10/6 - You remember Jaromir Jagr, and Robert Lang, a chance to bring a rebirth of the talented Penguins in Capitals sweaters. You might also remember the roles of Peter Bondra, and Sylvain Cote, and Mark Tinordi. Weren’t they were the ones to bring the Stanley Cup to the Nation’s Capital? So, what happened? Didn’t we get to the finals in 1998, only to be swept by the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings or was it just the goals in the Eastern Conference finals that were taken back because a Bruin had a skate in the crease? You’d think if you had a team with the names that have made their way through the Caps Center (yea you heard me, screw the U.S. Air Arena, it was always the Caps Center) and the MCI Center that the Cup would be in a ticket tape parade down Constitution Ave., or passed through the halls of the Capitol. So what was the plan of action?
With the a lock out looming the Caps had to make a decision, either keep the route of big name and big cash veterans (in other words, buy your way to a Cup) or follow the model of the Tampa Bay Lightening by building young players into a competitive team. For the Capitals owner, Ted Leonsis, the choice was an easy one. “Damn the torpedo, young guys ahead!” Unload the big money guys and prepare for the future. They couldn’t have picked a better time. The gamble was that after the lockout there would be a salary cap, which veteran players would be available from other teams that were over their limits. They had the first round pick for the 2004 draft, and they could build a team around a potential star player.
If the change was going to happen, changes had to be made before the potential lockout. Before you knew it, Lang was in Detroit, Jagr landed in New York (where he wanted to go in the first place), and Bondra went out to help Ottawa. And the caps were emptied, except for the guys they just couldn’t part with, or couldn’t find a good enough deal to do away with, Brendan Witt and Olaf Kolzig. With Kolzig, they had a proven winner and solid goaltending, they probably figured the same with Witt in terms of defense. So Alexander Ovechkin was to be the Capitals savior. And it may work. Sure the Caps fans will have at least 2 long seasons of big blowout losses and close game wins, but the turn around is three years, at least it was for Tampa Bay. Then when the young guys are seasoned, the team will look for a mixture of solid players and seasoned veterans.
And Poof, the Capitals are Stanley Cup contenders, with a recipe for success. Or, they could be the farm team to the NHL. If the Capitals can’t produce players to win, they will be producing players that have experience and developed skills to work within other systems out side of the Washington Beltway. So it’s a gamble, and one that Leonsis and McPhee feel will work to their advantage. Only time will tell whether McPhee will be a hero or a goat.
Be a hero George, be a hero.