Months ago when we all were still dewy-eyed and hopeful about the promise of a young season, I had bookmarked an article on the Caps that I had come across in my internet travels. I thought it was an interesting read - nothing spectacular, no great revelations, but I didn't recall seeing it elsewhere so I figured I'd share it with everyone. I never found a good time to incorporate it into my daily rants, though, and it eventually fell by the wayside.
Today I rediscovered it still hovering among my bookmarks, and I was going to delete it - but not before taking one more look. After rereading it, it seems even more appropriate to share now then it would have been at the time of publication. There's some irony in there (coming on the heels of a Caps win over Florida), some bold predictions (Caps are scrappy but probably not a playoff team and headed for the divisional cellar again), but most importantly a bit of hope.
Frankly, I chose this article today because I could use a bit of hope. I'm so, so tired of hearing the complaints and the bitching and the moaning about this team. Yes, it hurts when they lose to a team so clearly inferior merely because they chose not to show up. Yes, it looks like they'll be trading in hockey sticks for golf clubs a bit earlier than some of their Eastern Conference buddies. I've had it - enough whining!
I've been watching this team for my entire life, and there are those out there who have watched even longer. Correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I can remember this franchise has never really undergone the kind of transformation that they are going through right now. They went from being an infamously bad team in their early years to an annual playoff contender and subsequent annual playoff choker, with very little deviance from that path. They would muddle through their season, sometimes with brilliant results and others not so much, but consistently managing a playoff berth...followed by a hasty playoff retreat.
All of a sudden, though, we find ourselves with a team that is young and inconsistent, with little veteran leadership and guys who are maybe one or two years away from being true NHLers. Mistakes are made followed by brilliant plays, and back again. They win exciting games then stumble through losses, taking CapsNation on a roller-coaster ride with enough twists and loops to induce nausea yet still leave us begging for another turn.
It's a very odd sort of purgatory that we suddenly inhabit. Is there enough talent and just not enough hard work? Is the talent there but not quite developed yet? Should the entire team be facing the baby Pens on Saturday instead of the big boys? No one knows, and it's frustrating and difficult and confusing and exhilarating - I get it.
We don't know what to do with ourselves so naturally we complain. We call for the heads of Leonsis, of McPhee, of Hanlon. We toss players under the bus, offering them up in imaginary trades for little more than a sack of pucks. We yearn for the next young savior from Sweden to rescue us from this hell, convinced that his mere arrival will promise a championship run.
Look, we've done the slash and burn thing. We've done the squeak into the playoffs only to be handed a first round defeat thing. We've overpaid for the big names. We've tossed out "unproven" prospects only to have them come back and bite us with another team. And over three decades later, still no Stanley Cup. Maybe it's time to try something different, no?
This organization has yet to prove that they know how to nurture young talent up through the ranks, but we now have the perfect opportunity to let them try it. No less than Mike Vogel himself has discussed on numerous occasions the Capitals failure to give young guys a decent chance at success, with scores of others (myself included) nodding in agreement. Well, folks? This is what we have to suffer through to achieve that. The talent may not be evident yet, but it's there, lying dormant, like a powder keg waiting for that right spark to set the whole thing off.
It's been a long week, I'm tired, and I honestly don't know if any of what I've said makes sense. I don't know if anyone even cares about the insane Friday afternoon ramblings of a crazy hockey chick.
So in lieu of an actual point, I'll just say this - I would love nothing more than to see this team make the playoffs this season. I know now that's probably not very likely, and as I've said, I'm taking the zen/vodka road. Next year they'll get better, the year after that better still. I'm not sure when we all decided that we'd only put up with the difficulties for one year and then we wanted a contender, but it happened. And now we're all freaking out.
So I invite you all to join me, right now...get your yoga mats out.
Pour yourself a double shot of whatever makes you warm and tingly inside (chocolate milk, anyone?)
Take a deep breath in...hold it....hold it...
Now slowly let it out, repeating your mantras: I love rebuilding years. I love rebuilding years.
Good! Feel better? I know I do.