Contact Me!

** Email me at: ** Follow me on Twitter! @capsdegenerate **

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Just Not Feeling It

It has been a while since my last post - just shy of a year and a half.  A lot has happened since then as far as Caps and NHL news goes (and yes, if you read my last post - I was wrong - the Caps did make the playoffs in 2011-12 and even won the first round.....yeah Joel Ward!).

With the Reds beating the Dodgers and the Nats getting destroyed by Miami (thus putting DC 8 games back of the 2nd Wild Card spot) -- baseball season is effectively over in Washington.  Normally, this would be when I turn my attention more sharply over to the Capitals.  The start of hockey season traditionally brings great joy to me -- as does the thought of keeping track of the Caps day in and day out for 6 months + 1 or 2 rounds of the playoffs.

Of course, one year ago we were on the verge of a lockout that wiped out the first 34 games of the 2013 season.  Gary Bettman and the owners milked their leverage and squeezed the NHLPA as hard as they could.  The MBA in me understands this is how it is done in the real world.  The fan in me wanted to stop being a fan.

Gary Bettman wound up making that decision easy for me last year.  When the lockout ended, he merely needed to spend 30 seconds on social media to find a way to make it up to the fans.  Just give the fans NHL Gamecenter for free during the 2013 season.  Seems simple.  Seems fair.  I would argue that it was such a ridiculously easy out that Gary Bettman should have done it immediately following the lockout's end.  No brainer.  Right?

What did he do?  As you know, NHL Gamecenter was $50 for the shortened season.  As if that wasn't frustrating enough -- he cited business partners as the reason why NHL Gamecenter couldn't be free.  He could have easily compensated the business partners for whatever revenue they lost.  He chose to insult our intelligence.

Like I said, my decision was easy last year.  No NHL Gamecenter for me.  I simply didn't watch the Caps (ok, I watched the two NBC games -- both losses).  I kept up a little via the internet.  I might have caught an additional game here and there.  And I caught snippets of that fabulous Game 7 against the Rangers.

In the aftermath of the playoff elimination, I heard George McPhee bitch about the Game 6 officiating, Alex Ovechkin bitch about the Game 6 officiating, Adam Oates say he could beat up John Tortorella, and I read Ted Leonsis' "Successful, But Short of Ultimate Goal" blog post from May 21, 2013.

I could write another blog post in response to Ted's blog post.  Yes, he does say "I assure you our organization's daily commitment is keenly focused on winning the Stanley Cup".  But, he also countered another playoff collapse with citing accomplishments such as:  making the playoffs, the home sellout streak, the season ticket renewal rate, and the number of regular season home wins since 2007-2008.  At best, he is sending mixed messages.  I'll leave it at that....

Anyway, I promised myself I would move on from the Capitals' playoff disappointment and enjoy the summer.  It's not like I don't have plenty of practice with this.  Watch baseball, play golf, go to the beach, grill, do what you need to do to forget that Lucy pulled the football out from under you so that you feel comfortable lining up for another kick come October.

So here we are.  October is coming.  And I am faced with the one, key tactical decision that I have been putting off.  Do I buy NHL Gamecenter this season?

Let me start by saying I don't have cable.  It is just not worth it.  I have the money.  I see no value in it.  Further, where I live -- NBCSN is not a basic-tier channel.  The NHL Network isn't even offered.

Now, this season Gary Bettman has been kind enough to offer an "early bird" special that runs through Halloween.  If I buy before then, I could pay the low, low price of $150.

But, consider this:  I am locked into MLB.TV at $125 per season.  An MLB season is 162 games.  When factoring in the number of times the Nats are blacked out due to Sunday Night Baseball, FOX regional nights, and local blackouts when they play the team in my market -- there are still roughly 145 games available for me to watch.

That is a price of $0.86/game ($125/145 games).  Granted, it didn't guarantee a playoff berth this year.  And, I would say the FOX regional broadcasts are frustrating.  But, all in all, it is a great deal.  I am a satisfied customer.

Now, if you peruse the Capitals' TV schedule for 2013-2014 you will find that they are on NBCSN and the NHL Network a total of 24 times.  Yup, 24 times.  All 24 of those games are blacked out on NHL Gamecenter.

That means only 58 Caps games will be shown live on NHL Gamecenter this season.  Hey, it's almost like another lockout!!!!

Your price per game for NHL Gamecenter this season is $2.59 ($150/58).  That includes the $10 early bird discount.  It also graciously ignores that a few more games will be blacked out because my local market is now a Metropolitan division market (BTW -- what a horrible name).

$2.59 vs. $0.86.  Hmmmmmmm.....

I'm not here to debate the NHL Gamecenter blackout policy.  I know it isn't going away.  It would be nice, but as my idol George Carlin says, "We don't have time for rational solutions"...

I would point out, though, if the NHL thinks I'm going to get cable just so I can then get the NBCSN tier (remember, NBCSN isn't basic and I can't get the NHL Network) it is out of its mind.

True, it is not a new blackout policy.  I put up with it in 2011-2012.  I don't have an exact number, but the Caps were on Versus/NBCSN and the NHL Network a comparable number of times.  The price of NHL Gamecenter was also similar.  I had just finished grad school and was feeling giddy.

Now, I'm not so giddy.  I can't really pinpoint what specifically is driving my frustration.  Is it the lockout?  Gary Bettman?  The price of NHL Gamecenter?  Its frustrating blackout policies?  Ted Leonsis?  George McPhee?  Alex Ovechkin?  Game 7 vs. the Rangers?

I don't know.  There are just so many different things that are floating around it is hard to put my finger on the precise reason.

I do know this -- I'm not just some bandwagon fan.  I am one or two seasons away from season #30.  If I wanted to quit on the Caps due to playoff collapses, I would have done that a long time ago.

I do know that I feel as if the NHL/Caps are probably indifferent to how close to the edge they have pushed me.  I don't think they realize how remarkable a feat it is to take a die-hard fan like myself and make him blase about hockey season (and in case Gary Bettman needs clarification -- it's not remarkable in a good way).

Will the Caps be good this season -- the team's first full season with Adam Oates as coach?  Pardon the truncated analysis -- I think it will be same old, same old.  They'll make the playoffs.  Maybe they'll get out of the first round.  That's as much as I expect out of these guys.  That's the team's potential.  Even with Mikhail Grabovski -- I see no reason for more optimism than a first round win.  If they go further than that -- great -- but they certainly haven't earned any bold preseason predictions from me.  They are guilty until proven innocent.

So - I've basically just crammed 18 months of thoughts into one blog post.  I could have streamlined.  I could have organized my thoughts.  But, really, that's more effort than I'm willing to give the NHL or the Caps at this point.

Maybe the NHL will surprise me and eliminate their NHL Gamecenter blackout policy.  Maybe they'll drop the price to $0.86/game (for a total charge of $50 for the season....58*$0.86.....and yes....the full 2013-2014 season....not the 2013 lockout shortened season).

But, likely, I'll go through the next 6 months without engaging much in the NHL.  I've proven I can occupy my time.  I can do without the NHL.  The NHL can apparently do without me.

As Todd Bertuzzi once said (over and over), "It is what it is".....


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

R.I.P. Rock the Red Era

You might still have some faith in these Caps. After all, there are still 5 games remaining in the regular season. The Caps are only 2 points out of 8th place. The Caps have the tiebreaker. And, because it's easy to do, you talk about Philadelphia's run to the Final in 2009-2010 after qualifying for the playoffs with their final regular season game victory over the Rangers. You never know, right?

Actually, yes we do. The Washington Capitals will not make the playoffs this season.

The jury is in on George McPhee. The jury is in on Alex Ovechkin. Dale Hunter didn't get it done. The jury is in on the rebuild. It is time to blow everything up and start over once again.

No longer can Ted Leonsis explain away another bed-shitting. Don't blame the learning curve. Don't you dare blame injuries. Don't blame the lack of home ice! Don't blame the sample size. The sample size is sufficient to draw these conclusions:

In the clutch, these Caps roll over and play dead. The "Rock the Red" Caps have abjectly failed.

In a way, it is only fitting that the Buffalo Sabres are the ones to put the final nail in this era's coffin. I remember when I was still in Alexandria, Virginia. It was April 2007. Glen Hanlon was still the coach. The Caps still had those ugly-ass black jerseys. They were about as close to the playoffs as Washington, DC is to Beijing (whereas now we're as close as DC is to Los Angeles, perhaps?).

That season, the Caps closed out the season at home vs. the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres won the game 2-0 to clinch the President's Trophy. If you recall, that game is where this photo comes from:

The game was a sellout. But not one of those cute "Sea of Red" sellouts we have grown accustomed to (and are in danger of losing). It was one of those visiting fan aided sellouts that has plagued the majority of this franchise's history and very well could return next season if proper actions aren't taken.

You could hear lots of Sabres fans last night as Buffalo violated the Capitals 5 to 1. It wasn't ridiculous. It wasn't like Detroit's invasion during the 1998 Final. It wasn't like a Pittsburgh invasion. But, it was certainly noticeable.

It was a sign that a sizeable portion of the Caps' fanbase is ready to voice its frustration with the team in the form of not coming to games anymore. It is as if this team's atmosphere is about to come full circle.

Maybe the fans I reference are of the bandwagon/fairweather variety. Maybe a "real fan" might be sick and tired of the team shitting the bed, but still plans to come back for more poop. I probably fall into the latter category, but I also secretly wouldn't mind having another hobby at this point.

Regardless, it is time to waive the white flag with this group of Caps and make sweeping changes before it is too late.

When this era specifically began is hard to pinpoint. It obviously started on Bruce Boudreau's watch. Maybe it was his very first game in Philadelphia (that Backstrom OT winner off Ovechkin's flubbed pass).

Maybe it was when the Caps won 11 of their last 12 games to win the SE Division and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Maybe it was specifically the final 3 home games, which were all sellouts in DC.

For me, it was Game 1 of the playoffs vs. Philadelphia that year. Without question, it is the loudest I have personally heard the Verizon Center. It was my first "red out". There were hardly any Flyers fans in attendance. Mike Green had his mohawk going on. They were giving out free mohawks in the concourse.

At 2nd intermission the Caps trailed the Flyers 4 to 2. A fellow Caps fan walked past one of the few Flyers fans in the concourse and told him to go back to Philadelphia. The Flyers fan responded by telling him to "look at the ******* scoreboard".

Well, two Mike Green goals and a feared broken Patrick Thoresen testicle later - the game was tied. I was thrilled the game was going to go to OT.

But it didn't. Alex Ovechkin stripped Lasse Kukkonen of the puck and roofed it past Martin Biron for one of his most epic glass leaps of his career. The Caps took a 1-0 series lead courtesy of this 5-4 win.

Sure, nobody wanted the Caps to lose the series. I was also at the series' Game 7 in which Joffrey Lupul scored the series clincher to end the Caps' magical season. Yes, it was sad.

But there was hope. There was excitement. The team was on the upswing.

Not anymore.

The Caps might have beaten the Rangers in Game 7 the following year. But, they did their best to piss that game away.

DC followed it up with a stinker in Game 7 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins - losing at home 6 to 2. The Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup, but this was just "strike one" against the Caps (giving them a pass against the Flyers the previous year).

Then Montreal happened. After the Caps won Game 3 - a Montreal columnist sarcastically suggested that the Habs tank game 4 to allow the Caps to take a 3-1 series lead. After all, the Caps had no idea how to handle such a playoff lead.

For many, that was the breaking point. But, George McPhee stayed the course until the 2011 trade deadline.

Well, you know the rest. The Caps got swept in Round 2 by the 'Ning last year and George McPhee opened up the wallet during the summer of 2011.

Boudreau is out, Hunter is in, and the Caps got spanked last night vs. the Sabres.

I've had enough. It is no longer a fluke. McPhee has been around since the '98 run and he has not come close to recreating that success (which arguably he inherited from David Poile).

He has had his chance and it is time to replace him. He is not a bad man. Maybe there was the Eric Belanger incident. Maybe he was quoted as saying about his critics: "If they knew anything about the game, they'd be in it".

And, well, there was that one time back in 1999 when he punched the head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks after a preseason game. I actually liked that. If I had $20,000 to spare I would have paid his fine.

But, all in all, George McPhee was a professional man of integrity who just didn't get the job done. It is time to replace him. He built it - the team didn't perform - time to move on and part ways.

With that, Dale Hunter will be a casualty of the new general manager. He was on a one year deal to begin with. Maybe he never had the right parts to do his system. But, he showed very few signs of being ready for an NHL coaching gig.

I imagine the new GM will recruit someone with NHL head coaching experience to lead the Caps - something the Caps haven't seen since Ron Wilson or Jim Schoenfeld. Yes, have another donut, indeed.

As for Alex Ovechkin. Well, he hasn't performed in the clutch. At minimum, he should be stripped of the captaincy.

This "lead by example" shit isn't working. The team needs an "alpha-captain" comfortable making the locker room speeches.

I wouldn't mind having him on the team if his cap hit weren't so damn high. If there is a trade to be made involving Ovechkin, the trigger must be pulled. It won't be more than a few seasons before he is officially untradeable and he becomes the next Wade Redden - finishing out his contract in the AHL.

No longer can he be considered "the face of the franchise". No longer can he be the marketing centerpiece of the Caps. No longer can he be a sacred cow.

Maybe there is a role for him on a Cup-winning Caps team. But, not the way we had hoped. Not what was promised.

So as the cliche goes, for many it is time to break out the golf clubs. For me, it is time to put on the Nats hat and watch 6 months of baseball.

Sure, I will watch the rest of the season. I will monitor the offseason changes (as there will be plenty). But, I am tired of bullshitting myself.

You can hide behind the fact that the Caps aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet. I won't.

Turn the lights out, the party is over.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cyclones 3, Stingrays 2

When you are within driving distance of Columbus - you are also within driving distance of Cincinnati. On your average day, that is a completely meaningless tidbit for a Caps fan. But, unbeknownst to those who don't know it - Cincinnati is home to an ECHL team -- the Cyclones.

Tonight (and last night) the Caps' ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, were in the Nasty 'Nati to play the aforementioned Cyclones. So, for a weekend, the Queen City had a bit of relevance to the Caps organization. And while I did not attend Friday night's game -- I was at US Bank Arena tonight to see the 2nd game of the 2-game series.

On Friday night, the Stingrays dropped a 4-3 decision the Cyclones. So, tonight (Saturday) they were going for the split. Philipp Grubauer (4th round pick, 2010 NHL Draft, ECHL Goalie of the Month November + January) got the nod in net for South Carolina in both games. For what it's worth, I thought he played just fine tonight.

The Cyclones only had 17 shots tonight. Normally, when a goalie gives up 3 goals on 17 shots you could argue that is an inherently mediocre performance. But, I really don't think any of the Cincinnati goals could be pinned on Grubauer.

South Carolina, as a whole, struggled offensively and -- especially on the power play. The Stingrays were 1 for 7 overall on the PP tonight. The Cyclones took four minor penalties in the 1st period alone. Yet, Cincinnati led 2 to 1 at 1st intermission. Yikes!

The Stingrays opened the scoring via a 2-man advantage. While Cincinnati's Michael Pelech was in the box for a blatant hold -- Taylor Aronson (also of the Cyclones) took a sloppy delay of game penalty 14:16 into the 1st period. Just 21 seconds later, South Carolina's Mike Hamilton banged one in from very close range. But that 2-man advantage was the only time the Stingrays looked competent on the PP.

In fact, just 29 seconds after the Stingrays took a 1-0 lead, Cincinnati equalized with a 4 on 5 shorthanded tally. That goal - and all 3 of the Cyclones goals - happened at the far end of the arena from my seats. But, it just looked like shoddy defensive play in the Stingrays' zone that led to an inexcusable scoring chance for Cincinnati. In effect, Grubauer was hung out to dry.

I don't know if scoring a 5 on 3 goal only to give up a 4 on 5 goal is cause for post-game Herbies -- but it was sad to watch. With all the power plays that the Stingrays had in the first, I thought they'd head into the locker room up 2 to 0 or 3 to 0. But, towards the end of the first I thought they should be grateful to be tied at 1.

Of course, they didn't head into first intermission tied at 1. With just 28 seconds left in the first, Cincinnati's Maury Edwards blasted a slapshot from the point past Grubauer.  In my opinion, absolutely nothing the goalie could do on the play. In fact, I thought the shot was deflected along the way.  But, seemingly the official scorer thought otherwise. Not necessarily a defensive breakdown by South Carolina -- but obviously very bad form to give up a goal that late in the period.

From there I think the teams played an even, moderately exciting hockey game. There certainly weren't an abundance of scoring chances. If you like offense - the rest of the game was pretty disappointing. The one exception to that was the Stingrays' equalizer in the 2nd period.

Precisely 12 minutes into the middle stanza, South Carolina's David de Kastrozza found an opening in the high-slot and just roofed a nasty wrister past Cincinnati goalie Brad Fogal. Holy shit. Alex Semin would have been impressed. It was just a dirty shot. It was an isolated incident in a game with very few fireworks. But, give credit where it is due, that was, in my opinion, the most exciting moment of the game.

And, on the defensive side, South Carolina only allowed 3 shots in the 2nd period. Good for them. Again, though, with the ice tilted so much -- is only scoring 1 goal acceptable? I don't think so.

With the game tied at 2 heading into the 3rd period, it became a game that would be won by the team that wanted it more.

Or so I thought.

In reality, the game was won by the team that didn't screw up. More sloppy play from the Stingrays in their own end led to a fluke Cyclones goal 13+ minutes into the 3rd. Mathieu Aubin was credited with the goal for Cincinnati. It looked like he just deflected a stupid clearing attempt into the net. But, it was hard to see. Regardless of what happened, Philipp Grubauer was understandably caught off guard by this and had no time to react.

It was eerily similar to some of  sloppy breakouts South Carolina had in the first period. But, this play resulted in a garbage goal that turned out to be the game winner. As awesome as David DeKastrozza's goal for the Stingrays was, Mathieu Aubin's was a steaming pile of shit. But, this isn't the X-games. You don't get style points for goals. They all get you one on the scoreboard.

So, South Carolina failed at its attempt to earn a weekend split. It might be a bit harsh to say they self-destructed. But, for a team that only allowed 17 shots -- they allowed 2 shitty goals and another goal with shitty timing. Their offense -- save of the DeKastrozza wrister -- was flaccid.

Add it all up, and you have a disappointing loss.

As far as some of the other Stingrays who have been at a Caps Development Camp -- I don't think any of them did anything that truly stood out to the naked eye in real-time.

Nick Tabisz, Dustin Stevenson, and Brett Flemming combined for 0 points and 0 PIM. Out of the three, I saw Dustin Stevenson on the ice the most. Seemingly, he had a fairly solid game. But, both he and Brett Flemming finished the game at -1. Nick Tabisz, who I didn't see do anything spectacular, was on the ice for DeKastrozza's goal and finished with a +1.

South Carolina, having played the most games of any team in the Eastern Conference, sits in 4th place. The Cyclones meanwhile are in 8th place -- trailing the Stingrays by 8 points. Of course -- only in the minors -- the Cyclones have a whopping 7 games in hand on the Stingrays (and have played the fewest games in the Eastern Conference).

And, so my attempt to convince you that I am an ECHL fan ends. It was nice to get a whiff of the Caps' "AA" team. But, I don't know how many Stingrays games I'll catch on internet radio. I am curious to see if any of these guys make the double-jump up to the big show. From what I've heard, Philipp Grubauer has the best shot.

A sample size of 1 can obviously only tell you so much. I could see the AHL time being a lock. Hopefully, with him being only 20, he's got plenty of time to get up to the NHL. Good luck to him!

Well, the Hershey Bears lost tonight as well. So, the farm teams didn't get it done. But, the Caps got a 3-0 win this afternoon and they'll be on NBC tomorrow against the Bruins.

Who would have thought with the way the Caps have been playing they'd be the bright spot in the organization? Funny how things work.

Good luck to the Stingrays the rest of the way. And may we see the Bears and Caps make deep runs this summer.

See you all tomorrow afternoon on the Twittersphere for the Caps/Bruins game........

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Caps Mediocrity

The good news about last night is that I had to stay in either way.  My early Saturday necessitated that. As such, I did not miss out on a hoppin' party or a date night to catch the Caps/'Canes game.

That's about the only good news that came out of the game. The roller coaster that is the Caps' 2011-2012 season continues. One game we look great. The next game we look like an ECHL team.

That got me thinking about whether or not the Caps' opponent plays into the Caps' performance. How are we against teams that are above .500? Below .500?

So, that's what I tracked. I went back and looked at the opposition's record coming into their game against the Caps. I also separated the Boudreau era from the Hunter era.

Long story short, Hunter has pretty much the same winning percentage as Boudreau - but Hunter has had easier opponents.

That's not to say that Boudreau hadn't lost the team or needed to go - but hopefully it is a friendly reminder that the Caps need pick it up several notches. The returns from Huntsy being the coach have been far from realized.

The Caps' overall record against above .500 teams isn't horrible (.500 on the nose), but it isn't stellar either. With the Caps backing into a low seed in the playoffs - it seems like getting bounced in Round 1 is the most likely outcome.

An artificially inflated #3 seed might buy the Caps a trip to the 2nd round. But, that's about all you can hope for right about now.  Of course, this all assumes the Caps make the playoffs.

Last season, a 2nd round exit was cause for anger. If we are being truthful with ourselves, the way the team is playing - a 2nd round exit would be cause for celebration.

And in case you were wondering:  the average win percentage of opponents entering a game with the Caps is .497 (simply add all 46 win %'s and divide by 46). So, if anything, we are getting off a little easy with our schedule thus far.

Plus, if you're a true math nerd and think simply averaging the win percentages is not the right way to do it - Caps opponents to-date combine for 516 W, 435 L, and 130 OTL. That would be a win percentage of .477 - even worse than the average......

Your move, Caps.  I'm all for being pleasantly surprised..........

*Click on any image to enlarge it*

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Team $ Efficiency

As I type this, the Washington Capitals are playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Due to the way NHL Gamecenter works, I will have to watch the game in a few hours. When games are on NBCSN or NHLN, the games are blacked out on NHL Gamecenter. If your cable provider offers NBCSN and NHLN, well, that really isn't that big of a deal. If you live where I live, it is an issue.

In the meantime, I thought I'd take a look at each team's performance in the standings relative to their payroll.  I did a few spreadsheets that look at the money each team has to pay per standings point. I then compare their rank in that category to their projected finish in the regular season (pure rank order, not accounting for division leaders getting the top 3 seeds).

When you get to the difference between the rankings of "Payroll $/Pts 82" and "Pts/82" you are getting a handle on whether or not a team is outperforming its (in)efficiency.

For instance, the Washington Capitals have the 11th-highest (as in worst) Payroll$/Pts82 total in the Eastern Conference. That is horribly inefficient. 

The silver lining is, that given the Capitals are projected to finish 9th in the Eastern Conference, they have a +2 difference and are outperforming their payroll inefficiency.

Of course, they would still be playing golf by mid-April. But, what can you do? Hopefully Mr. DVR will have some good news for me in a few hours.

Standings are from prior to the action on Wednesday night.  So, the Caps/Pens game and the Devils/Oilers games are not included.  Cap info is from Capgeek.

* You can click on any chart to enlarge it*

Eastern Conference:

Western Conference: