First Things First -- Tracee Hamilton on the Caps collapse

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Tracee Hamilton
Thursday, April 29, 2010; 9:30 AM

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Tracee Hamilton: Do I need to say it? We'll be talking Caps. Caps Caps Caps. Nothing but Caps. Because it might be the last time for a long, long time. Bring your questions, your comments, your angst. I'm here for you.

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I blame the Olympics: Ovie has been flat ever since. And Semin never stepped up.

Tracee Hamilton: And Plushenko was a big jerk. I blame the Olympics too!Wait, what were we talking about?Good morning, all, or rather, just "morning, all," because I realize for a certain number of you, it's not good.You are right about Ovie post-Olympics. I think that got under his skin pretty badly.

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Mike Green: Did "Mr October" Mike Green do enough in this series to get traded? Rarely do you a supposed star of the league come up so small in the playoffs. I hope he doesn't win the Norris.

Tracee Hamilton: Wouldn't it be ironic if he did. That penalty last night was inexcusable.

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My sons' futures as Caps fans??: I have a moral dilemma. As a Caps fan for 30 years, I knew how this was going to end when they lost Game 5. This year is my three sons first taste of life as a Caps fan. I tried to prepare them for this as best I could but alas they were still distraught. I hate to see them spend their lives in misery following this team. What to do, oh what to do?

Tracee Hamilton: Do one thing: Make it clear that if they are going to be Caps fans, they have to stick with it through thick and thin. I hate it when people jump from team to team. When my nephew was little, he wanted to be a Cowboys fan. I told him fine, but he had to still be when they got bad again (which they did). He stuck by them, and he still remembers that talk.Explain the risks of Caps fanhood and let them make a choice.

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Caps: Maybe now all the bandwagon DC hockey fans will start seeing the Caps for what they are: a good team in the worst division in the league. When you're playing 24 regular season games against teams that don't make the playoffs, it's easy to rack up points and goals and other padded stats. When the playoffs come around and the team demonstrates time and time again that they can't beat real teams, it's time fans start seeing the Caps for what they really are.

Tracee Hamilton: I get your point. I do wonder at what point we can stop segregating fans into "bandwagon" and "non-bandwagon." We are setting impossible standards for each other to live up to.

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Perspective: I'm a Pens fan and while I know it hurts you need some perspective. Mario spent his first seven or so years barely sniffing at the playoffs. The best Pens team ever (the year following the two Cups) lost to the Islanders in a game seven even though they dominated the series. Good luck because I love the rivalry.

Tracee Hamilton: Another good example of how it takes time to develop a winner.

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something's broken...: ...and not just with the Caps, but with the NHL playoffs. Look at the East right now - the 4, 6, 7, and 8 seeds have advanced to the second round. This would *never* happen in the NBA, where the great teams are often dramatically better than the merely decent teams.Hockey has once again demonstrated that a hot goalie is all a mediocre team needs to advance. So, my question is - why even bother giving out the President's Trophy if it clearly means nothing for post-season success? The regular season clearly doesn't matter; why should a team strive to win as many contests as possible if so many low-seeded playoff teams can advance?To me, this could become a serious competitive balance issue the NHL will need to address. The NHL was practically begging for a Pens/Caps rematch for ratings gold, or for Olympic hero Ryan Miller to throw the Sabres on his back, and now they're basically set for a Pens/Red Wings Cup rematch - not the worst thing, but not what they wanted to see.What can the league do the ensure the teams that do the league a service in the regular season aren't being dis-serviced by playoff time? Give the Presidents' Trophy winner 5 home games as opposed to 4? Give them a higher draft pick, like, say, the first pick after all the non-playoff teams have picked? There's got to be something, otherwise you're going to see teams tank games in February/March for better April seedings.

Tracee Hamilton: This is an interesting point. I think it goes back to the notion that regular season hockey and playoff hockey are not the same, a notion I realize is true but that I don't like. What is the point of playing 82 games, then, except to make everybody some money?

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Ovie: Your article about Ovie was just plain wrong. Our problem was not Ovie. Our problem was that our strengths as a team, scoring depth and the power play, completely failed us. That's not Ovie's fault. Ovie can't do everything for everybody.

Tracee Hamilton: Ovie's on the power play, right? I believe I pointed out plenty of culprits and I didn't even get to Bruce Boudreau. But I stand by my point: When you are the face of the franchise and go by "the great 8" you'd better deliver. He hasn't, yet. Do I think he will someday? Yes, I do.

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Captain Ovie: What kind of team "captain" skips a "voluntary" workout between a game 6 and 7 when your team is struggling? What kind of team "captain" skips anything when he is a team leader?

Tracee Hamilton: Well, this is what I wondered. I'm told he often does this, and when they were en fuego I didn't have a problem with it, I guess, but I did think Tuesday was a time to show up. His very act of showing up would have sent a message, since he never does.I'm also told Crosby does not skip optional skates, for what that's worth.A lot of people disagree with us, however.

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Did we lose or did they win.: I guess there's two ways of looking at this. One way, which seem to be favored by fans of the Habs is that this victory represents a super-human effort by the victorious Canadians who played well above their normal level to defeat the mighty Caps.The other story is that the Caps massively choked and allowed an inferior team to steal wins by playing dreadfully. I realize that reality is probably a mixture of the two, but which story do you think is closest to the truth?

Tracee Hamilton: I think it is indeed a mixture but I think the Caps were a little more responsible for the outcome than the Habs. A little.

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Go Caps!: Tracee: I've been a Caps season ticket holder since 1982. I figure I've spent upwards of $200,000 on season tickets and countless nights at the rink over the past 28 years. Going into the game last night I thought for sure that I would be livid if we had lost and I would seriously consider abandoning this team (at least financially).I was upset for a little while last night but after a good night of sleep, I'm feeling much better about our future this morning. I think we are simply a young team that isn't mature. The comments in the paper this morning about everyone wanting to trade the young Yzerman were spot on. We need to give Ovechkin more than a partial season as Captain before we start throwing him under the bus. He isn't as good as Crosby is right now, especially in the playoffs, but we have to give him time to grow into the role. Don't forget, he's only in his early 20s and I can't imagine the pressure on the guy.On the other hand, something needs to be done about Green. He needs to be paired with someone who can provide help when he needs it. The guy was awful last night with his penalties and failures to clear the puck out of the zone or the opposing player out of the crease. This is unacceptable for a player of his caliber. The number 1 priority in the offseason should be to find him a seasoned true defenseman that he can be paired with - even if that means trading Semin.We also need a second line center - Belanger doesn't fit this role. We have an incredible future if you think about it. Varly didn't collapse like last year in the game 7; Alzner and Carlson are going to be an outstanding future pairing on the blue line; Backstrom has shown us that he may be the most complete player on this team; Chimera was an excellent pick-up (the only good one in my opinion) who provides a lot of speed and toughness deep into the lineup.We have a lot to look forward to over the next few years as we continue to watch these guys mature. I know most teams in the league would kill to have a roster and minor league system as loaded as ours. Go Caps!!P.S. The one thing that needs to change is the production during the game - once the lead in-game producer left for the NFL, the quality of the production took a nosedive. We really don't need to see someone run over with a car or a piano dropped on them after the other team scores a goal. There are a ton of movie clips out there which would get the same point across.

Tracee Hamilton: A reasoned and measured analysis of the situation. You, sir (sir?), have no business here!Just kidding. Very good points, all of them. Especially the ones that agree with mine.

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Great White North: Ever see a documentary about musk oxen? They are not the sexiest animals on the planet. When attacked, the adults huddle around the young, forming a protective circle, facing the wolves that would threaten the future of the herd. That was the Canadiens in this series, clogging the front of the net, blocking shots.

Tracee Hamilton: I've GOT to watch more "Animal Planet."

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CAPS: Indeed Alexander Ovechkin is a very talented athlete. He will never reach the status of "The Best" because Sid the Kid is more talented and most importantly a better representative of the NHL today.

Tracee Hamilton: I believe Crosby is currently the best player in the league. Could Ovechkin usurp him at some point? I think so; I think he is that talented.

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Ovechkin: I think you were too rough on him this morning. It wasn't his fault.

Tracee Hamilton: I think he's gotten a pass from a lot of us in the media, including me. He's a lot of fun to watch, but he's started to believe his own hype. Danger time.

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Ovie not practising: A man like Clinton Portis or Al Haynesworth can't get away with not practising because they don't play hard enough and don't produce enough on the field. Ovechkin seems to skip practises because he saves his energy to play his heart out in games, which he does. Perhaps this needs to change, but this doesn't represent laziness on his part. It represents that he isn't as mature yet as he could be. God willing, he and the Caps will have Lord Stanley waiting for him when he gains some years of wisdom and the Caps get some defence and consistency.

Tracee Hamilton: No, he's not lazy. Definitely not. But Clinton Portis and Albert Haynesworth are not team leaders. Trust me. They aren't. Ovechkin is. Show up.

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Help! Help! My Beagle Needs the Heimlich!: But seriously folks, I tried to figure out how much money the Capitals were paying Alex Semin this year per point he produced in the playoffs, but my calculator got mad at me for trying to divide by zero! *rimshot*I kid because I love...and because at this point if I wasn't laughing, I'd be crying. Such is the life of the Washington Sports Fan and our omnipresent motto -- "Until Next Year!"

Tracee Hamilton: I thought the motto was, "Oy, not again!"

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Caps: Can you start teaching the folks in DC the difference between a great player and a good player? Great players come through when it matters. They play great in game 7s. They score the big goals. They take the blame when things don't go well. Good players rack up individual awards and regular season accolades. Then they disappear in the playoffs.This is the difference between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

Tracee Hamilton: All true, at this point in time.

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What I miss most ....: ... is the Penguins rematch.

Tracee Hamilton: Yes, that will be missed. A local team in the playoffs will be missed as well.

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Capitals & Future: Has Mike Green played his last game for the Caps? Do you think the Caps need to make any personnel moves to make the next level or is it more a case of the Caps lacked the desire and drive?

Tracee Hamilton: The Green decision will be interesting; I think it will be hard to overlook his playoff performance the last two years. If you're looking to win the Cup, you're going to have to build a playoff team. Would you put Green on that team? So if he's back, that will signal, perhaps, that change is not imminent.Yes, I think the Caps need to make some moves. They need a defenseman, although Carlson and Alzner are coming along nicely, aren't they?

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What's the point of playing 82 games?: Hockey is fun to watch. If you are a hockey fan, you watch games as often as you can. You don't just wait for the playoffs. If I get to the rink early before one of my games, I'll watch the other teams in my league play, even though we're a bunch of has beens who never were much to begin with. What does what happens in the NBA have anything to do with hockey?

Tracee Hamilton: question wasn't mean to be serious. But if the game is going to completely change in the playoffs ... never mind.I'm not sure where the NBA came into the discussion. Did I miss something?

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Tracee Hamilton writes: I've GOT to watch more "Animal Planet.": Well, thanks to last night, now you have more time for that!

Tracee Hamilton: That's the truth. Let's make that a chat one day soon: What to do to fill our free time in the spring....

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Disappointed in the Fans!: Tracee - I was at the game last night.. With 6 minutes to go in the 3rd, a bunch of us stood and cheered....until people in our section complained and brought the usher over. By now, there's just 5 minutes to go in the entire season (and it's a 1 point game 7!) and the usher is instructing fans to sit down? Do you think they would be sitting in Montreal? Shame on you fans in section 428.

Tracee Hamilton: Really? That's nuts. No, they would not be sitting at Bell Centre. That's a seriously intense place.

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Really?: New Caps - Same Punchline. They were supposed to be different. But instead - they took us to a new playoff low.You think it's too late for Ted-dog to lower ticket prices? I think the sellout streak goes bye-bye on opening night.This is deflating. And I'm worried the atmosphere in the VC will go back to pre-Rock the Red Days.You agree?

Tracee Hamilton: I really don't think the atmosphere will drop off, and I think tickets will continue to sell, because there are always people waiting to get in on the action.I could certainly be wrong.

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Crosby: To the guy who said Crosby was the better talent and a better representative for the NHL, stop drinking the Kool-Aid.I would say he's arguably one of the most talented, but he's a camper, he camps in front of the net to score a lot of his goals. That's fine. That's what he does, that's how he scored the Olympic game winner.But to say that makes him the more talented than Ovechkin is crazy. They are on par but very different players. As far as being a good representative, that's the biggest crock of crap I've ever seen. This is a guy who complained during last year's playoffs about clearing the hats off the ice after Ovechkin had a hat trick at home, in the SAME GAME Crosby had one.And let's not forget his cheap shot to the groin after being the third player into a fight. He's a terrible ambassador for the sport and THAT'S why most Caps fans don't like him.

Tracee Hamilton: And there's the other side of the argument.Gotta dash. I'm at the studio going on the Tony Kornheiser Show, so tune in if you can. Otherwise, we'll chat tomorrow about ... well, I don't know. Musk oxen?


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