The Washington Post

Struggling Washington Capitals inspire fear and loathing

There’s no simple solution for the troubles plaguing the Capitals right now. (Mike Cassese/Reuters)

They look disjointed and out of sync, like a newborn fawn trying to stand up and walk. They can’t sustain any kind of significant pressure in the offensive zone, and almost three years after Pittsburgh beat them in 2009, they still can’t really handle a tough forechecking team. Toronto pressed them hard Saturday night, and forced turnover after turnover. They are about as fun to watch right now as a Uwe Boll picture.

Everyone’s got solutions to whatever “problems” the Caps have. It’s the captain’s fault. It’s the coach’s fault. They shouldn’t have traded Varly (these people should be avoided). At this point, I think what makes me angriest about the Caps this year is that I don’t really know what’s wrong with them, except that everything is wrong with them right now. And there’s no “easy” solution.

You can’t fire the coach right now (who on earth would you replace him with?), and no one’s going to touch Alexander Semin with a 10-foot pole (he’d get called for diving if you did). It just doesn’t seem as simple as Mike Green being out, but even if it is, the team is built on an extremely faulty foundation if the entire thing collapses because the top defenseman (who happens to be made out of glass) can’t play.

Almost more than anger right now, I’m afraid. I’m terrified that this team just isn’t as good as we think it is. Joe Beninati mentioned the other night the lack of speed on the blueline, and that’s a problem, because they’re really susceptible to being boxed in their own zone for long periods of time. Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine, for all that’s good about their games, aren’t exactly going to win any fastest skater competitions, unless they’re racing against each other. And that’s half the defense on any given night! But again, there’s just no easy solution. There’s not a lot of NHL-ready depth in Hershey. There’s no one they could go out and grab right now that’s going to solve all their problems.

Above all, I’m frightened they’ll do something completely stupid and trade Alex Ovechkin. The Lightning almost did this years ago, and actually had a deal on the table where they would have sent Vinny Lecavalier to Toronto, but it collapsed at the last minute, and there’s no way we refer to Stanley Cup-winning coach John Tortorella as “Stanley Cup-winning coach John Tortorella” if they make that deal. Whatever his problems right now may be, you can’t fathom trading the guy. The team’s entire identity, marketing campaign, and name brand have all been built around him. You can’t just violently change how your team is built in the early/middle part of an 82-game season because of a bad stretch of games.

And I guess that’s the thing to remember here. It’s still only November. There’s time to iron out the kinks, time to make changes if they need to be made. But the Caps have to be smart here and make sure they consider every move they make, if only to keep me (and other fans) from putting a foot through the TV in anger at another impotent showing.


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