It’s been a horrible December for Washington DC sports. Between December 3 and Skins-Cowboys game, the three major DC teams were a winless 0-17. When I first saw this stat, I felt like I wanted to puke. There are people in this area who really look up to sports so they can try to escape their adversities and hardships that they have in real life. With what’s been going on lately, the entire area is shaking their heads. . It’s hard being DC sports fans who have not witnessed a professional championship in our area since January 26, 1992. Let’s go over the three active teams, take a look at their struggles, and see if there is any hope for the future…
1) The Wizards. The Wizards currently have a record of 6-16 and they were the last DC team to win a game. Really the problem with the Wizards is their inability to produce in the 4th quarter of games. This season I’ve already been to 3 games at the Verizon Center when the Wiz played the Bobcats, Grizzlies, and Knicks. We only beat the Grizzlies in those three games but in the other two games the Wizards hug around and actually had leads. The problems appeared in the fourth quarter. The team looked completely confused and out of it. There was no emotion or fight and too much settling for jump shots. This has been the case for the entire season. Also when the Wizards have a lead they can’t keep it. Last night against the Heat the Wizards played with energy and passion. No John Wall and no Arenas but that wouldn’t stop the Wizards. Nick Young was actually looking like the player Wizard fans hoped he would be. Blatche was decent and Josh Howard looked pretty good after tearing his ACL last season. With a 5 point lead and under a minute to go, the Wizards lose. Missed free-throws, and poor inbounding did them in. That was one example there. I’ve been really critical of Blatche this season because of his weight but he can be really good. His post moves right now are looking sharp and if he keeps working at it, he can be an all-star caliber player. But it all-starts with shedding a few pounds. Maybe he can give some to McGee. Also I don’t think Flip Saunders is the right coach for this team. For who many consider an offensive guru his offensive schemes have not been working and the players seem to give up on him at times. I believe that the Wizards need a players coach. Someone who has played the game before at the professional level recently but who also has had some sort of NBA coaching experience. Sam Cassel sort of fits the description but he’s too new to become a head coach. I still remember him taking the 61 win Phoenix Suns to their limits back in the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals with the LA Clippers (Yes, the Clippers did make the playoffs 5 years ago). He is doing well as an assistant coach being John Wall’s mentor. This is a young team so a coach that fits that account would do well with the team.
But there is some hope. The Wizards traded away Arenas, so his contract is now Orlando’s problem. We got PF Rashard Lewis in that deal who is a pretty good defender who also stretches out defenses with his ability to hit the three. Josh Howard is back from his injury and he’s looking pretty good. Javale McGee always gives it his all and is a good energy player whose style is similar to Chris “Birdman” Anderson of the Denver Nuggets. And most importantly, the Wizards have the game changer John Wall. This kid will be an all-star next year and his will be a superstar in this league very soon. His ability to drive down the lane and pass are amazing. If he can work on that jump shot and some control with his speed, we could put him in the same conversation as Kobe, Durant, and Wade. This season will be tough but if the Wizards can get through it, the future looks good.
2) The Redskins. Ugh. As a Skins fan, it pains me to say this but… the Skins are the biggest joke of a team in all of professional sports. You just can’t take them seriously. Sometimes they stay close in or actually win games they have no business being close in. And they lose games they have no business losing to. The latter is more evident though. Losing to the lions, high snaps, swinging gates, Jim Zorn and Shaun Suisham are some evidence of that. Before the season, even though expectations were still not high, fans thought this team would look decent and probably get to 7-9 or 8-8. The skins are 5-9 and there have been so many problems and distractions. First it all started with Fat Albert and his world famous conditioning test that became a huge media circus. Haynesworth has been bitter, unproductive, and cancerous all season and finally someone in the organization had the balls to suspend him. In my opinion, this should have been done much earlier. If you look at the Patriots who had their issues with Randy Moss, they handled that situation very well. They immediately traded him and many now consider the Patriots the best team in the NFL. Mike Shanahan hasn’t lived up to the hype. His was supposed to be the savior of the franchise and he’s done nothing except bench the $78 million dollar man, Donovan McNabb (Even though Grossman played well today). Really it all starts with Dan Snyder. He’s been what’s wrong with the Skins this whole time. Only two playoff appearances during his tenure and they were both because of Joe Gibbs’s leadership and Clinton Portis’s inspiring play. The Redskins will never be good on a consistent basis until Snyder sells the team. Yes, Snyder loves this team and feels the same pain fans do when the skins lose but he does not know how to run an NFL franchise. You have to hire the right people and sign the right group of players in order to be successful. Synder needs to take a page out of Ted Leonsis’s playbook and start building from the draft. The redskins have drafted some good players over the years. Cooley, Orakpo, Landry, and Taylor (RIP) are some examples of this. Good usage of the NFL draft can make a team much better.
It is hard to find positives with the team because of what’s been going on but from my time watching the Skins, they need a solid leader an offense. Clinton Portis at times looked like that leader and that was why the Skins looked decent on offense. There has never been a leader at the QB position though. Mark Brunell got closest though.
Patrick Ramsey? The defense throughout the years has always played tough. London Fletcher is a great linebacker who anchors that defense. People talk about Brett Favre’s consecutive game streak and think that was awesome. Look at Fletcher who plays a much tougher position who has played in 206 straight games or 159 straight starts. The defense is usually that one bright spot on the Redskins but it will take a lot more before this team becomes a contender.
3) The Capitals. Eight games. Eight losses. Two in OT, six in regulation. This is just not acceptable for a team who was supposed to be a Stanley cup contender in the beginning of the season. These last few days I’ve been busy with school and finals so I haven’t seen a lot of these games but I think I can point out some reasons why the Caps are playing like this. First, I will start off with the captain. Alexander Ovechkin is one of the best players in the world and he in my opinion is the best goal scorer in the NHL. Goalies cringe when they are caught one-on-one with the great 8. This is still all true to an extent but now it seems like teams are finding out ways to contain Ovechkin. Teams are learning what he does and are nearly succeeding in preventing Ovie from doing what he does best. Ovechkin needs to find new ways and develop new techniques on how to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. If he is able to do this, the team should be as good as last year in the regular season and it should carry over into the post-season. Bruce Boudreau, the bench boss behind the Caps hasn’t done a good job through this 8 game losing streak. I just watched the first episode of HBO’s 24/7 last night (it’s a great show: all sports fans should watch it), and it looks like he spends more time cursing than going over what needs to be done in order to start winning again. I don’t know what the team thinks about him but if I were on that team, I’d be unsure of Boudreau. He has emphasized more defense this season which is good but you don’t want to forget the staple of this team which is the offense. The Cap’s offense last year in the first round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens was criticized mightily but really the offense was pretty good. In games 5, 6, and 7 the Caps had 38, 54, and 42 shots on goal respectively. Those are some good numbers but Jaroslav Halak played out of his mind in that series. It looked like he wore 33 instead of 41 (Patrick Roy anyone?). If the Caps can get back to playing that kind of hockey the will be fine. A lot of people are calling for Boudreau’s job but I think you got to keep him. He knows how to coach this offense and another coach would disrupt the offense. If the streak continues though the Caps might not have a choice so the they need to start rolling again. Lastly I think the main problem has been the 24/7 show. This show is proving to be a huge distraction for the Caps. Everything changes when a camera is put in front of a player when the team isn’t playing well. You can’t act the same way you do normally when a camera is not in front of you and you have to control your emotions.
The good thing is this should be over soon, hopefully after the Winter Classic. But for now this show is becoming very annoying for the team, great for Pens fans whose team is playing well with 24/7 being around them. It’s a case of one team enjoying the game and having fun and the other team going through a frustrating time. Even though I am more concerned about the Caps than the Wizards and the Redskins, the Caps will get through this and be fine. The Winter Classic should reenergize them and they should play well the rest of the way. Remember last year the Caps really should they were the best team in the league in late January with that 14 game win streak. Also remember that in the playoffs anything can happen. Us Capital fans learned that first hand. I’m just hoping that we are healthy and ready to go when the playoffs start, no matter what seed we are. The last optimism point I want to bring up is Varly. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has done a great job in the past two postseasons. I can only remember one bad game he had in the postseason and the old postseason baseball adage also hold true in hockey. You will only go as far as your pitcher will take you. Just replace the word pitcher with goaltender. There may be some goalie controversy with him and Michal Neuvirth, but in that situation you got to go with Varly. He will definitely be ready come playoff time.
DC sports is not in good shape right now and the immediate future isn’t looking good but a lot of changes are happening and some learning processes are going on right now so it might not be long before good thing start to happen. We have some passionate fans in this city and they really want to see their teams succeed. We may not have national fanbase like the Cowboys, Lakers, Yankees, or Candiens these are OUR teams representing OUR city and area. Even though I’m also an Oakland Raiders fan, (they were the team that got me to like sports) I will always cherish the Washington DC sports scene and love my teams until the day I die!