(photo by Brian Murphy)
Anyone who has read my thoughts on the Washington Capitals this season should know by now that I’m convinced this team is critically flawed.
This roster, as presently constructed, doesn’t appear capable of coexisting with the system Dale Hunter wants to utilize. So what Caps fans are “treated” to most nights is uneven play in which the rink looks completely tilted against Washington.
The Capitals end up getting out-shot and out-worked seemingly every time they take the ice. They rarely turn up the pressure on their opponent, so quality scoring chances and powerplays* are few and far between.
For at least 20 minutes every game, the players look completely disinterested as they go through the motions shift after uninspired shift.
*Although, to be fair, the team’s powerplay is horrid. They need a four minute five-on-three man advantage just to get enough of a sustained attack on a goalie to make him sweat. So I’m halfway convinced that referees have stopped calling penalties against Washington’s opponents in hopes of preventing further embarrassment. But I digress.
That this has been farce has been allowed to continue all season long is a slap in the face to anyone who actually cares about this team.
As I wrote last week, it’s clear that the window has closed on these Capitals. Anyone who believes these players are capable of winning a championship is clearly delusional.
Even with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green all healthy and motivated (which apparently is easier said than done), the Caps still aren’t best suited to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty the way Hunter wants them to.
The best outcome anyone can reasonably hope for this season is for the Capitals to make the playoffs and then get bounced after a round or two.
You know, like they did each of the previous four seasons under that coach who wasn’t good enough to keep around anymore.
At this point, I’m actually hoping the Caps continue to perform as they’ve done the last 50 games.
If that happens, there’s little doubt that Washington will miss the playoffs for the first time in recent history, and maybe – just maybe – that’ll be enough for general manager George McPhee to finally admit this team has a problem.
That’s Step 1, right? Admitting you have a problem. Only then can you actually begin to fix the situation and get this franchise back to relevance.
Until then, I guess Caps fans are left watching a team that excels at nothing remotely positive. But as long as the Verizon Center is sold out, everything is just peachy, right?
And honestly, there are probably more than a few Caps fans out there who are going to have trouble understanding where I’m coming from.
They’re going to take a look around the D.C. sports landscape and point out that only one team in this town has been remotely competitive in recent history, and wonder why I’m so cranky about them.
But that thought process only strengthens my stance.
Because I’m a Redskins fan and I’ve watched as ‘Skins fans year in and year out try to convince themselves that “this year is different,” which is code for the Redskins being anything other than a laughingstock.
For nearly 20 years, the Redskins have tried to slap a band-aid on the problem rather than actually addressing the elephant in the room.
They’ve tried to take shortcuts and throw money at problems rather than doing what professionally run organizations do – namely building a team to be competitive over a sustained period of time rather than backing into the playoffs once every few years.
The bar is set so low for the local football team that fans would actually rejoice if the Redskins were good enough to finish a season .500.
Simply finishing a season without more losses than wins would be a milestone worthy of throwing a parade for the burgundy and gold.
Is that what we want for the Capitals as well?
For better or worse, that’s where this ship is headed. Through 50 games, the Caps have won 26 games and lost 24 of them.
If the playoffs started today, Ovechkin and friends would have to buy a ticket to get in.
The Capitals are dreadful on the road (8-14-3) this year and have given up more goals than they’ve scored (141 for and 145 against). No matter how you try to spin it, this is a franchise in serious trouble.
The writing is on the wall, the only question remaining is how long it’s going to take for guys like owner Ted Leonsis and McPhee to acknowledge it.
Either they make the controversial decision to overhaul the roster before the trade deadline or they run the risk of further diminishing any potential return they could get on moves down the road.
There’s no way around it – these players aren’t suited for this system. That’s not going to change no matter how many fans say their prayers and eat their vitamins.
So either give Hunter a fighting chance or watch as another talented coach is run out of town and the process starts over yet again.
The Capitals have been the only team in town worth the price of admission for a while now. How much longer that continues to be the case hinges largely on what McPhee does (or doesn’t do) next.
February 3, 2012 at 11:21 am
Do we need to sit the team down in the middle of the Phone Booth and have an intervention type session?
Tell them things such as that they shouldn’t have any problems getting up for ANY game in the NHL?
Promise them punch and pie?
February 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm
I’ve wondered since Hunter was hired why he was hired. His system isn’t what best suits this formerly high flying team. That all said, having a healthy Green, a healthy Backstrom and an unsuspended Ovechkin would make any team look better.
Still though, they’re either going to, as you say, over-haul the roster, or bring in another coach who will implement a more offensive go-for-it type system. Personally, that’s the team I want to see. As soon as Boudreau started doubting himself and altered his system, things went south. He wasn’t the coach for that system, and this system isn’t the one for this team. Personally, I love Hunter, but I’d much rather they bring in another coach this off season. What they’re trying to do isn’t working.
February 6, 2012 at 9:17 am
I agree with most of this except for the conclusion. The Caps are a mediocre team who will sit outside the playoff picture and should be sellers at the deadline. We won’t get much for the players we’re going to be wiling to move but hey I’d be overjoyed with a prospect and a 2nd round pick for Semin who is very likely done with the Caps. Others who we should sell are Knuble (as much as I love him), Schultz, Erskine (love him too). I’d love to get rid of Ward too but can’t imagine who’d take him.
I disagree however that the problem with Hunter’s system is the personnel. That’s part of it clearly but I don’t believe that the system Hunter is trying to play will work at the NHL level. I’m afraid that the Caps will try to keep Hunter around and remake the team for him but I’m pretty sure this will only lead to more failure. Hunter’s move from Juniors to NHL was just too much and he seems too inflexible in his approach to modify his system into something that will work.
February 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm
However the season ends, don’t expect McPhee to admit anything when he can just as easily blame this failure of a season on injuries. That way he gets to keep his job.
February 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm
Disagree that the team should be blown up. It all starts (and stops) with Ovie and if you can’t move him, none of the rest matters. His stock is so low right now no one will take him. Leonsis and McPhee are stuck with this dilemma until the Ovie years are over. Hunter or McPhee needs to help Ovie grow up and see where his legacy is going unless he becomes a compelling leader on and off the ice.
I actually think the team got better – and more Dale Hunter-esque – over the summer of 2011 with more strength up front. Semin needs to go and the next generation of talent needs to be brought up. We are still a young team and there are good prospects in the pipeline.
This season may be a lost cause, but there are many reasons for fans to remain patient and optimistic.
February 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm
This team was built to be high powered offense right through the defensive line. Trying to take that team and turn them into a defensive minded team wasn’t going to work and frankly BB should have known that. Hunter is even worse, he doesn’t believe in “run and gun” and he’s got the offense playing so much defense that they are too tired to shoot the freaking puck. He’s comment that he doesn’t think SOG’s are important but scoring chances are is ludicrous. SOG’s generate scoring chances, the more you shoot the higher chance that it’s going to go in is. Get rid of Hunter, get back to basics and start using high power offense to win games!
February 7, 2012 at 8:49 am
Prospects in the pipeline? Name some. You have Kuznetsov who may or may not come to North America next year. That’s it. Holtby maybe but he’s not a skater. If we have prospects in the pipeline why are we calling up 30-something career AHLers? Why are we calling up d-men who were warming the bench on the Ranger’s AHL affiliate? Aside from Kuznetsov and Holtby I can’t think of anyone in the system who is likely to be an NHLer. I’m not convinced yet that Perrault and Beagle aren’t AHLers either.