Ive been a huge Caps fan for a long time and I always will be. Ive been a big believer in The Plan and a strong supporter of most of what the organization has done the last few years. But lately, a few things have been bothering me:
- Though Ive long been a big fan of Alex Ovechkin and the take-no-prisoners approach he took the NHL by storm with, I havent been impressed with him lately and his inability to take responsibility for some of his actions, act like a team leader publicly, etc. The organization and some fans seem OK with him doing whatever hed like. Mike Wise recently dubbed these people Great 8 enablers, during the skipped All-Star Game debate. As Caps fans, we all need to take a break from the red Kool-aid often enough to see things objectively.
- The Holden Family season tickets in the 400 level, which my father owns and generously lets his whole family use, have gone up 90.7% in five years. Professional sports is a business, I love what Ted Leonsis has done for the Caps, and this team has become extremely popular. However, now in their fifth straight year, these constant and sometimes rather steep increases have started to feel excessiveand like the type of thing that could come back to haunt the organization if they hit a prolonged rough patch.
- Ive watched the Caps exit the playoffs in an uninspiring fashion for three straight seasons. As I wrote the other day, (see 90.7% link in the bullet point above): Not since the 2007-08 playoff loss in seven games to the Flyers has it appeared as if the team left it all out on the ice as they were eliminated. In series losses to Pittsburgh (’08-’09), Montreal (’09-’10) and Tampa Bay (’10-’11), the team looked flat and unable to push over the hump to take their post-season game to the next level. Yet still today, even under a new coach and with a variety of veterans and role players brought in over the last few seasons, the team does not seem to have learned to seize opportunities, finish opponents when they have them down or play a full 60 minutes on a consistent basis. There are times when the Caps dont even seem present.
Then this afternoon, I read something that further irks me and it relates especially to that third and final bullet point above.
I was following a story Tuesday night about two Caps bloggers, known as Knights of Knuble, who were asked to take down Free Knuble and Scratch Hunter signs they brought to the game. It was reported by Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times that this was due to some Caps players requesting the signs be removed during warm-ups.
Today, Leonsis confirmed this on his blog, writing: A couple of players saw a sign at ice level during warm-ups that they felt was disrespectful toward our coach. One of the players asked one of the bench personnel to see if he could get them to take it down. One of our arena employees thought he was being helpful, and asked the fans to take it down.
Leonsis goes on to explain that the signs should have been permitted inside the venue, which is great to hear because banning signs is Redskins-like behavior and very un-Caps.
But I couldnt help but wonder aloud on Twitter today: Why are Caps players even focused on signs in stands during warm-ups? Nice that they want coach respected, but why not just block it out?
This is a Caps team that acts confused when they cant get up for a big game. Multiple players have commented on not knowing why they come out flat some games and theyve been uttering nearly identical quotes after some of these games for over three years now.
Recently, after a loss to the Panthers, defenseman Karl Alzner commented, Some teams it’s just real easy to get up for and that’s because of the team that they are: the Rangers, the Canadiens. Those games are really easy and sometimes here in Florida it’s difficult to get up
I was dumbfounded when I read that Alzner quote back in early February. If youre a professional athlete and youre thinking that, dont say it out loud. And while youre thinking that but not saying it, ask yourself why you are a professional athlete yet unable to focus enough to get up for any game you need to get up for, particularly one against a division rival that was banging on your door at that point.
But now, when I see that there are guys on the Caps that are so unfocused on the game at hand that theyre actually going to take the time to ask that a Scratch Hunter or a Free Knuble sign be taken down during warm-ups, quotes like Alzners and this teams inability to play consistent hockey for 60 minutes, or from one game to the next, makes a little more sense.
Ignore the damn signs, Caps! Or be so in the zone and focused on the precious two points up for grabs that you dont even notice the signs to begin with. Play like you did a few years ago when you were all business, dead set on gaining two points at a time and nothing more and nothing lessuntil it was time to play the next game and grab those two points.
You were a machine, Caps, and thousands of people were inspired by it. But now, when I see your captain sulking, your disinterest on the ice at times and some of you actually taking the time as pro athletes to worry about what a cleanly-worded and done-seemingly-in-good-fun sign says, I cant help but think that you sound like losers.
Ive rooted for a lot of losing teams in my life; its really not hard to do. Im not a fair weather fan, even when my teams are on a losing streak. But when a team doesnt seem to care for stretches at a time or when they look deflated, uninspired and plain defeated, theyre not always a lot of fun to pull for. And now you want to complain about signs, Caps? Really? Seriously, guys? Is that where the focus should be as you sit outside the playoffs with under 20 games left in the regular season? (I also doubt one of the biggest bad-asses in the history of hockey, Dale Hunter, needs anyone to protect him from a paper sign. Im also sure he saw and heard much worse than Scratch Hunter during his playing days).
See yourself, one solid shift at a time, winning the game being played on the ice, Caps, not what some fan is holding up to the glass surrounding it. Your season, and many fans patience, might be gone soon if you dont.