The Used (Wednesday 7:30pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Victor Wooten (Thursday 8pm Howard Theatre); Dr. John (Friday 7:30pm Birchmere); Rhett Miller (Monday 8pm Jammin Java)

I’d watch ZBB do just about anything, but this was as good as anything I’ve seen them do…

My favorite tune from Thom Yorke and the boys?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKd06s1LNik

For more traditional country folk, I sorta dig this Jerrod Niemann tune…

I wish I didn’t have to admit to digging this tune…

9. Great Grapes Wine & Food Festival (Saturday & Sunday 12pm Oregon Ridge); Guy Torry (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Corey Holcomb (Thursday-Sunday DC Improv); “Man on a Ledge” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); Glenn Clark’s first ever “Hogfest” (Saturday)

That’s right. For the first time in my (still?) young life, I will be roasting a pig Saturday. It’s all thanks in part to ABC Rental Store in Rosedale. A talented young man I listen to on the radio is always talking to me about them. I think his show is called “The Reality Check.” I PRAY my results make me as happy as George W. Bush…

Also, I will be hosting a qualifier for the Olympic KanJam team Saturday (more on Twitter @OlympicKanJam). I expect the day to look much like this…

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