As the offseason begins, we’ll take a player-by-player look at the year that was for the Washington Capitals.
Contract status: $5.25 million in 2010-11, $5.25 million in 2011-12.
The year that was: Mike Green played the fewest games in a single season since he came up to the NHL full time in 2006-07 this past year because of injuries. Whether it was his shoulder or knee in the beginning of the year, the pair of concussions that caused him to miss 26 of the final 28 games in the regular season or the hip flexor that forced him to miss Game 4 against Tampa Bay, Green’s year was muddled by ailments of all types.
Even without the injuries, it was clear this wouldn’t have been the year spectators had come to expect from Green. The two-time Norris Trophy finalist entered the campaign looking to focus on his own defensive game, and he wasn’t putting up points by the bushel baskets even before the Capitals switched their system. Of defensemen who played more than 20 games with Washington this season, Green was on the ice for 2.11 goals per 60 minutes at even strength, behind only Karl Alzner (1.90) and John Carlson (1.93).
Still, Green’s absences hurt the Capitals. Without him in the lineup, Washington was without its best puck-moving defenseman and regular power-play quarterback, a void that put more pressure on Carlson – a situation that wasn’t balanced out again until Dennis Wideman was acquired at the trade deadline following Green’s second concussion.
Green posted six points in the playoffs but it’s hard to not wonder what he might have done if he hadn’t been playing his first games in two months. Not that it changed how he approached the games, though, as evidenced by the shot he blocked in Game 5 against New York. The puck hit him in the head, but his helmet absorbed the blow on that occasion and prevented Green from suffering another concussion.
Looking ahead: Green will enter the final year of his current contract in 2011-12 and his health will continue to be a prime concern. It’s no secret that opposing teams like to target Green for physical punishment of all sorts, and for someone who has averaged more than 25 minutes per game in each of the past three seasons, that can take its toll.
It will also be interesting to see how Green continues to adapt his play. He, like the rest of Washington’s young core, has spent the past few seasons learning what it takes to be successful in the long run (and the postseason) and with eachyear, there’s an opportunity for Green to take the next step forward.
Etc.: The willingness to block a shot can sometimes be blown out of proportion, but when Green went down to stop a shot by Matt Gilroy in Game 5 of the first round against the Rangers, it seemed like everyone in Verizon Center held their breath.
For Green to block a shot with no hesitation after missing a significant amount of time with concussions said a good deal about the defenseman. The shot went off his helmet and didn’t result in an injury, other than a bruise. It did, however, yield one of the lighter comments of the postseason from Coach Bruce Boudreau.
“That’s tremendous character,” Boudreau said at the time. “I just wish he would get the magnets out of his helmet.”