Is Mike Knuble's Career In Washington Over?

By Matt Geiser

For the third straight game, Washington Capitals winger Mike Knuble will be a healthy scratch. The Capitals are 0-1-1 without Knuble in the lineup the past two games, and it seems as though his leadership is being missed both in the locker room, and on the ice. In 53 games this season, he has only three goals and 11 assists, with a team-worst minus-14.  It’s apparent that his offensive production has dropped off significantly, but isn’t that expected when only playing seven minutes a game on the fourth line? Plus the guys getting the nod over Knuble makes it seem as though his tenure in Washington is over.

Washington has two weeks until the NHL Trade Deadline. It is obvious Mike Knuble is upset with the benching for the third straight game. Is it coming down to General Manager George McPhee looking to trade away the 39-year-old assistant captain? Dale Hunter keeps saying that not having his vocal leadership in the locker room is hard to continue to do, yet he is doing it on a daily basis now. So what’s the deal?

I think that Knuble doesn’t exactly fit into Hunter’s gameplan as well as he did in Boudreau’s. Knuble was a top line winger last season, and this season has dropped off to the fourth line. Does his age have something to do with it? Perhaps. The guy is 39-years-old, and playing the role of a grinding winger for 17 years can really take a toll on someone’s body.

I see Knuble being placed on the trading block, with many teams looking for that kind of leadership in the locker room, specifically the Capitals next opponent, the San Jose Sharks. However, if the Capitals trade away that kind of leadership, does it show them waving the white flag for the year? Year in and year out, everyone talks about how Knuble is the veteran in the locker room when it comes to the playoffs, and if he is gone, where will that leadership come from?

The Capitals need to keep Knuble for the push to the playoffs. They need to put him on the top line with Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin. Give him more ice time and he will produce like he has in the past with Washington’s top players. That might be extreme, but its better than Keith Aucoin, who has three goals in the past four seasons in the NHL, and Jay Beagle, who has three goals total in the NHL.

So if the Capitals keep Knuble, that brings up the question of is this his last year? Last April, Knuble signed a one-year extension on his contract that will expire at the end of the 2011-12 season. Is this the end for one of the most dominant wingers of the past decade? I believe so. He played in his 1,000th game earlier this year and has won one, and arguably two, Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings early in his career. No matter the outcome of this season, I see Knuble hanging up the skates after this year. So essentially, yes, Mike Knuble’s career will be done in Washington after this season.

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