To Capitals Winger Fleischmann, Much Was Given, and Now Much Is Expected
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
When Tomas Fleischmann came to Washington last September, he arrived without a contract or the guarantee of a spot on the roster. This season, the skilled winger has job security -- but there are heightened expectations, too.
After an uneven first full NHL campaign, one in which Fleischmann would display flashes of brilliance one night and be ineffective the next, Coach Bruce Boudreau said yesterday that he believes Fleischmann is on the verge of a breakout.
"He was off by just a tick," Boudreau said at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "He would hold on to the puck a little long last year, where the defender would just get his stick on it, or he would just miss it by half an inch. That experience will make him move the puck faster and do everything a little bit quicker this year. That little inch made a lot of difference between scoring a goal or not."
Fleischmann finished with 10 goals and 20 assists in 75 games, a disappointing output for the team and the player. Still, despite those unspectacular statistics, the Capitals re-signed Fleischmann in February to a two-year, $1.45 million contract based on their projection that he'll develop into a 20-goal scorer with more experience and strength.
Boudreau is so confident, in fact, he's penciled the 24-year-old Czech into his opening night lineup, skating on a line with veterans Michael Nylander and Chris Clark.
"This year is more important for me than last year," said Fleischmann, who tallied a goal and an assist in two full-contact, 60-minute intra-squad scrimmages this week. "I have to show more. I just want to prove myself and score goals. I had opportunity to score last year but it didn't happen much."
If there is one obvious deficiency for Fleischmann, it's that he is sometimes easily knocked off the puck. That point was underscored in the playoffs last spring when he was scratched for five of the team's seven playoff games against the bruising Philadelphia Flyers and replaced by Eric Fehr, a brawnier winger.
That benching did not sit well with Fleischmann, who increased the intensity of his workouts this summer, focusing on building strength in his legs and improving his aerobic conditioning. Several times each week, he ran six kilometers to the gym, worked out for two hours, then ran home. As a result, Fleischmann said he added about six pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame.
"For me it's about confidence and how I feel," he added. "That's what matters for me. When you play lots of games, you get confidence. But you have to work hard, too."
Capitals Notes: Nicklas Backstrom completed his first full practice since spraining his right ankle last week and said he's no longer concerned about lingering effects. The inaugural Gaetan Duchesne Cup will be awarded to the winner of today's scrimmage. Boudreau created the Duchesne Cup, named for the late former Capitals winger, to inspire his players in training camp. The team has purchased an actual trophy, which is being shipped overnight.