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He Signed WHAT?! May 17, 2010

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

A decade? A DECADE?! Holy Toledo–and Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati while I’m at it.

For those who hadn’t heard, the Caps announced this morning that they’ve locked up Nicklas Backstrom for the next ten years. (The next. Ten. Years. Yowza, I’m still in shock.) How George McPhee managed that, I have absolutely no idea, but if that doesn’t get him an odds-on GM of the Year look, I don’t know what will.

Not to sound like a sourpuss, but that’s no consolation when it’s currently Montreal (who beat us) versus Philadelphia (no comment) for all the marbles in the Eastern Conference. Don’t get me wrong, if the choice had been what’s presently transpired, or winning the Stanley Cup this year and losing Backstrom for good, well, there is next year…about a decade worth of “next year” now, for two-thirds of the top line. On balance, then, mega-plaudits to the Caps for getting this one done, and in spades.

Now come the expectations. They were there–and most decidedly not met–last year, but now it’s only going to get worse. By locking Backstrom up for the next decade, the Caps seem to be indicating that they’re going to double down on a run-and-gun style of play–the same style of play which got them excused from the playoffs in one round. And while that’s quite an entertaining show between October and April, can it get them to June? Montreal figured out how to shut down the Caps, and if every coach in the NHL has not dissected the films from that series six ways from Sunday by the end of summer to figure out how they can do it themselves, I would be shocked.

On a side note, the Canadiens just got housed by the Flyers last night, six to nothing, so that glass slipper might break sooner rather than later if the Habs don’t buckle down. And considering how many arrests were made the night they beat Pittsburgh, that glass slipper might not be the only glass to break in Montreal if the Flyers win the series, but I digress.

Signing Backstrom means the Caps are effectively going all-in on run-and-gun hockey. In a way, they have to: with Ovechkin locked up for eleven more seasons, they’re going to be a run-and-gun squad for a very long time. But as we saw this past April, that style of play in and of itself isn’t enough. There’s still a missing piece, somewhere. It may not even be a player, it may simply be a philosophy, an Aha! coaching moment, or what have you. But there’s a certain missing-ness going on with the Caps, and I’m at a loss to put my finger on what it is.

Ah, well…I trust that any GM that can lock Backstrom up for a decade is better able to diagnose that than one badly-dressed fan in Section 417. A brilliant signing, to be sure. I just hope that same brilliance is enough to figure out the appropriate next steps for the franchise.




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