Next Year, In June

It’s not that I thought the Caps would lift the Cup this year.  I didn’t.  But I certainly expected them to be in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Maybe even play into June.  What a wish!

Last year’s season ended before April did, and this year’s hardly extended further.  What needs to be done?  Radical changes.  At the top.

In four years, only the first two premature exists could be rationalized away:

  • a first round loss in seven games in 2008 – that was the first time the Young Guns played in the playoffs.  They needed to understand the difference, get used to the pace.  And they had used up all the gas in the can to win out to get into the playoffs.
  • a second round loss in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup winner in 2009 – tough loss, because it was so close, but the team made progress (despite the game 7 meltdown) and things were headed in the right direction.
  • a first round collapse against the 8 seed in a year when the Caps set team and personal records extraordinaire – disappointing to say the least. Wholesale changes needed?  I thought so.  But the brass wanted to give the team and coaches a chance to right the ship.  Fair enough, too.  I mean, when you f-up at work, you always appreciate a second chance, don’t you?
  • a second round sweep by a division rival after supposedly righting the ship – status quo was given a chance.  It didn’t work.  Time to make changes.  Big ones.

I’ve always been somewhat confused by the emphasis on defense this year.  Yes, teams that win the Cup can clamp down to prevent other teams from scoring – and certainly, many of the miscues this playoff series were defensive, missed plays, bad clears, etc. – but what about scoring?  What about fixing the powerplay that hasn’t looked right since last year’s Montreal series?  And isn’t that what came back to bite us in the end?

When the team comes out flat for the biggest games of the season, who’s fault is it?  Sure there’s plenty of blame to go around, but you have to start with the guy leading the team, and that’s the coach.  In the final minutes of last night’s game, when it was 6 on 5 and 6 on 4, I saw desperation and hustle from the Caps.  Where was that at the start of game 4 to prevent the sweep?  Or in game 3 to get back in the series?  Or game 2 to pull even with Tampa, a must-win game?  Or game 1, for that matter, to set the tone?

Again, the effort was much too late.  And the efforts during the game were misdirected – Ovi trying to do too much by himself (maybe because no one else was doing anything?), guys trying to play physical and taking penalties that led to powerplay goals, the list goes on.

This morning, G woke me to the news that Bruce Boudreau had been fired.  That got me to open my eyes and sit up.  But I knew he was teasing ….

For every day for a year after September 11, then on a weekly and monthly basis for nearly a decade, G would go online to see if “we have caught Osama.”  He never gave up in his belief that the day would come when he logged on and saw the news.

So my vigil begins.

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