20 April, 2014


Of Hope and Stating the Obvious

Nothing you read here will likely be new to you, nor will it come as any kind of revelation, to be honest.

The Caps aren’t in a great state right now. Confidence is low, points are being given up, and a playoff berth looks iffy. Vitriol amongst Caps fans is high, and internet message boards are filled with posters proposing trades of most, if not all, of the team. Columnists far and wide are criticizing the team, the captain, the coaching…well, pretty much everything. And a lot of it is deserved.

No hidden truths revealed there.

How the team got here is a combination of things: some bizarre goal-tending. Two not-so-hot free agency signings (Ward and Hamrlik). Long-term injuries to two key offensive players. A sophomore slump for John Carlson and two veteran defensemen not fitting into the new scheme. Young players being asked to do too much. A superstar not playing like a superstar. Every pass being 6 inches off-target. Dissent in the room. A lack of team toughness.

A daunting list. And no surprises.

How do the Caps recover? Can they recover?

A recent Globe and Mail piece intimates that NHL-ready prospects will be the hard currency of this trade deadline, and Ted Leonsis has intimated that the organization will be active on the market. It’s not hard to identify the Caps assets that fall under that description: Eakin, Holtby, Orlov and Kuznetsov. Whether or not the Caps make moves – and I think they will, considering Leonsis’ statement – is there a player or players out there that can turn it around? Will General manager George McPhee be given a mandate to move some long-term assets to make the playoffs this year? Which is more desirable a result for the fans? For the organization? More questions.

Kuznetsov is likely a non-starter, so he’s off the table. I have a difficult time thinking the Caps view any of the other three as trade chips, and that limits what the organization can move to improve itself. With 1st round picks seemingly having a lower value than initially thought, how attractive are they to seller clubs?

The alternative to dealing young assets consists of hoping. Hoping Green and Backstrom heal up and are close to their normal levels. Hoping more time in Coach Hunter’s system moves those passes from six inches off to the tape. Hoping that Ovechkin raises his level of play and Carlson shakes the slump off and one of Erskine or Schultz assert themselves in the six role. Hoping the shots from center ice are stopped and hoping that the team can disuade opponents from running the stars and the goalie. Hoping free agents signings pan out and young players improve, if not outright blossom.

That’s a lot of hoping, right there.

In the always-fun Court of Public Opinion (CPO) holding on to the young assets and 1st round picks might appear to be writing off the season, something I don’t think management or ownership wants to do. It might make sense long-term, but what message does it send to the players? What message does it send to the fans?

Oddly – and perhaps a sign of impending insanity, if not blatant confirmation – I’m somewhat optomistic on the team, as I think they really have nowhere to go but up. Pretty much everyone is playing like Hell, and I don’t think that will continue. I liked the Florida Panthers’ improvements, but their lead has been built ahead of a Caps team that is playing about as badly as it can. If Washington evens up even mildly, I think the Caps win the division. Making noise in the playoffs, however, seems unlikely.Unless Green and Backstrom are healthy I have a hard time seeing it, and while the team was ostensibly configured to be harder to play against in the post-season it just doesn’t feel like that’s going to come to pass at this point.

Ultimately organizations and players are judged by championships, and long gone is the “Building a team to win multiple championships” hubris. As the team struggles to secure a berth in a post-season that will feature a very steep slope to climb, the philosophy of the organization and the tenure of George McPhee needs to be scrutinized. I have not and will not call for anyone’s job, and I don’t get the overwhelming feeling that McPhee’s is particularly in jeopardy, but being patient to a fault works wonders for a rebuilding club – it doesn’t seem to be working for a team with deep playoff aspirations.

Hopefully the ship will right itself, and we’re reading this late in a not-overly-merciless Summer and smiling at the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing as we reflect upon a surprising and pleasant playoff run.

That’s a lot of hoping, as well.



10 Comments

  1. Dave wrote:

    Remember when everyone was screaming the regular season doesn’t matter? That playoff success was the only thing to judge a team by? Man, it was fun having a front runner for 82 games a year, even if they didn’t fare so well in the playoffs. But no one would listen to me then.

    15 February, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  2. morgan wrote:

    I hope you are right but if youare and the Caps somehow make the playoffs will that be used as a justification for the team to stay the course? We have a superstar who seems more interested in being in ads or partying than performing up to his capability on the ice.I know he won’t, but he should look at what Malkin is doing for Pittsburg.If that doesn’t stimulate him to step up his game then we’re stuck with an underperformer, over-priced , likely cancer in the locker room, for quite a few more years. Maybe it would be best in the long term not to make the playoffs this year. That should cause some deep thinking on management’s part to ponder where to go next. [I said "should" not would. The jury is out on what they will do.]

    15 February, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  3. TG wrote:

    Hope you’re right. And if this were baseball, we’d all be salivating at the great pennant race coming up (two games back with 26 to play)!

    As we’ve seen this year from the NFL and MLB playoffs, all you have to do is get in and get hot. (Were the Cardinals and Giants REALLY the best teams last year?) And how many times have we seen the Caps go up against a hot goalie in the playoffs and fall?

    The flip side is, if they decide that this isn’t the team to do it, then hang out a for sale sign and trade anyone/everyone. Free agents to be Knuble, Vokun, Wideman, Semin and Green are yours for a prospect and a high pick. I think anyone on the current roster not named Ovechkin, Backstrom, Laich, Orlov, Carlson and Alzner could be had for the right price.

    But I don’t think that’s what the fans really want.

    15 February, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  4. Lie wrote:

    You say you have never called for Anyones job. Uh, yes you did. Bruce Boudreaus.

    16 February, 2012 at 4:29 am | Permalink
  5. Not Lie wrote:

    Lie, you do realize that there are several writers on this blog, right? Additionally, Empty Maybe is now an occasional writer and probably did not call for Bruce to be fired as I believe this his his first post in some time. Just like JP doesn’t write everything on his blog. Or did I just ruin something for you?

    16 February, 2012 at 7:00 am | Permalink
  6. HBH WC wrote:

    @ Lie, You are correct, OFB did call for BB’s head. I wrote an opinion on that topic on a much earlier post to P&B saying that they should understand that their readers have a right to take them to task if it is felt that their strong opinions are off base, of which I received a weak reply, which I in turn answered. No further reply was offered.
    This I know, bloggers have license to exhibit selective memory to support their opinions.
    It’s their blog after all and I’m glad they’re here.
    But still.
    W/L records since January;

    Caps 8/11
    Ducks 15/6
    3 of the Ducks losses were OT or SO so they still managed a point.
    So the Ducks have 33 total points since January.
    The Caps also had 3 OT/SO losses, so Caps total points over the same period; 19.
    Just the facts here.
    Coach Hunter took over a team in much better shape in the standings then BB and arguably a much better team overall.
    Just an opinion there.

    16 February, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink
  7. EmptyMaybe wrote:

    OFB may have called for Boudreau’s head. I, myself, have not and make it a policy not to call for people to be fired.

    This is my first post on OFB for a while.

    If you find a post authored by my that called for Boudreau to be fired on this site, I’d love to see it.

    16 February, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  8. Patrick wrote:

    @Lie, whether or not anyone asked for BB’s job takes nothing away from the body of the article. The Caps need Green and Backstrom back ASAP to punch a playoff ticket. From there it is anyones guess.
    The majority of us were very optimistic at the onset of this season, which is probably why we feel dissapointment right now. Life as a true hockey fan is not always easy, allegences are often strained but I for one have been and always will be a Caps fan. Let the chips fall, relax and enjoy!
    CHEERS!

    16 February, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  9. hbh wc wrote:

    @emptymaybe,
    What I was attempting to say to lie was that the majority of ofb bloggers were in fact calling for BB’s firing. It’s the blog you write on so it is understandable that lie would assume that you personally did also. Collectively though (and I read this blog regularly) his firing, I felt was universally endorsed. I also think it is interesting how both coaches teams have recently performed.

    16 February, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  10. EmptyMaybe wrote:

    @HBH Whatever your intentions, accusing me of selective amnesia was erroneous on your part, as was Lie accusing me of being a liar.

    I’ve no opinion on the rest of your thoughts.

    16 February, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink