In a celebration of sorts for our 100th post, we take a look at the overall picture of several DC teams and their (surprise) blindingly bright futures (and in some cases, presents).
We already know how the draft went (brilliantly, for those of you who don't want to click the link). We also know how they were intelligent this off-season and didn't indulge in the usual orgy of overspending. The (relatively) minimal turnover, especially in the coaching ranks, plus a schedule that should not be (in theory) impossibly difficult, a healthy lineup featuring what should be one of the most feared backfields in the league, and all key players reporting to camp without incident equal big things.
We've commented on them more than any other team, partially because it is baseball season and partially because their leader is so in line with our thinking. Manny Acta lives optimism, and brings it to the field, the clubhouse, and pledge-your-allegiance commercials during Nats games.
Of all local teams, this one could have the brightest future, despite their current situation. With The Plan churning along unstoppably, and with a present team that has played superbly so far this season, one in which they were almost-unanimously projected to be historically horrendous, the future is nowhere but up. As has been described more eloquently elsewhere, these Nationals have faced so much crap (we won't use that horridly overused term "adversity") this year, mostly in the form of cruel injuries to key players at most positions, that often one wonders if somebody has it out for them, and truly means for them to be the worst team of all time. But they won't go quietly, or at all, even as that DL full of players who were supposed to comprise the worst-ever team doesn't get any smaller.
Watch out in '08 and beyond.
Perhaps no other local team inspires as much cynicism in their fans as the Caps. We're not sure why that is. Maybe it's the (temporary) lack of a Stanley Cup championship, the well-documented-and-discussed playoff...incidents, or those heavily hyped moody "superstars" who didn't really want to play here in the first place (but eagerly took the big money; who wouldn't?) and who, along with an interesting head coach, left us only with one failed playoff appearance before being shipped off with the rest of the overpriced ballast. Pick any or none of the above, but the end result is a fanbase in desperate need of something positive to latch on to.
There are three obvious such positives: Alex O., Alex S., and Calder-Trophy-winner-in-waiting Niklas Backstrom. Perhaps only slightly less obvious are: the maturing leadership of Captain Chris Clark (30 more goals this season, guaranteed), the emergence of Boyd Gordon as a top-tier shutdown forward, and a deep pool of young defensemen whose time is coming (the franchise is so stacked at the AHL level that it has to translate to success at the NHL level, right?).
While there is skepticism in some quarters over the ability (or desire) of the Caps to add that coveted big-name free agent come Sunday, the immediate reaction should not be panic if Chris Drury isn't donning red, white and blue by sunset. We may feel slightly saddened if Daniel Briere is, since, his point-producing prowess aside, we don't dig the groin-spearing. Still, even though he should probably go someplace like Philadelphia, where we can all keep disliking him in peace (and possibly watch that dislike grow and mature), if by some miracle he ends up in DC, we'll...deal...with...it.
Regardless, there are quality players and trade scenarios out there. One particularly delicious hypothetical situation has Drury going to San Jose, who could in turn be willing to deal Patrick Marleau. Even a slightly above average center like Mike Comrie or Viktor Kozlov would constitute a significant upgrade. Then there's just the matter of finding that elite defenseman everyone is clammoring for. So let's wait and see. Something good can, and likely will, come of this offseason.
Also, the uniform: still continuing to grow on us. Looking good.
Flat out, they were robbed this past season. Robbed, perhaps, by that same force that may or may not be conspiring to keep the Nationals downtrodden. Noted optimism-haters seemed to forget that point while kicking the team in their collective ribs as they valiantly struggled against the "Chosen One" and the Cleveland Cavs in the playoffs.
These same optimism-haters failed to regard the Gilbert Arenas opt-out as the non-story that it was, and seem to somehow think that the Wiz are facing some sort of dire dilemma heading into the NBA draft. It's a silly perception, of course, for there is no real dilemma. The core of the team is strong. They were cruising through the East before tragedy struck at the knees. Tweak, but don't blow up, the team and watch the playoff run unfold.
Sure, it looked bleak early on. But things have come around nicely, and the United find themselves right in the middle of the Eastern Conference, only five points out of first (with a game in hand). They only recently lost for the first time in two months, and have scrubby Colorado up next tomorrow to get back on the right track (no comments please about scrubby Real Salt Lake).
We mentioned that they were looking good at 1-8. They are well on their way to the next Nationals-inspired milestone of 9-25, at which point they will dramatically turn their season around and once again pack 'em in to Verizon Center.
So thanks everyone for reading at one point or another over the first 100 posts. Thanks especially to those who have given our hit counter a boost by mentioning us in blogs or wherever else: Dan Steinberg of the Bog, Chris Needham over at Capitol Punishment, Pradamaster at Bullets Forever, and the dude abides, amongst others. Thanks also to the Caps and their tremendous media relations staff for granting us a bit of legitimacy in inviting us to the uniform unveiling and taking great care of us.
End of Sugary Thank-You Session and of Clip-Show-Like Post.