I want to take you all back to a simpler time. A time where all that we cared about was what the hell was going on with that island in Lost (it’s magic or something!). A time when “Yes we can” meant more than a phrase on an ironic t-shirt at Urban Outfitters. A time when “the good Manning” was referring to Peyton. I speak, of course, about 2009.
In 2009, all my friend and I were concerned about as it related to hockey was trying to figure out who was going to be selected to Team Canada for the 2010 Olympics. To be fair, because we don’t have lives, we had been asking this question pretty consistently since the 2006 games ended yet our questions fell on deaf ears. It was a lonely time.
Then, something wonderful happened. We found that there was an organization that shared our obsession. An organization that would devote hours upon hours of needless speculation, pointless analysis and hours of debate. This glorious institution was, of course, TSN.
There were hours, hours of tape of Pierre McGuire telling us that Shea Weber was a monster, days upon days of Gord Miller touting Sidney Crosby as the man to lead Canada to gold. It was spectacular. Splendiferous, even. And what was most amazing was that there was one name shared on the tips of all our tongues, one name kept coming up in discussions for a sure spot on the team. One name that would be a part of leading us to glory and shoring up one of the best defensive cores ever assembled (man, hyperbole is awesome). That man, nay, that legend, was Mike Green.
Then came December 30, 2009 – selection day. We readied ourselves on our couches, perched on the edge, waiting for the one-hour CTV special to begin. Yes, in Canada, the announcement of Team Canada warrants a one-hour special. Deal with it, rest of the world. We held out breath as the team was announced. First came the goalies which were as expected and then, the defensemen. Doughty (yes), Weber (awesome), Keith (absolutely), Niedermayer (duh), Pronger (uh, okay), Seabrook (sure) and Boyle (right on). Then, shockingly, we moved on to the forwards.
Confusion struck! Where was Mike Green? The man coming off a 73 point season and currently in the midst of another golden year. This was unforgivable (note: may not have been unforgivable) and we were left to wonder what the future would hold for Team Canada.
Then we won and I stopped caring.
Turns out, the absence of Mike Green on Team Canada would be strangely prophetic. Green would put up big numbers in that 2009-2010 season, putting up 76 points in 75 games. Oh, yeah, he was also +39. His season would end with his second consecutive Norris Trophy nomination. He was undeniably a top-flight, crazy good offensive defenseman. The guy could move the puck and score at a pace most forwards on the Leafs would envy (hate myself). Then, something happened. Mike Green kept getting hurt.
He would follow that season with a disappointing season in which 24 points in just 49 games. Injuries could definitely be to blame for his weakened output put something was different about his game. Blaming injuries can only go so far, especially when his +/- rating dropped from +39 to just +6. It’s not like his team got demonstrably worse, the Caps finished first in the Eastern Conference that season. Something was off.
I remember watching Green with confusion when he was actually on the ice. He wasn’t horrible by any means and even showed signs of his own self with 6 points in a disappointingly short 8-game playoff run by the Capitals that year. But he wasn’t finding the open slot as easily as he was the past two years, he wasn’t hitting Alexes Ovechkin or Semin with beautiful passes through defenders like he once was. It sucked.
Then last year happened. Yet another injury shortened year, yet another disappointing output. Green played just 32 games with only 7 points in that span and saw his plus/minus drop to +5. Green showed up in time for the playoffs and added 4 points in the Capitals surprising 14-game run. What had the biggest impact on just how far Green had fallen was when he scored the game winner in game 4 against the Rangers, it felt like an event. I believe I actually said the words “holy shit, Mike Green!” after the slap shot blew past Henrik Lundqvist. It was a nice moment, even if it underscored the straight downturn of his career.
I bring this all up because, in case it wasn’t clear, I’m a Mike Green fan. I also bring this up because for all the talk of free agent signings, especially in the wake of the money avalanches that are Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, Mike Green signed a three-year extension with the Capitals for $18.25M. If you missed this news, you’re not alone. What I found truly amazing was, three years ago, Mike Green would have been one of the most highly sought after free agents in the league. Maybe he wouldn’t have gotten Weber money, but a Suter-like contract wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility (or this could just be further proof why I’ll never be an NHL GM). A back-to-back Norris winner who scores at that kind of pace? Seems like money in the bank. Green’s bank. Lots of money.
Obviously, this isn’t how things went for Green. Not that $18.25 million is a paltry sum nor is it any amount of money that anyone would look at and go “nah, not a fan.” But it leaves me to wonder what the future holds for Green. If he regains his former form, this new contract will seem like a steal. And if he doesn’t, we’ll all be left to wonder what could have been. I don’t know about you, but when I’m on the edge of my couch awaiting the 2014 Selection Special to begin, I’m hoping that it will make sense for his name to be called. If only to make up for the confusion felt 3 years ago. Come on, Mike Green, you can do it. I believe in you.