The Washington Capitals were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention Wednesday, guaranteeing their exclusion from the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2007 and solidifying a discouraging though not entirely unexpected fall from grace.
This season has completed the Capitals' steady devolution from a viable Stanley Cup contender into a fringe playoff team.
Washington was simply a team that could not get out of its own way. From routinely failing to break out of their own zone cleanly (which was largely a product of a makeshift and overmatched defensive corps) to countless blown two-goal leads and quick-response goals against, the Capitals' nightly mistakes developed into bad habits.
The Capitals became a one-dimensional team with a potent power play. Even-strength play was a glaring weakness. Most damning of all, Washington's years-long identity crisis manifested itself once again as what kind of team it wanted to be was interchangeable on any given night.
After each of the Capitals' recent early-round flameouts, members of the front office wrapped the franchise's postseason appearance streak -- six straight years, the fourth-longest streak in the NHL entering this season -- around themselves like some sort of security blanket.
That shield no longer exists, and the time has come for a significant overhaul.
General manager George McPhee, widely believed to have an expiring contract, deserves credit for once restoring the Capitals back to respectability, but a fresh perspective is sorely needed.
Coach Adam Oates was lauded for his integral role in revitalizing forward Alex Ovechkin last season, but his questionable personnel decisions, stubborn and seemingly defiant demeanor and recent candidness this season have undone any goodwill.
The players believe that the talent to change the team's downward trajectory resides within the locker room, but that is obviously not the case. The roster that has remained largely unchanged must be reconstructed, which will prove easier said than done considering only one player that was on Washington's opening night roster -- forward Mikhail Grabovski -- is an unrestricted free agent.
It was in the best interest of the organization to miss the postseason. There are no excuses to bandy about, and bit by bit the Capitals can restart.
For the past few years, the Capitals have implored their fan base to do its part in "building America's Hockey Capital." Yet before construction can begin in earnest, serious remodeling is necessary because the cracks in the facade are simply too large to gloss over.
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