In the end, not even a shortened season could reverse the fate of a Washington Capitals franchise that just seems to find new ways to lose each spring.
Here in 2013, the latest playoff disaster for the Caps saw the team blow a 2-0 series lead, inexplicably, for the ninth time in the team's less-than-stellar playoff history.
As if that was not bad enough, the Caps blew a 3-2 series lead by failing to score a single goal over the final 120 minutes of their series with the New York Rangers.
Suffice it to say, the only hockey fans feeling worse than Caps fans right now are the poor folks in Toronto, who had to endure one of the most heart-breaking collapses in sports history.
Nevertheless, Caps fans used to this yearly heartbreak now enter into an offseason filled with all sorts of questions.
Exactly what does this team need to do to get over the hump? Can anything be done to get this team to that elusive next level, or are they doomed to fail each and every year?
After this latest failure, even the most optimistic of Caps fans have got to be questioning whether this team—for that matter, whether this franchise—has what it takes to succeed.
The Caps have to start by trying to bring in the right players via free agency. They have to focus on players who will actually fill a need and make a difference. Short-term rentals are not the solution. Trying to get that one player who will make a difference come playoff time is a strategy that failed before and failed yet again this season.
Instead, the Caps need to make some long-term investments in some key players who can not just help the team win next regular season but who could actually be productive and effective during the playoffs.
Roughly a month ago, I wrote an article taking an early look at some good free-agent fits for the Caps this offseason. Some of you agreed, others did not.
With this latest playoff debacle still stinging, it is time to revisit that list, to a certain extent, and perhaps make some modifications or, alternatively, further my case for some of those free agents.
Here, then, are the five free agents I believe absolutely have to be on the Caps' radar this offseason.