Fleischmann to Stay Put and Other Preseason Notes

Fleischman’s Status and Other Caps Notes
By Scott Lowe

You can put an end to the Tomas Fleischmann trade rumors, at least according to Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau.

The offensively gifted young winger, who may find himself shifted to center and battling for a spot as the second-line pivot, has been rumored to be on the trading block since a sub-par playoff performance against Montreal that ended up with an unceremonious Game 7 benching. Yesterday, in a short story published on SportingNews.com, Boudreau put an end to the trade speculation, stating that he expects Fleischmann to have a “breakout year.” Boudreau thinks Fleischmann will improve upon last year’s 23 goals, especially considering that Fleischmann missed all of training camp and the first 11 games last season because of a blood clot.

Fleischmann, who reportedly has looked good in preseason workouts with teammates at the Caps’ Kettler Iceplex practice facility, has a long history with Boudreau. While both were at Hershey Fleischmann was the offensive leader on a team that captured one Calder Cup and advanced to the finals the following year. When Boudreau was hired by Washington he began easing Fleischmann into the lineup, at one point commenting that the young Czech was “my Ovechkin” at Hershey.

In his short NHL career Fleischmann, as his nickname “Flash” suggests, has shown flashes of brilliance, appearing in 260 NHL games and recording 56 goals, 72 assists, 128 points and a minus-7 overall rating. Prior to falling out of favor in the postseason last spring Fleischmann had turned in his best season as a Cap, notching 28 assists to go along with his 23 goals and posting a career-best plus-9.

Fleishman is a fast, yet smooth and possesses tremendous skill and a powerful wrist shot. If he can develop a little bit better touch around the goal and add some physicality to his game there is no reason he can’t be a consistent 30-goal scorer at the NHL level. His seeming lack of willingness to roll up his sleeves and battle in the corners and in front of the net, as well as some defensive zone coverage issues, earned the wrath of Washington’s fan base during last year’s playoffs and apparently led to Boudreau’s Game 7 decision to dress veteran tough guy Scott Walker instead of Fleischmann.

Perhaps that benching was what Fleischmann needed as motivation to help him ascend to the upper echelon of NHL forwards this year. If not, expect the trade rumors to heat up again around deadline time as his one-year, $2.6 million contract nears its end.

Do the Wise Guys Know Something?
After opening 12-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, the Caps have moved into the favorite spot on the Vegas boards along with their arch-rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both are currently listed as 6-1, followed by Chicago at 7-1 and Detroit at 10-1. Vancouver, San Jose, Philadelphia and New Jersey are next in line according to the Vegas pundits. Rounding out the list at the bottom is Edmonton at 100-1.

To think that Edmonton has fallen that far since its dominance throughout the mid-to-late 1980s and into the 90s is shocking on the surface. But as I look into my own backyard I see a Baltimore Orioles franchise that was baseball’s winningest over a 35-year period spanning the 60s, 70s and 80s and had a resurgence in the late 90s before becoming the American League’s doormat over the past five years. And the once-proud Washington Redskins’ struggles under the “leadership” of Daniel Snyder have left the three-time Super Bowl champs as a three-time playoff qualifier and perennial .500 or below franchise since their last title in 1992.

Sports success seems to go in cycles, which is good news for the Capitals right now as they have built unmatched organizational depth in professional hockey. That depth has developed as a result of an orchestrated rebuilding period during the middle part of the decade that has produced contributing first-round draft picks such as Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, Jeff Schultz, Alexander Semin, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, Nicklas Backstrom and Semyon Varlamov. Other draftees and prospects have contributed to Hershey’s back-to-back Calder Cup victories and have allowed Washington to avoid the free agent spending frenzy this summer in hopes of constructing a championship-caliber club from within.

Training Camp Update
The Caps’ rookie camp begins Sunday at the Kettler Iceplex in Northern Virginia and culminates on Sept. 16 with the annual rookie game there against the Flyers. That contest will be streamed with audio and video coverage on www.WashingtonCaps.com. Selected rookies will be chosen from that camp to participate in full training camp, which begins Sept. 18 at Kettler. All rookie and training camp workouts are open to the public.

Washington’s preseason schedule shapes up this way:

Wednesday, Sept. 22 at Columbus
Saturday, Sept. 25 at Nashville
Tuesday, Sept. 28 home vs. Boston
Wednesday, Sept. 29 at Boston
Friday, Oct. 1 home vs. Columbus
Sunday, Oct. 3 home vs. Nashville

For the first time in recent memory the Caps will not face a single Southeast Division foe leading up to their regular-season opener Oct. 8 at Atlanta. Washington faces New Jersey in its home opener Oct. 9 at Verizon Center. This year the Caps will appear on Versus 11 times (thank God that Direc TV solved that issue!), and NBC will televise as many as four of Washington’s contests.