For the five plus years this blog has in existence, it has been noticed by a few season ticket holders. When I wrote about my extended hiatus, I knew it wouldn't be long for one of my friends who happens to be a long time Capitals' season ticket holder to write me an email urging me to come back. Why? So he can be my anonymous season ticket holder I can draw quotes from. He is very sweet.
I value his opinion and others who purchase season tickets mostly because they are the ones laying down the big bucks year after year and have a monetary interest in the Caps' successes. It is not something to scoff at. They are in many ways the driving force behind the team. When he has something to say, I often take it with some weight. And he is often not too far from the mark on what other Caps fans are saying either.
To get to the point, he is nervous. Not that the team won't be exciting. But he as well as a few other fans I have gabbed with can see what this team can be and what is holding it back.
"I remember some game in March where the Caps just had a awful second period," he says to me as we talk about what when wrong last season. "I can't remember the team [the Caps] played, but I do recall the loud booing as the team skated off to the locker room. I thought, if [the Caps] are unable to fix this problem now we are in for a short post season. I hated thinking that, and I hated being right."
When the Caps dominated the league down the stretch and ended up winning the President's Trophy no one thought about those lapses as much as they do now. Hindsight is always 20/20. Now he fears that Caps fans are going to be much more harsh on this team if they have a bad night.
"They could probably break every record in the book next year, but if they are out in the first round it's not going to be pretty. This town will probably turn on them. That is a lot to think about for those guys taking the ice next year."
Talking with some friends I play hockey with, they could have cared less about the off season transactions. They are more convinced that the Capitals face more adversity this season than any of the seasons before.
"The pressure to win is going to get them," one said.
"They will be playing tight for the first 15 games, I guarantee," said another.
Caps fans, in my opinion, are optimistic about the Caps returning to the post season in good shape. But that is where the optimism falls to a pessimistic view of things to come. They have read the comments on the blogs, seen the nightly sports news rail their team following the loss to Montreal. Choke artists, under-achievers, etc.
The biggest problems they saw from last year was Mike Green talking about changing his game because he wanted to answer his critics, Alex Ovechkin trying to do it all himself while trying not to be branded a dirty player, Alex Semin disappearing into the background, and a third and forth line that could not contribute. Caps fans know that the combination of those issues led to a playoff collapse. What they fear is it will happen again.
"The team can't take it to the next level," my big spender friend told me. "Their sticks are all wrong, or they are not playing like before. They are their [own] biggest enemies. They don't need more coaching, they need psychologists."
I would imagine that most Caps fans will with hold the bottled excitement they once had a year ago to a more cautious approach to this season. It is not like they are going to cheer any less when the team comes from behind to beat a rival, or boo any louder when the Caps let in 4 goals in the second period. But they are going to be much more reserve when it comes to Cup talk. They will leave it to that old saying, seeing is believing.