As the offseason begins, we’ll take a player-by-player look at the year that was for the Washington Capitals.
Contract status: $2.8 million in 2010-11, $2 million in 2011-12.
The year that was: The beginning of the season wasn’t easy for Mike Knuble. The oldest player in the Capitals’ dressing room started to occasionally look out of sync on the ice and recorded only three goals and eight points in the first two months of the season. Knuble acknowledged that he was snakebitten at times, but as the season wore on he regained his scoring touch.
In the final 13 games of the regular season he was back in full swing, with nine goals and 12 points, clinching an eighth straight year with 20 or more goals.
The Capitals often discussed the importance going to the net in search of goals via deflection, tip or general ruckus in the crease, but Knuble remained one of the only players who did so on a regular, and relentless, basis. He didn’t miss much time – three games in November after suffering a broken jaw and three in the playoffs with a broken right thumb – but particularly in the postseaso,n there were shifts where is absence in front of the opposing net was noticeable.
Knuble played the final three games against Tampa Bay with four pins holding together his shattered thumb, which was broken when it was hit by a shot from Mike Green.
“They tuck them under the skin and it’s like a couple of injections before each game,” Knuble explained on the team’s exit day. “In all honesty, I felt it didn’t slow me down much at all. There were moments when it would really bite, but ultimately once you braced it, it held up pretty good.”
Looking ahead: It took until the second half of the season for the venerable right wing to find his offensive consistency this past season, but if Knuble continues to contribute, the one-year extension he signed at the start of the postseason will prove to be a good move for the Capitals. Not only will they have someone able to chip in on the scoresheet, but they will benefit from the consistent presence of a veteran who’s respected throughout the room.
Knuble has long said that reaching the plateau of 1,000 games played is a personal goal of his. He will enter the 2011-12 season with 968 career regular season games under his belt, so barring any unexpected injuries or other setbacks, he will most likely reach the mark.
Etc.: The atmosphere in the visiting dressing room after the Game 3 loss in Tampa Bay was unlike any other at that point in the season. There was urgency and frustration building after the Capitals had been unable to close out a lead against the Lightning. Once the room was opened to the media, there were a few minutes during which reporters were the only ones there, standing in relative silence until Knuble asked a member of the public relations staff if any players were out there.
When told that there weren’t, Knuble came out from behind a curtain where trainers tended to players. He spoke reporters as his team faced a three-games-to-none deficit, and he was fuming.
“You’re upset because you’re giving them chances, keep letting them come back, letting them come back. You’re not going to win doing that. Now we play with the lead and we have to order up another one?” Knuble said after Game 3. “Another goal and they tie it, work hard and get another one. If we score three, four goals in a night – in a playoff game -- that’s got to be automatic. This time of year, the way this series has been going 3-2, if you score three goals in a game that should be a win.”
Asked later about his visible anger during that interview, Knuble said “I felt like, what were we waiting for? Why did we need to put ourselves in that position? If we weren’t going to step up then, when would we?”