24 April, 2014


A Cursed Franchise? Obviously

Some 58 percent of OFB readers believe that a Postseason Curse plagues the Washington Capitals. A bit fatalistic, isn’t it? And yet, the eras change, the uniforms get redesigned, a wise blueprint for competitive durability is adopted, a franchise-altering Dynamo-hero arrives to make all the past agony better, and to quote Zeppelin, The Song [in spring] Remains the Same.  

Obviously, there’s a Curse.

For some, the term “Curse” may be too mystical and myth-premised, too draconian and fatalistic to buy into. I use different terminology, and associate the Capitals’ springtime fortunes with a skating swagger of doom. But you can think of it as a curse all right — it has the same effect.

Twelve years ago, the Baltimore Orioles, then a flagship franchise in Major League Baseball, did what Americans citizens can’t and traveled to Cuba to play the Cuban national baseball team. That trip was referenced on Baltimore sportstalk radio this week, amid the O’s’ 7-21 start to the new season. Ever since that trip, the radio hosts alleged, the one-time class of the American League East has been in a tailspin. A serious tailspin. As in: the O’s have played 1,973 games since making that trip to Cuba in ’98, and they’ve won just 863 of them, according to my crack intern Andrew. They’ve finished either 4th or 5th in the five-team AL East every season save one since ’98, in 2004, when they finished 3rd. Beginning with that 1998 season the O’s have never finished a season above the .500 mark.

Sounds like a curse to me. And a plague (Angelos).

The Capitals of course have never traveled to Cuba as a team (although Canadians are permitted to visit the island, and it is a popular vacation destination for a fair number of Canucks). However, their power play against Montreal last month looked as if had been designed by Fidel Castro.

A select few sports organizations boast what might be termed a swagger of success. The New York Yankees. The Boston Celtics. The New England Patriots. They’ve risen above the level of cursable. In individual sports, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, and the 2.0 Tiger Woods have similar swagger. The Washington Capitals do not. They never have. In the postseason they perpetually possess a swagger of doom.

In 1988, when the Dale Hunter-led Caps overcame a 3-1 series deficit, and a 3-0 game 7 deficit, to topple the Flyers and win a Patrick division semifinal, I allowed myself the delusion of believing that the Curse had been quashed. In their next series the Capitals, again enjoying home-ice advantage over the 4th-place club in the Patrick, New Jersey, lost in seven games. The Capitals in 1987-88 boasted the league’s best defense. In game 3 against the Devils that spring the Caps surrendered 10 goals.

Of course there’s a Curse.

1998 was an outlier of springtime success for this organization. The Caps benefited from some remarkable opening-round upsets that spring. No. 1 seed New Jersey fell to no. 8 Ottawa. No. 2 seed Pittsburgh was slain by no. 7 Montreal. No. 3 Philadelphia was bested by no. 6 Buffalo. Only the 4th-seeded Caps advanced as favorite in the East in the opening round. The Caps got stupendous netminding all postseason long from Olie Kolzig, but ultimately Esa Tikkanen came up empty early on in the Cup Finals versus the Wings, reminding us in D.C. that the Curse lived.   

The Capitals have now competed in nine game 7s, winning just two of them. And eight of those game 7s have been at home. They’re a godless 2-6 in game 7s at home. Four times the Caps have led a series three games to one and gone on to lose the series. Four times they’ve led a series three games to two, and in the four instances in which they lost game 6, they also lost game 7.

No no. 1 seed in NHL history had ever squandered a three-games-to-one lead in a series against no. 8 and gone on to lose the series. Until your Capitals pulled it off this spring. That’s not the breaks beatin’ the boys.  

Of course there’s a Curse. 

No club has perpetuated a Curse upon the Capitals’ postseason fortunes as Pittsburgh has. Why belabor that; if you’ve followed this team for any length of time you know that sordid story. Last May, after Ovi’s Caps endured a Sidney Crosby hat trick in game 2 and still triumphed, taking a 2-0 series lead, I allowed myself the delusion of believing that the Curse had been quashed. After the Montreal dagger in our hockey heart, I’ve a full-on belief in our foul fate.

Crests in hockey, I believe, do carry karma — an aura that’s generally positive or its counterpart. It means something I believe for a kid to be drafted by the Wings or the Habs and to wear their crest versus say that of the Bluejackets. Or the Caps. In their most recent redesign of their crest perhaps the Caps selected a look that too closely resembled that of the accursed original.

Thinking optimistically, perhaps there’s a shelf life on curses. The San Jose Sharks appears to be unshackled from theirs this spring. Perhaps the Caps are next. Still, right now, the ‘C’ in the Capitals’ crest stands for cursed. Until the skaters wearing it prove otherwise.



26 Comments

  1. CapsFan1975 wrote:

    It sometimes seems like we are cursed. Yes, it’s negative to think that way.

    The Montreal Canadiens seem to have the swagger of success. Or at least past Canadien teams did.

    Meanwhile I remember when the NE Patriots were a consistently bad team. I recall the one time a very good Redskins team had lost to them and the papers kept talking about how the ‘Skins could not get up for bad teams.

    9 May, 2010 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  2. CapsFan1975 wrote:

    As for the Sharks, I’ll reserve judgment until the Post Season progresses.

    9 May, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink
  3. Sonja wrote:

    I have three words for this …

    Boston Red Sox

    9 May, 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  4. Ross wrote:

    Think about being one of the Caps players… we (the fans) have put them on a pedestal that’s so high, the thought of failure must be the main guiding force to them. They are analyzed thousands of times a day for everything from their haircuts to how fast they drive through the parking garage at Kettler, never mind who’s slumping, who’s not working hard enough, etc. And then many of them are being crucified in international circles. Until we can come together as a city and start treating these guys like young athletes rather than politicians, giving them strength when they fail and a shelter from the storms of international criticism, they’ll be holding their sticks too tight on the postseason for decades to come. WE are the only ones who can give them the space they need to ‘swagger’… we are the only ones who can give them the identity they will need to be a ‘character team’ that can survive all the way to the Cup.

    9 May, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  5. WFY wrote:

    Hadn’t thought of the “curse of Castro” and I do like it, but I don’t think the Orioles are cursed. They just have a really bad, cowardly owner. Since he hates Washington — voting against baseball coming here and rigging a corrupt bargain that gave the Nats TV rights (which he used to keep games off of most area cable systems for almost 2 seasons), I’m hoping the Orioles lose every game.

    As for the Caps, well another tough d-man would be nice, right?

    9 May, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  6. VanZabDan wrote:

    Curse schmurse. Agree with the Red Sox point. Perhaps we long-time fans can keep our baggage to ourselves and refrain from placing it on the backs of current players. If we get passed it maybe they will too.

    9 May, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  7. Eric wrote:

    At opening day in Baltimore a few years ago, a Yankees-fan friend of mine wore a great t-shirt. It read on the front, “There was no curse…” On the back, “…you just sucked for 86 years.”

    So, no curse. It takes a very special roster and set of circumstances to happen all in the same season to win titles in professional sports. Championships are built, not won.

    9 May, 2010 at 11:30 am | Permalink
  8. CapsFan1975 wrote:

    Maybe we can coin a new term. If confident teams have swagger, cursed teams have no swagger or negative swagger. We could call it nyagger. Put an “n” in front of it to negate it like so many languages do. Like “Nein” in German places a “n” in front of their word for “one”; i.e. ein, to get “No”. And we have the word “none”, of course.

    We’ll combine the Russian “nyet” with swagger and get “nyagger”. The “Ny” in front will even make us think of Nylander as well.

    Or, if we really want to go crazy, spell our word as “nyagr” in dishonor of Jaromir.

    9 May, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Permalink
  9. Marc wrote:

    The Cuba/Orioles home & home series took place in 1999. Not 1998.

    10 May, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink
  10. The MadFlava wrote:

    That is it, I’m throwing holy water onto the ice after they warm up on opening night next season. Think I will get in trouble with Verizon staff?

    10 May, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  11. what curse wrote:

    as a lifelong fan I can see how one would like to use the idea of a ‘curse’ but it’s nothing more than an absolutely pathetic excuse for what is called buckling under the pressure. A curse, what’s next, black magic? Have the Cubs not won a world series because a goat was kicked out of the stadium…yea, sure, and there’s still witches around too. There is something about this franchise that speaks to them failing to live up to expectations and folding when the stakes are high…but it’s no curse. sooner or later we’ll win something

    10 May, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  12. Geo wrote:

    Uh oh, OFB got an official “yuck” from Ted. :)
    http://www.tedstake.com/2010/05/10/just-for-the-record/

    On the O’s, I think most fans attribute their downfall to Angelos’s removing the architects of their fine ’95-’96 and ’96-97 seasons (manager Davey Johnson and GM Pat Gillick), and Angelos OK’ing massive contracts for malcontents like Albert Belle.

    Gillick wasn’t a genius imho, but he made smart free-agent signings, and most of them were team-first players (even, at times, Bobby Bonilla).

    10 May, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  13. Mia wrote:

    I’m an avid reader OFB – not on the same wavelength with this post though. As Sonja already mentioned – Boston Red Sox fans may have thought they were “cursed” sometimes – but they kept the faith and it paid-off eventually. There are always times when belief meets reality, so I’m satisfied in believing that there is no “curse” just a steep,long, and windy road to the top. Go Caps!

    10 May, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  14. penguin pete wrote:

    the ire of alf has been drawn, this could get interesting….

    10 May, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  15. P Dobry wrote:

    I am hoping that the root of this curse was the ridiculous “WNBA Attendance Champions” banners that will no longer grace the rafters at Verizon Center. The banners did go up after the ’98 Cup appearance. Just Sayin’.
    http://offwing.com/2010/05/a-banner-day-in-the-history-of-the-washington-mystics

    10 May, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  16. badvibesdude wrote:

    I wouldn’t really cite the Patriots as a team beyond cursing. They haven’t done shit in the playoffs since the NFL stopped letting them know what defense their opponents were playing. They got whooped in the playoffs last year. They choked away a perfect season. You could argue they are now cursed.

    10 May, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  17. hellowave wrote:

    There is no such thing as a curse. That’s a cop out. I have been a Red Sox fan for a few decades and all it takes is the right combination of skill, desire and a little bit of luck. Everyone was yelling curse when the Red Sox lost in game 7 to the Yankees in 2003 and then when they were down 0-3 to them again in 2004. They came back and won the World Series. I didn’t accept any curse talk before 2004 and I certainly don’t accept any now. You won’t either when the Caps are lifting the Cup in the near future. Just enjoy the ride.

    10 May, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
  18. Mike wrote:

    Uh-oh..Ted called you a loser. Pot meet kettle..

    Agreed on the Caps being cursed… Bill Simmons has a good article about the Suns + some soccer club (Man City) that share the same mentality as Caps fans — Sums up EXACTLY how I feel;

    “You’re not even that mad. You just feel empty inside. You head into every big game assuming you will lose, and when it happens, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You claim that you have your guard up, only deep down, that guard is lowered just enough that you’re hoping against hope that THIS game will be different. Only it never is.”

    10 May, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink
  19. Jack Hazard wrote:

    Deaf OFB,

    Get off the pity-pot. You don’t know what it is to be cursed.

    Regards,

    The City Of Buffalo

    10 May, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink
  20. CapsFan1975 wrote:

    Us members of the Caps fan base have expressed our collective frustration with the multiple playoff failures. Yes, I’m guilty of it too.

    Maybe the Caps will learn from this failure and turn it around. The great Edmonton team of Wayne Gretzky had also had had three early round playoff exits before making it to the SC Finals.

    Go Caps!

    10 May, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink
  21. Chris wrote:

    I can’t believe the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Capitals come up in the same discussion. There was one worthy point — Angelos as plague. It wasn’t visiting Cuba that caused the downfall…try getting rid of Davie Johnson, as main reason for dive. And that’s why CAPS are so different. They have great owner, coach, player core, and farm system. Give them time. They are so young and so fun!

    PS — Montreal is giving the Pens all they want in the semi-finals. Did someone say “Sacre Blue! Go Canadians!”?

    10 May, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  22. pucksandbooks wrote:

    I can appreciate Ted’s passionate defiance — how else should he react? — but going up three games to one, only to have fog envelop the team’s charter home before a crucial game 5? When have you read about Wings’ or Pens’ planes fighting through fog in the postseason? Even the heavens conspire against us!

    11 May, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink
  23. StikSav wrote:

    The funny thing is there are probably only a handful of Caps fans (long-time Caps fans) left who remember the Curse of Mrs. McNabb. Sigh…

    11 May, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  24. CapsFan1975 wrote:

    Puck and Books,

    This year I actually read about the Detroit Red Wings landing in the San Jose airport after the curfew and earning a fine. They had to fly immediately after the 7th game of their series with Phoenix to San Jose to play the next day.

    Well we know how things went for the Wings in that series. Not too good. Starting off with a loss. (I’m sure they were tired and Jet lagged as well.)

    11 May, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  25. The Peerless wrote:

    Uh oh, OFB got an official “yuck” from Ted. :)
    http://www.tedstake.com/2010/05/10/just-for-the-record/

    I read this and was stunned. I didn’t think Ted would turn on a group of bloggers that quickly and that emphatically, given how much free pub he’s received (or discounted, in terms of the group that once went to Russia and blogged about it) for the Caps during the lean years from a lot of those same bloggers.

    Guess those days are over.

    12 May, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink
  26. Yep, we saw that Peerless — and y’know, Ted’s an emotional guy so I don’t blame him for his knee-jerk response. Of course we don’t appreciate it, but he’s lashed out at us (and others) before so it’s not a total surprise. If he didn’t care passionately then he wouldn’t respond passionately… at least that’s how we choose to see it. :)

    12 May, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. RMNB Endorses Miss Virginia In Her Quest For Trump’s Crown on Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    [...] and grab a very favorable 16 to 1 odds of winning the whole damn thing. And since like every other Caps Blog, we’re struggling for material, we’ll tell show you [...]