Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Caps Debate

What follows is a Facebook discussion between your friend and mine, DCHomer, and yours truly.  It started out with him posted about the other three major teams in DC, and me pointing out he left out his beloved Caps.  As always, we'd love for you to add to this discussion by leaving a comment on this post.  G, feel free to go in and add a logo or pick to this post.

G: @Zeb: there is no hope for the Capitals' team lethargy this season...I've accepted the inevitable.  
I promised on the blog--I won't renege. Gonna also do one for the Nats' home opener. Be patient; time rushes for no man!!

MeI won't rush greatness, my friend. I think the Caps biggest issue is identity. They either need to be what they used to be, a very dangerous wide-open offensive team, or they need to completely change to a well-rounded team like the Bs. Either way though, Ovie does need to play some defense. Leading the league in goals and the opposite end of plus/minus is not acceptable. It's like a CB who gets 10 interceptions a year but gives up a shitload of TDs.

GSome folks (including me) don't put much stock in the (+/-). Despite his 49 goals, too few of them are even-strength, that's a bigger offensive problem when only six other teammates are scoring in double digits, and only two of them are in the 20's, with the highest being 23 (Brower). The teams defense is atrocious, but that can't be on Ovechkin's shoulders. I don't buy the "identity" thing, that's a cop out--like the Skins, the team just isn't playing well, and the rest of the league is much better. We became complacent in the "NASCAR" division, now we're playing much better teams more frequently. It's just that basic--that simple: we're not a good team. Next year.

Me:   I stand by what I said. I think they're trying to have it both ways, trying to play D (and failing miserably) while also being wide open offensively. I like the +- but it's not the be all end all. For instance, in Ovie's defense, his linemates have equally miserable numbers, which means when he's out there, none of them are playing defense. Not every team can be a complete, well rounded team-first team like the Bruins.

MeSaid another way, they (meaning the players since all you can see on the ice is how they play, not necessarily what is attempted to be taught) seem not to know how to play a committed team game. Sorry to use another O-6 example, especially since I absolutely abhor the Canadiens; but watch that team play. They are very much, like the Caps, built to be almost the opposite of the Bruins, yet they do it in a way that is very much like the Bruins with tenacity, never quitting on a play, disciplined and hustling. The Caps best players, including their captain, don't and IMO never have bought into that. I'm afraid I can offer no solutions though.

GUn-aggressive and lackluster play is exactly what I alluded to in my original post when I said the team is playing with lethargy. Why this is happening, I couldn't possibly speculate from where I sit (either on my sofa or in the rafters of the Phone Booth). All I know is the product sucks and any hope of the playoffs are lost. So it's down to offseason training and restructuring, and a new season gut check.

Me:   I said a committed team play, which should include at least a modicum of defense, something that outfit has never played in all the years I've been watching. That's the point. It's just much worse of late.

G"...something that outfit has never played in all the years I've been watching."

Really? I had no idea you were a Caps fan! But in the past 5 seasons we've had the upper hand over the vaulted Bruins--seems to me the defense was fine during those 20+ games. But it's neither here nor there. We're not Boston or Montreal--not trying to be. We're Washington and we'll get through this.

MeI obviously didn't write that part well. I meant to say the Ovie era. The rest of my statement stands, whether the Caps have had success with the Bruins or not, they've accomplished jack in that period. I've never suggested they change their identity but I firmly believe that in the last couple of years the reason they've been worse is in large part due to an identity crisis and I stand by that. You know what? This discussion would make a pretty good blog post...I'm gonna copy it out here shortly.

GThat's cool; it would relieve me of a lot of interpretation. I won't defend the Caps' poor play and I don't want to try to analyze why it's poor, other than what's apparent to the eye on TV. Their current ineptitude is no more or less great than the remaining 22 non-playoff teams with equal or worse records, players, or coaches. I don't think it's fair to heap all hope of a team's success on the shoulders of one player--Ovie, RGIII, Strasburg, Wall. The Caps' success or failure isn't on Ovie's shoulders. To be honest, I don't understand what you're saying when you talk about an "identity crisis," Oates will fix things, one way or the other--either by inspiration, trade, or he'll be fired. To me, that's where it starts and ends.


The Huntress said...

There is some validity in +/-.

One time, I was on the wrong end of a 14-1 loss. I played about 18 mins on defense in a game that had three 15-minute periods.

I was a +1 that night, so you know it wasn't my fault. :-)

On the other hand, some of our offensive players were just that. Offensive. We're talking some of them being a -6 in one game.

Zebster said...

The post has been updated with one more reply from G.

Fair enough, RJ, but what do you think is the reason for the Caps struggles?

Brent said...

I believe that the Caps problems all start in net. You have different goaltenders starting during different parts of the season. There is no defined #1. A weak goal is let in and then the netminders start to look over their shoulder. Put it this way, besides the Blackhawks in 2011, what team didn't have a defined #1 in net when they won the Cup, or appeared in the finals?

Another is Ovie himself. He knows what he wants to do and he does it. There have been attempts to get him to play both ways, but that always ends after a short time. The organization has allowed him to become the leader of the franchise, no matter who is the coach. That just spells disaster. And until that changes, I don't see Washington being a serious contender.

The Huntress said...

Oh I could think of a number of things. Lack of discipline. Lack of two-way play. Lack of accountability.

Oh, wait. Are we talking about the Leafs too?

DC Homer said...

So, my point to Zeb, which will be the point I make here: From where I sit (in the stands or on my sofa) watching the Caps play regularly (this is assuming you guys do NOT watch the Caps on the regular), I could wax about Ovie, I could rale about the net-minding. But I think it boils down to basics and fundamentals (if you can count those as two different things), and I think RJ expressed my core view succinctly: lack of discipline (which I'll link to accountability), lack of effective defense and offense ("two-way play').

I'm not the kind of fan that ascribes blame or praise to the coach--the coach is not on the field/court/ice. The players have to execute the coach's plan--as a fan sitting in Section 400, I can't tell if they players are or aren't executing the plan, because I have no idea what the plan is. But I can tell you that if Ward gives a bleeding high stick (double minor) 20 seconds before they're about to kill off a minor, thus giving the opposition a 6-minute advantage (plus a 20-second 5-on-3), that's purely a lack of focus and (stick) discipline--the coach's plan be damned! If Ovie shoots every damn thing he sees and scores 49 pts, why are there only four other guys scoring between 10-20 goals? Why is everyone else, to include 50% of your offense (on all lines) scoring less than 10 goals--TOTAL? That tells me the offense sucks! When I see a short-handed opponent on a 2-on-1 breakout and they score, that tells me our defensive is lazy! When I see the opposition intercepting our passes at our blue line, that laziness.

I can't get sustain an argument about a lack of character, or identity, or a team's inability to play like some other team--I can't use these as "reasons" why my team sucks and will be playing golf in the next week. Those things don't mean anything to a fan like me who just wants to see the team play well, and in the past 2 months, since the All-Star, the Caps simply and fundamentally have not played well.

Alexander Ovechekin is just one man--if he's a flawed, one-dimentional superstar, then so be it, but he alone is NOT the reason--not even the main reason, or a primary reason--why the Washington Capitals, as a TEAM, are failing. Likewise, when the day comes that we do succeed and we're able to put Lord Stanley's cup on our mantle, it won't be solely because of Ovie, or any one man, including the coach. This is a team sport where "team" is first and foremost.

That is the guts and core of my FB rant with Zeb, and that's my story here.

DC Homer said...

I owed Zeb a blog piece about my attendance at the Caps vs. Stars 5-0 debacle on 1 April. I wasn't very happy about the game after the 10-min mark when Dallas scored from the right goal post, on a very easy, over the (left) shoulder flip. Then the Caps went on to trip over the blue line for the next 50 minutes. It was embarrassing. The crowd couldn't help. There weren't enough "Let's Go Caps" chants to spark 6th man inspiration from the cheap seats. It was a depressing game in a depressing loosing streak from a depressing team.

I wish I could say more...

Zebster said...

Very well said and I hope it turns around.

Brent said...

Coach Oates said that Halak told him he wasn't comfortable playing against the Blues, so Holtby comes into a must-win game as the starting goaltender.

When does Adam Oates see his walking papers?