Caps trade rest of team; will draft fans to play remainder of regular season

March 12, 2004, midnight | By Nick Falgout | 16 years, 10 months ago

As I type this line, the Caps have just traded owner Ted Leonsis for a six pack of diet coke and two rolls of hockey tape.

No, the Caps haven't traded away their entire team (yet). They have, however, traded away Jaromir Jagr, league-leading scorer Robert Lang, Mike Grier, Michael Nylander, franchise Capitals Peter Bondra and Sergei Gonchar, Anson Carter (who they got for Jagr), their mascot, the zamboni drivers, and the popcorn vendors, with career-long Caps Olaf Kolzig and Brenden Witt surviving by the skin of their teeth. The moves - well, the spasms - are in response to dwindling profits and an expected player lock-out next season, unless the coaches and players and owners can reach a miraculous agreement on the many issues at hand.

So, remind me again how trading nearly every decent player on a team will help bring in profits?

It doesn't take much to remember when the Caps were top dog. The Capitals went through a period where they were the Washington area franchise. They peaked at a time where the Redskins were a major disappointment each season (not that much has changed), the Orioles, fallen from their glory days, had begun to sell all their big name players (I don't even need to stroke my chin thoughtfully to figure out that parallel), and the Bullets/Wizards were laughably terrible. But the Caps - the Caps were huge. Huger than huge. They filled the MCI Center, their brand-spankin new rink, to capacity most every night. They had big name guys in Peter Bondra and Olie the Goalie and unsung heroes like Joe(y) Juneau and Richard Zednik. These were the Joe Reekie and Calle Johanssen days. These were the Ron Wilson days. Chants of "C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS" could be heard emanating from the mouths of radio DJs across the land/greater DC area. Washington was Caps crazy. Even when they lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Detroit Red Wings, they could do no wrong. "At least they got there!" was the cry. Or "They'll get there again!"

But soon the former wasn't enough, and the latter wasn't happening as quickly as hoped. A few early playoff exits later, longtime coach Ron Wilson bit the dust, and the Caps began a slide that has culminated is the disaster that is this season. The Caps are plumbing the depths of not only their division, but also of the entire NHL. Still, I fail to see how gutting the team is the solution. We know the NHL is about to hit an economic crisis. We also know that this isn't new: the Ottawa Senators went bankrupt last season, and they almost won the whole thing. The key there was compromise. The players loved the game so much, they were willing to play without pay for nearly a month.

Was anyone else watching when Peter Bondra couldn't even give an opinion about being traded because he "was overcome with emotion?" These are the kind of players who may have been willing to play for the love of the game and their team, but once again greed got the best of somebody. This is a situation where a team, just by trading some players, have all at once destroyed an entire franchise, lost most of a once rabid fan base and alienated the remaining players on the team. While issues with the NHL, such as accessibility, the "vengeance code," and the salary cap, will still be there next season, the Caps as we know them won't. The former set can be reconciled and rebuilt; the latter will remain only in our memories.

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Nick Falgout. Nick Falgout was bored one day and decided to change his Chips staff information. And now, for a touching song lyric: "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case Get off my case, get off my case." ~ Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd … More »

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