With the Wizards bowing out in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Washington’s championship drought continues. Not one of the city’s four major sports teams has won a title since the Redskins’ Super Bowl XXVI victory on Jan. 26, 1992. It’s been a rough two decades for Washington fans, but there’s enough talent in the District that one of these teams could end the skid. Of the Redskins, Nationals, Wizards and Capitals, which franchise is in the best position to bring home a championship for this beleaguered fan base?
Most Likely: Nationals
2013 finish: 86-76, missed playoffs and were second in the NL East.
Best finish over the past five years: In 2012, the Nats had the best regular-season record in baseball at 98-64. They lost in the NL Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Star power: With Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals have one of the top young rotations in baseball. Washington’s starting lineup features a nice mix of promising 20-somethings (Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond) and savvy veterans (Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman). The problem is this group is never healthy at the same time.
What Vegas thinks: The Nats are tied with the fourth-best odds to win the 2014 World Series.
What they need to win it all: Stay healthy and figure out the Braves. This year, Washington has grinded through the first quarter of the season with many of its stars spending time on the disabled list. In addition to getting healthy, the Nationals need to overcome their shortcomings vs. the Braves. Since the start of 2013, Washington is 7-18 against the reigning NL East champs.
Outlook: There’s a reason Sports Illustrated has picked the Nationals to win the World Series the past two years: Few teams can match Washington’s talent level.
2013 finish: 3-13, last in the NFC East, second-worst record in the league.
Best finish over past five years: In 2012, the Redskins won the NFC East and lost in the wild-card round to the Seattle Seahawks.
Star power: The Redskins have one of the most star-studded offenses in the NFL, led by Robert Griffin III. The third-year quarterback has two dynamic wideouts (Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson), a talented young tight end (Jordan Reed), a proven running back (Alfred Morris) and a Pro Bowl left tackle (Trent Williams). What else could you ask for? Oh yeah, a stout defense to go with it — which the Redskins really don’t have.
What Vegas thinks: The Redskins are 50-1 odds to win next year’s Super Bowl and are tied with the Rams and Bucs with the worst odds to win the NFC.
What they need to win it all: Griffin to revert to his 2012 form. As a rookie, he was one of the most efficient passers in the league — throwing 20 TDs to just five interceptions. But in 2013, he threw 16 TDs and 12 picks. Now that Griffin is fully healthy, this upcoming season will be a better gauge of what can be expected of him.
Outlook: For a team coming off a three-win season, there’s a surprising amount of talent. And with the parity in the NFL, there’s more chance for a quick turnaround (the Chiefs won two games in 2012 and had 11 victories in 2013).
2013-14 finish: 44-38, fifth in East, lost in the conference semifinals to the Indiana Pacers.
Best finish over past five years: 2013-14. Prior to this season, the Wizards hadn’t won a second-round game since 1982.
Star power: The Wizards have a nice young backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal, who are both younger than 24, but Wall is the only player on the roster to have made an All-Star team.
What Vegas thinks: The bandwagon filled up after the Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls in the first round in just five games, but Vegas didn’t buy in. The Wizards entered the second round with the worst odds to win the NBA title out of the eight remaining teams.
What they need to win it all: LeBron to change conferences. As long as LeBron James is with the Heat, Miami will be the Eastern Conference favorite. Luckily for Washington, though, the Heat and the Pacers are the only real title contenders in the East — while the West remains loaded. If James tests free agency and heads West, which seems unlikely, Washington could be among the favorites to win the East next year.
Outlook: The Wizards have built a perennial playoff squad, but NBA titles are usually won by teams with one of the top-five players in the league and it doesn’t appear Wall or Beal is destined to reach that elite level.
Least Likely: Capitals
2013-14 finish: 38-30-14 (90 points), missed playoffs for first time since 2006-07 season.
Best finish over the past five years: 2010-11, the Caps were the East’s No. 1 seed and made it to the conference semis. They won the President’s Trophy in 2009-10 but lost in the first round.
Star power: Alex Ovechkin is a three-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner for league MVP and has led the NHL in goals the past two seasons. But the criticism of the forward’s work ethic and defensive deficiencies reached new heights as the Caps missed the postseason this year.
What Vegas thinks: Prior to the 2013-14 season, the Caps had 25-1 odds to win it all — tied for 11th best in the league. Then they missed the playoffs.
What they need to win it all: A goalie. Since the 2009-10 season, the Caps have had four different goalies lead the team in regular-season starts: Braden Holtby, Tomas Vokoun, Michal Neuvirth and Jose Theodore. The Caps’ playoff failures have mostly been blamed on coaches, systems and Ovechkin. But Washington has never had a top-tier goalie to lean on for a deep playoff run.
Outlook: With a new coach and general manager, this could be the year the Capitals build a team that can thrive in the regular season and playoffs. But this feels more like a squad whose championship window has closed.