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!!
Me: I 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.
G: Some 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.
Me: Said 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.
G: Un-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.
Me: I 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.
G: That'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.