It's been quite a summer, eh Caps fans?
First, it started way too early. Then GM George McPhee re-signed the most expensive roadside assistance technician, traded all of his draft picks and former starting playoff goalie and acquired a quarter of this season's roster in 24 hours. For good measure, he locked up a cornerstone on the blue line for a fraction of market value.
There was a good amount of buzz about Development Camp, but then we entered the doldrums of summer where lack of actual hockey news led our idle minds into discussions of immeasurable concepts and unsavory topics. Pictures of Ovi surfaced that were less than flattering, forcing the Captain, the organization and now the team trainer to certify that no, Ovi's not fat, rather he's in the best shape of his life. Then, of course, Matt Bradley voiced his opinion, opening all sorts of debate once again about leadership, chemistry and roster construction. Now this.
I won't simply dismiss the concerns of some that think this team -- the whole organization, really -- is too "soft." Is there a maturity issue? Perhaps. Does the organization coddle their superstars and show preference to those with higher salaries or stature? Only those in the room know the answer. Do we take the words of former players, possibly disgruntled, as gospel or is there a bigger picture that needs to be examined? Either way, in my viewpoint there is nothing traitorous about discussing whether full effort or proper preparation has been given in the past.
What I know is this: the players report Friday for their physicals and Training Camp opens this Saturday, most likely before a filled-to-capacity crowd at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Capitals hockey is being devoured like never before across our region and there appears no quenching that thirst. Perhaps that all-encompassing devotion has lead to our late summer of rumor-mongering and name-calling.
This is a fan base comprised of some very long-suffering faithful and even more recent converts. After the raised expectations of the last few seasons though, the all-encompassing desire to see Lord Stanley's Cup finally raised in D.C. by those wearing the home team on their crest has produced enough passion that it has boiled over in some circles to the point where opinions are no longer respected and tolerated, and that's shameful. The only folks Caps fans should bicker with are Flyers and Penguins fans.
There are huge expectations for this team, as there have been for the last few seasons. But with all the moves McPhee made earlier this summer, there seems to be a renewed immediacy, at least for those closest to the organization. Needs were identified throughout the roster and players acquired to address those needs. A legitimate No. 1 goalie -- not someday, but right now -- fell into their laps.
The players are in place. Now is the time to get back on the ice and get to business. Hockey is hard. If it were easy, everyone would win a Cup. Twenty-nine teams lose every year. There is nothing dishonorable about losing after giving full effort. It's time for that effort to be renewed. Not in words, but by deeds, on and off the ice.
Let the speculation end. Let the back-biting and snipping and innuendo cease. Let the media -- both mainstream and independent -- get back to reporting on hockey. Let Caps fans put away their petty differences of opinion and unite to Rock the Red together again.
It's not quite October yet, but finally -- finally -- we can see it from here. And not a moment too soon.