Over the Washington Capitals‘ last two games the team has picked up a pair of impressive one-goal victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs, in turn bringing the team to 22-16-6 on the 2013-14 season. In a conventional sense it would appear that the Capitals organization would be the blueprint of joyous after this semi-hot streak, but then again this team is by no means being run conventionally.
Yes, that’s right; even after two consecutive wins the Capitals have an angry camper within their ranks. That person would be Martin Erat, who was a healthy scratch over the two wins and looks to be no closer to moving out of town than the multiple times he asked for a trade this season. And just why Washington continues to sit on their heels when it comes to moving the 32-year-old is nothing short of a mystery and somewhat mind-blowing.
On the whole of the 2013-14 season, Erat has been used sparingly at best while playing an average of 13:47 on the ice per game, a total that is the lowest average since the 2002-03 season. These minutes have largely been in a third line role that simply does not fit the winger’s skill-set which has resulted in a total of zero goals and 15 assists in 39 games played.
Of course Erat is nowhere near a guy that has no goals midway through a season or one who shuffles between the third line and the bench, but that has been clear from the start. As a smooth skater that possesses great passing ability, a viable shot and makes smart decisions, there is no doubting that the 32-year-old could line up as a top-six forward for any team in the NHL. Clearly this role will not be possible in Washington, though, because of the ego of head coach Adam Oates who uses personal vendettas to hurt the very organization he is supposed to be representing.
Sure when Brooks Laich was out injured for much of December having insurance on the wings made sense, but it is no longer necessary. With Laich, Eric Fehr, Alexander Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward on the books, the team has an overcrowded field of guys who can slot into a top-six role and truly have no place for the services of Erat.
By continuing to sit Erat on the bench nothing is being accomplished except for setting up a battle within the locker room with Oates that looks destined to end in a fractured group. For a team that has intentions of winning a Stanley Cup in 2014 this is surely not something that is needed or that would be beneficial to any part. At this point the Capitals should accept mid-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, rally their troops around their head coach and gear up for a championship run.