WASHINGTON — Public service announcement: if you want to help the Washington Capitals improve heading into the offseason, it’s time to turn that frown upside down and get a good long chuckle at the years of postseason failure.
Laugh that the team keeps getting eliminated by their arch rival.
Chortle that the Caps have never reached a conference final, much less a Stanley Cup final, with Alex Ovechkin on the team.
Guffaw that they lost on home ice and were booed by the hometown fans.
Giggle that they out-performed the Pens in almost every statistical category besides the score.
At least that’s what coach Barry Trotz suggested to the media today.
“I think they’re all past that now,” Trotz said of any bad taste lingering into the offseason. He then pivoted his criticism. “I think it’s so overworked by you guys and everybody else that it’s actually becoming a joke to the guys, which is probably good because playoffs haven’t been fun here and maybe having some fun and laughing at the past a little bit and looking (at it) in the face is probably something that might ease us in the future.
“But it’s become more of a bad question by media now because guys are sort of chuckling at it all the time now.”
If this is true, the Caps have major cultural issues. The weird thing is, there’s reason to believe that it might not actually be the case.
“I wrote this last Spring…I didn’t think Barry handles this topic well,” beat reporter Brian McNally told Chad Dukes on Friday. “The Caps need a coach–I’m not saying he should be fired or anything because he’s got a ton of other things that he does well and he’s been a long-time, successful NHL coach–but I don’t think this particular franchise can afford to treat its past, or the way its fans react to its past, with that kind of disdain.
“I know for a fact that those guys were devastated. I mean Justin Williams, Jay Beagle could barely speak. It doesn’t even ring true in that sense, as your players were so distraught. I mean, I’m interviewing grown men that are basically on the verrge of tears, or who had clearly been crying after the game. They were sitting that locker room in silence.
“It’s a devastating thing, professionally, for all of them. Justin Williams, who has one Stanely Cup, said it’s the worst loss he’s ever been through. He knows the highs of the sports and this as low as it’s ever gotten for him..”
The second issue is the matter of pinning any blame on the media. This is the same media that The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg criticized before Game 7 for being fans instead of journalists, now constructing a narrative against the team?
“I don’t really think he was blaming the media, totally, but to even bring it up that way doesn’t make a ton of sense to me,” McNally said. “They are not going to win and it doesn’t matter who is here–you can remove Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and this whole crew…and they are still going to carry the weight of the baggage in the same way that the Red Sox did, in the same way that the Cubs did.
“There are a handful of pro sports teams that have been super successful over long periods of time that have never gotten it done in the playoffs. And that is always going to be true. And they have to own it and I think Barry has to find a better way of easing the pressure on his players without trying to deny that that pressure is there.
“We are going to bring it up. It’s my job to bring it up, and every fan in that building is thinking about it. So I think he’s off base. I think he’s been off base since he got here, with that topic, and they’ve got to figure it out. It’s not going away next year even if they get back to this same position.”
In fact, that pressure will be one year worse.