As we celebrate the Capitals' 40th anniversary, let's take a moment to...
Hitting the “Exasperated” Button
If only it were as simple as promoting Martin Erat (Caps Outsider)
To paraphrase Agnes Skinner, if the rest of the NHL is Macy’s, the Caps right now are Gimbel’s.
I don’t know if I want to hit the “panic” button with the Caps as much as I want to hit the “exasperated” button, because I don’t know if their problems are as simple as “maybe Martin Erat should be on the second line” (although he should) and “maybe Tom Wilson should be playing in Plymouth (although he should) and “maybe John Erskine should become the press box nacho connosueir he was born to be (although he should). That feeling of exasperation is a million times worse than panic. I can deal with panic, because if the Caps are indeed terrible, it’s a relatively easy problem to figure out/solve/deal with. This exasperation stuff, though, is a massive wild card, because it’s so open to interpretation and leads to all kinds of confusing questions that make my head hurt.
“Maybe this team isn’t really as good as we thought it was” is an absolutely horrifying proposition to consider, because in a salary cap league, mediocrity is death, and the Caps sure look that way right now, and I’m just not sure they are really better than that. Their underlying possession numbers are, to quote Saving Private Ryan, “south of cheese”, and really, they always have been during the Oates Era. Relying entirely on the Power Play for offense and being terrible at evens is kind of like putting every single cent you have into a single stock. Sure, it might be something awesome like Apple, but if you don’t diversify, you’re going to be living in the poor house if that particular stock falls through the floor. The Power Play is not always going to be clicking in the mid-30s, because nobody’s ever has for any extended period of time.
So I guess I’m back to relying on faith to hope that the coaching staff recognizes what’s going wrong schematically or otherwise and knows how to fix it, and I find that, well, exasperating. I want to know my team is good, I don’t want to have to force myself to believe that it will be at some point. I also understand that it’s way early, and my expectations are really high, but why wouldn’t they be? I’ve been told the team has no weaknesses. I watched them address their second line center issue that’s seemingly been a problem since the Meuse-Argonne. There are, on paper, two good scoring lines, and at least two good defensemen. Hell, there’s even a solid third pair now with Nate Schmidt and Steve Oleksy. Outside of a random boner or two, the goaltending is solid.
I guess if there’s any silver lining right now, it’s that the rest of the division right now is awful, awful, awful. Now’s the time to be gaining ground and separating for when those teams go on runs and/or start to turn things around. What I fear most, though, is hanging around the middle of the pack for too long. It’s time to decide whether this is a team that stinks, or one that’s going to contend. You can’t have it both ways.