After humiliating back-to-back losses to the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators, it is time for the Capitals to accept the grim reality that they are simply not going to be in playoff contention this year.
The Capitals, who were preseason favorites to run away with the Southeast Division and challenge Boston for the Eastern Conference title, find themselves in unfamiliar territory, out of a playoff spot and sliding toward the bottom in February.
As the trade deadline approaches, most figured the Caps to be buyers, adding a piece here or there that would put them over the top, or at least result in a decent playoff run, not ending in a 1st- or 2nd-round exit.
Instead, a sell-off of assets is just what the doctor ordered for this ailing and nearly dead team. This will not sit well with owner Ted Leonsis and will most likely end the dreadful reign of General Manager George McPhee.
When McPhee took over in 1997, he caught lightning in a bottle, creating a Caps team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before being swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Since then, McPhee has made some dreadful moves, including the Jaromir Jagr signing that led to a fire sale.
The rebuilding of the Caps began the Alex Ovechkin era but failed to produce a team that was capable of getting past the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Then there was the damaging loss of star center Nicklas Backstrom, who suffered a vicious concussion at the hands of Rene Bourque. Risking further injury by playing Backstrom before he is 100-percent healed is foolhardy. Backstrom was the Caps' best player. The team just hasn't been the same without him.
In a past article I explored how many veterans could be available at the deadline should the Caps falter in the weeks before February 27.
Notable unrestricted free agents who could bolt from DC in the summer are starting net-minder Tomas Vokoun, All-Star defenseman Dennis Wideman and former Caps' captain Jeff Halpern.
In the best interest of the Capitals' near and immediate future, they must get a return on players they once thought to be missing pieces to a Stanley Cup winner and impending UFAs.
Ultimately, the decision will rest with Leonsis, as a deadline sell-off by McPhee would be signing his own death warrant. The GM would openly be saying that he acquired the wrong players and that he has once again failed to build a team that can win it all.
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