Originally written on Rock the Red  |  Last updated 11/12/14
Photo by the Washington Post When the Washington Capitals hired Adam Oates this July, it was a clear sign from management and ownership that the team was going to distance itself from the system that Dale Hunter had brought to the team.  To many, it meant the possible renaissance of an offensive system that could help to rejuvenate Alex Ovechkin and play to strength of the roster while at the same time keep a sense of responsibility in Washington’s own zone. After four games, it has been neither. The Capitals are 0-3-1 after four games, and have led for less than three minutes total across those four games.  Only a big third period on Friday night against the Devils earned the Capitals a point and kept them from remaining the only team in the NHL without any standings points.  They are taking dumb penalties and playing poorly on the penalty kill.  It has been rough sledding, and it might be a while before it gets sighnificantly better. No matter who the Capitals hired as their next head coach, there was going to an adjustment period, especially with a week-long training camp.  Three very different systems in 15 months is hard, even for professional hockey players.  Even teams that are established as elite, like the Flyers and Rangers, are struggling.  Hell, the defending Stanley Cup Champions have zero wins. Other teams in the NHL with the same predicament as the Capitals, like Edmonton and Montreal, are doing better than the Capitals, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.  Nor are they doing it without one of their best defensive forwards, penalty killers, and leaders.  This was always going to take time. Many have already criticized the Oates hire and his style during this short season despite the very small sample size and the fact that he has said after each loss that the Capitals are not executing the way they are supposed to and are making effort-based mistakes.  How can these comments be transformed to  an indictment of a system?  This is an indictment of the players in the locker room and the leadership in that room. Many are running out of patience, saying that the team is built to “win now” and that the window is closing for this particular group of players to win a championship.  News flash: the window has closed on this particular group of players.  The “big four” are no more – Alexander Semin is in Carolina, Mike Green isn’t what he used to be, and Alex Ovechkin is rapidly declining while his defensive shortcomings continue to jump to the limelight.  Only Nicklas Backstrom is at a level of overall excellence that resembles that magnificent 2009-10 group. This is no longer a team that should have the expectation to win the Stanley Cup every year.  Yeah, anything can happen, which is why the Capitals are good enough to compete in the playoffs and have the ability to make a run if they execute their new system properly in their current state.  But it’s still a longshot, and that is the reality.  Gone are the days when a championship was something that felt like it was just a matter of time.  And that’s how I felt between 2008-2011; I know that I was not alone in feeling that way. Now, the Capitals are in a state of transition.  It’s more obvious now than it was last spring, when Hunter neutered the offensive side of the team and ground out enough wins with excellent goaltending and defensive hockey to make the playoffs and make it to game seven in the second round.  Some of their core players are past their prime, and an inflated market last summer prevented George McPhee from adding an elite talent via the free agent market.  That was still the right move long-term, as Wild and Flames fans will learn soon, but it makes the present less enjoyable. Filip Forsberg has confirmed his status as an elite player with an excellent season so far in Sweden, and could be over as soon as this spring at the conclusion of his European campaign.  Evgeny Kuznetsov, a gamebreaker, will come to America eventually, hopefully sooner than the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  The Caps have some other good prospects as well at all positions, especially in goal; the eventual trade of some of these goalies is sure to net more prospects or picks, or perhaps a good roster player. With the salary cap coming down and a more balanced pool of free agents this summer, there will be fewer crazy contracts for those players and McPhee, therefore, would find it easier and more responsible to add talent to the roster.  In other words, reinforcements are coming. These are not excuses for McPhee or Ted Leonsis, who is attached to Ovechkin and his massive contract.  This is just the way that it is right now.  McPhee is doing his best with what ownership has given him, and this is what has come out.  Transition, uncertainty, and frustration from a fan base that has been angered by rising ticket prices and a lockout that, despite what he says, was partially engineered by Leonsis as a member of the NHL’s board of governors. So what’s next?  We wait.  The Capitals’ first clear window has closed, and now it’s time to wait for a new one.  That’s just the way it is. Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: John Wall, friends kicked off plane in Las Vegas

Broncos OT Ryan Clady suffers torn ACL in practice

Report: Buffalo Sabres to hire Dan Bylsma as head coach

Marc Trestman will make Joe Flacco a Pro Bowler

Could Tyrod Taylor be the Buffalo Bills’ savior?


Chicago Bulls fire Tom Thibodeau after five seasons

LeSean McCoy refuses to return Chip Kelly's calls

Brandon Marshall and Geno Smith are living together

Ex-Blue Devil tweeted Durham police pulled gun on him

Nick Saban gives Jim McElwain a ringing endorsement

Chuck Pagano: Colts 'further ahead than ever before'

Five things we'd like to see on 'Hard Knocks' with the Texans

Chipper Jones challenged military veteran to fight

President Obama answers NBA questions on Twitter

'Entourage' creator rips Eli Manning for ditching movie

TUF weekly recap by NOS® Energy Drink

Ronda Rousey upset with Bethe Correia for suicide comments

The Cleveland Cavaliers are top (under)dogs

Bryce Harper on his breakout

WATCH: Jon Lester sets MLB hitless record

Golden State of Being: Ugly win a beautiful thing for Warriors

Six moves that made the Warriors NBA title contenders

Lil B takes credit for Harden's terrible game, lifts curse

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Ryan Clady suffers torn ACL

'Entourage' creator rips Eli Manning

TUF weekly recap by NOS® Energy Drink

Brandon Marshall, Geno Smith are roommates

The Cavaliers are top (under)dogs

Bryce Harper on his breakout

WATCH: Jon Lester sets MLB hitless record

Six moves that made the Warriors NBA title contenders

USA Soccer, CONCACAF losers in FIFA’s ‘World Cup of fraud’

The 3-point shot has become a divisive metaphor in the NBA

Corey Crawford is the weakest link for the Blackhawks

Star player missing OTAs? Keep calm...

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.