Capitals fans were taken for a ride by the majesty of Braden Holtby's incredible playoff run that saw the rookie goalie take out the defending Stanley Cup champions and push the Capitals within one game of the Eastern Conference finals.
The expectation before the season even started was once again: win the Stanley Cup.
Veterans like Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Halpern, and Joel Ward were brought in to help win a championship.
Despite the fact that the three of these guys have a total of zero rings combined, that was George McPhee's plan, as ill-conceived as it might be. He brought in a bunch of high priced guys who supposedly knew how to win to make a champion out of Washington, without actually winning before they got here.
After longtime Caps' coach Bruce Boudreau was fired, McPhee brought in former Capitals' captain and number retiree Dale Hunter.
Hunter's team bumbled down the stretch, barely making the playoffs. If not for the poor play of the Ottawa Senators, the Capitals would have been the eight seed and might not have delayed the inevitable by playing the Rangers in the first round instead of second.
The rest is history. The Capitals were once again eliminated far too early in the playoffs, putting the team exactly back where they were in 2009 when they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.
Hunter's defensive system and the Capitals' regular season struggles threw a blanket over the eyes of owner Ted Leonsis and Capitals fans everywhere. The second-round exit was considered a successful playoff run and a good showing, an example of just how low expectations had fallen in Washington.
Apparently beating the Bruins was satisfactory for Leonsis. Filling the seats and selling a few more tickets was good enough. If that's not great leadership and vision from an owner, I don't know what is.
After Hunter decided to jump ship and head back to London rather than staying in the big leagues, all the attention turned to his replacement. It's a nice distractor for Caps' fans to think of while they watch Los Angeles and either New Jersey or New York in the Finals.
So after being hired in 1997 and eclipsing his potential as a general manager, Caps fans will be subjected to year number 15 of McPhee's reign of mediocrity and disappointment.
We can expect to be subjected to more of the same in Washington.
Another first or second-round exit after being promised the world before the season starts. When the team struggles we will ask questions about the head coach, the possibility of stripping Alex Ovechkin of his captaincy and how the system should go back to wire wagon hockey even without Alex Semin or a legitimate second line center.
Defenders of McPhee need to remember that for every Marcus Johansson, John Carlson and Semyon Varlamov there is a Sasha Pokulok, Steve Eminger and Brian Sutherby. The 13-ear Ovechkin contract was preceded by the Jagr contract and eventual trade that brought Anson Carter and millions in debt to the Rangers back to the Capitals. The President's Trophy was preceded by years of irrelevancy and empty seats in the Verizon Center.
The only thing that's stayed consistent since the first year of McPhee's tenure is the culture of losing.
The second-round exit is also a good distraction away from the fact that Evgeny Kuznetsov will be staying in Russia for at least two more years. If you actually expect to see him in the NHL, consider the following: After two years Kuznetsov can make an unlimited amount of money in Russia. In his first three years in the NHL he will be capped by the maximum rookie allotment, only if McPhee were to overload the contract with performance incentives.
So as we all squabble over who the head coach might be and why we should definitely re-sign Mike Green despite him being 25 percent of the player he was three years ago, we can all collectively do one thing together:
Expect the worst, hope for the best and try to act like we will not be disappointed next spring.
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