Thursday, September 13, 2007

Caps Media Day News and Notes

No excuses.

That was the dominant theme, the message being passed down from player to player as the Caps officially opened their doors to the media today to kick off training camp. Rebuilding is done. We're built. Now we see what it is we've created, take it out for a spin, and aim for a return to the postseason.

"[Management] put a lot of effort and a lot of money into the team this year and I think it’s our turn to step up and show that we’re a playoff team," Chris Clark said at today's Media Day. "It’s our job – we know it. We have the resources, we have [Kettler], everything we need to get there and it’s up to us. On paper right now we should be a playoff team. We just have to get there."

"I haven’t been more excited for an opening game than I am this year," added Clark with such genuine enthusiasm that you couldn't help but believe it.

In fact, almost every sentence uttered by a Cap seemed to have the words "excited" or "ready" in it. Even Hanlon and McPhee appeared a little more optimistic than usual and the assorted media that gathered seemed to get caught up in the energy. One could say that the mere presence of assorted media is a sign that a buzz is growing, with several television cameras and a large handful of representatives from the print media and the local blogosphere in attendance. When approaching the media scrum Olie pretended to be shocked and asked, "Am I in Washington??"

Ha. It's funny because it's true.

The glamorous life of an athlete
Players looked toned, tan, happy to be back and ready to go. It was great to see the guys joking around in the halls as they went through the tasks of what must be a pretty mundane day - physicals, media responsibilities, signing jersey after jersey, and of course those lovely yearbook pictures. Olie joked that he'd seen Ovechkin and Ovie needed a haircut; Ovie's response when told of this criticism: "It's my style. Gangster style."

Ovechkin and Jay Leach havin' a chat
Hairstyles and Russian gangsters aside, playoffs were the first thing people talked about today. Hearing people talk, it's obvious that making the postseason is no longer just a hope, a faint goal that ultimately gets tucked away to make room for reality. It's now the expected conclusion to the season and everyone basically said that anything less would be a disappointment. Whether they're playoff ready or not obviously remains to be seen, but if optimism is all it takes to push the Caps over the cusp, they've got it to spare.

Said McPhee, "If we play up to our capability and stay healthy we should be knocking on the door."

One of the expectations for this year's training camp is that it will be incredibly competitive, with young guys from Hershey competing with guys clinging to last year's roster spots at almost every position. I caught up with Brooks Laich for his thoughts on this new development and how he plans to stay ahead of the pack.

Laich and...gasp! CapsChick's head, revealed!
(photo courtesy of Ken Berard)
"I think I have to show that I can play at both ends of the ice, contribute some offense but be solid defensively, don’t miss any assignments, that sort of stuff," he said. "Also with so many centers here at camp, being able to play all positions, left wing, right wing, center, kind of being a jack of all trades is something that’s gonna help me."

He's definitely aware of the heightened expectations on him this year, his third full year with the Caps. "I’m 24 years old and mistakes of inexperience are no longer acceptable. I don’t think I have as long a leash to make mistakes and more things are expected from the coaching staff. Also I expect a lot more out of myself."

Now it is September, almost hockey season, and training camp is in the air...but there's still a bit of baseball to be played. So naturally I had to ask Brooks, a diehard Blue Jays fan, about playing with a Red Sox fan (Clark) and now a Yankees fan (Poti), and he informed me that he actually braved a Red Sox-Orioles game with Clark just the other day.

"Unfortunately I was rooting for the Orioles just because the Red Sox are my enemy but the Red Sox won," he said. "There’s myself, there’s Boyd Gordon, there’s Steve Eminger – we’re trying to preach the Blue Jays in the locker room but guys are diehard fans and they aren’t going to change. It makes for some good camraderie in the locker room, though."

Seen and heard:
- Kolzig, a slightly more muscular Green, and Ovechkin shooting a spot for FSN's The Best Damn Sports Show Period on the science of sport. In between takes they skated around and passed a puck back and forth, with Olie showing off his legendary puck-handling skills.

Lounging in between shots
- Players rotating between the locker room, the medical testing rooms, interview areas, photo shoot areas and a long row of tables filled with things for them to sign.

- Milan Jurcina walking around in a brand new Caps hat...and I know it was new because he left the sticker on it. Silly Milan.

- Jurcina, Clark and a few others strolling through Kettler in pink socks. Looks like someone forgot that washing red with white creates a slightly more feminine look than they're going for. Oops.

- A bunch of guys (Clymer, Bradley, Fehr and a few others) sporting new matching buzz cuts...and Semin wandering around with a lovely mini-mullet.

- And this:

Check out Olie cracking up at Alex's swing and a miss:

Camp starts tomorrow - hope to see you all there!

By the way, for more coverage and audio clips from today's presser check out Japers' Rink. It's worth it just to hear Ovechkin say "gangster style"...


boltsfan said...

YAY! Hockey's finally here!! Wooo!FINALLY :)

Shelby said...

Ah man, this is so sweet. Cool to see you got a good inside. Everything sounds good and I love to hear that postseason is now pretty much expected. I hope so.

P.S. I hate you a little bit for getting to interview Laich. =]

Derek said...

You have a very pretty head. At least from what I can see