Ah well...no matter, fall is here in any case.
So we're days away from one of the best things (maybe the only good thing) about fall--the opening of the NHL season. And, as they are prone to doing all the time, those that track the game have offered up their predictions. To be sure, there are many noteworthy puck prognosticators, some even worth noting here. To keep things brief, however, I'm just going to focus on two--Yahoo NHL's predictions for the season and playoffs and The Hockey News predictions for the 2010-11 regular season.
THN's predictions stop at the regular season, so we'll start with theirs. They pick the Caps to finish first overall in the Eastern Conference. They also have more than a few nice things to say about them. I say this is surprising, given the often hostile climate provided by the Canadian media. Not to mention the verbal gasoline that is poured on by ignorant fans. Even so, it's good to be recognized by a respected publication for at least the potential for a championship season. Of course, there are the usual questions about how the upgrades (John Carlson, Michal Neuvirth et al) will perform. And as always there is the obligatory "But what will happen come playoff time?" innuendo. Which I really wish they would just answer instead of waiting until April to do it. But overall, THN's camp seems to be of the opinion that the Caps are headed for good things this coming year.
Over at Yahoo NHL, it's more of the same. In fact they did a roundtable discussion with all their writers including Puck Daddy, and they
So how do I really feel about these predictions? Well, like I said...it's nice...buuuuuuuuuut.............! I just can't help but feel like this all going to lead to a really bad letdown. After all, a lot of people were saying some of the same nice things last year. I want to believe, I really do and for the most part because no Capitals team has had the potential to be as dominating as this year's version. You don't win 54 games and score 121 standings points by accident. You don't blow teams away on a nightly basis by not knowing how to win. And you certainly don't run away with the President's Trophy with a couple weeks left in the season if you're a team that has no chance to win the Stanley Cup.
At the same time however, you have to learn more than just "we weren't angry enough" when you lose the way the Caps did last year in the playoffs. The lack of a quality second-line center and strong defenseman were on display for all to see. A contending team shouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger on an deal that can correct this kind of a problem. And judging by the absence of a quality free agent (no offense to D.J. King of course) from this past offseason no such deal seems forthcoming, at least not until the trade deadline. Could it be that this team may not have learned what they truly need to keep this kind of result from happening again?
More importantly, should standing pat warrant respected hockey journalists from anointing the Capitals as the next champions? Maybe not, but I would hope this team has learned that everyone, from the man at the top on down to the benchwarmers needs to do whatever it takes to win.
The bottom line? I admit I'm happy with the predictions because it brings a lot of respect. Respect that in my opinion is long overdue, no matter what some of the idiots on message boards say. But it can also be a curse...a jinx, if you must. And the concerns I mentioned above aren't really going to go away any time soon. But this is still a very, very good team. We as Caps fans are right to believe that a much better result is in the offing. How much better depends on a lot of different things with the team which will be discussed in the very near future. In the end, this team has a lot of what it takes to hoist the Cup--certainly a juggernaut of an offense and speed and mobility on defense. And now they're the odds on favorite, or at least one of them, to win it all. So the expectations are set and they're set pretty high.
It's time to live up to these expectations. The future is now. These predictions only tell us what we already know--this team can and will win the Cup.