All posts by Chris Mottram

Ted Leonsis Laments The Caps ‘Heartbreak’ While Some Of His Free Agents Move Forward

Ted Leonsis, four days removed from appearing to be enjoying himself at the expense of Penguins fans, let his thoughts about the latest Capitals disappointment be known. He called the Game 7 loss “heartbreaking” in a post on Ted’s Take:

I try not to lose sight of the incredible performances we witnessed between October and early April. But the playoffs, while incredibly exciting, have been heartbreaking. We have been a good team for a number of years, but everyone knows we ultimately are judged on our playoff performance, and anything less than a Cup is a disappointment.

He went on to call the difference between winning and losing in the NHL playoffs “razor-thin,” something we dug into on Thursday in a failed attempt to make ourselves feel better. There’s really no bright side to all of this, and as Leonsis acknowledged, what lies ahead this offseason is still unknown.

T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Williams, Karl Alzner, and Daniel Winnik are all unrestricted free agent, and Washington may not be able to keep any of them. Two of them — Oshie and Williams — expressed their interest in remaining with the team:

And one of them, Shattenkirk, seems to already know he isn’t coming back, using “their” and “they” referring to the Caps:

This was the end of what GM Brian MacLellan in February called a “two-year window” to win the Cup. Hopefully they find a way to keep it open for at least one more less heartbreaking year

Let’s Talk About D.C. Sports’ 67-Season Streak Of Futility

Alright, let’s do the bad news first: The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals lost in a second round Game 7 to the Penguins for the second straight season. It was a less-than-ideal outcome after fighting back from down three games to one.

But here’s the good news!: The loss helped extend D.C. sports’ futility to 67 consecutive seasons without one of the four major franchises reaching the conference or league finals. Thanks to Cal Ripken, we are programmed to believe all streaks are good.

The last time a team reached the final four of its respective sport was 1998, when the Capitals lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Red Wings.

Since then it’s been a 19-year dumpster fire with playoff appearances by team breaking down thusly:

Redskins: 5
Wizards: 7
Nationals: 3 (only since 2005)
Capitals: 11

While the Wizards and Redskins have been far more futile than the Nats and Caps (they’ve had 11 and 10 losing seasons since ’98, respectively), an argument could be made the the D.C. hockey team has been the most heartbreaking.

The Capitals have made the postseason nine of the last 10 seasons, and they aren’t just backing into the playoffs. Every one of those nine seasons they finished in first or second place. They had 100+ points in six of those years. They’ve repeatedly been a dominating team that has flamed out in April and May.

But in hockey being a dominating regular season team doesn’t necessarily mean much. Since the Presidents’ Trophy started being awarded in 1985-86, only eight of the 31 winners have hoisted the Cup. That means the best team in the NHL has about a 25 percent chance of winning it all. By comparison, the NFL team with the best regular season record since 1986 has won the Super Bowl 13 times, or 42 percent of the time.

What can we learn from all this? Well, that Caps squad that was the last D.C. team to reach a conference final was a 4-seed. So, I dunno, maybe they should try being not as good in the regular season? Yeah, that’ll probably work.

Your Guide For Navigating A Huge Day In D.C. Sports

It is going to be a very big night in D.C. sports. There’s Caps-Penguins Game 7, Wiz-Celtics Game 5, and Nationals-Orioles for third screen viewing. In order to help you navigate all of this, here’s a handy guide for planning out the day.

The times are based on science, which shows that the average NHL game is 2:21 and the average NBA playoff game is 2:40.

— 3 PM. Leave work early, start drinking. You’ve put in almost a full day, and let’s be honest: Your anxiety over another D.C. sports disappointment has left you useless to your employer today anyhow.

— 4 PM. If you still have it on your DVR, re-watch the third period of Caps Game 6 and the second half of Wizards Game 4. It will fill you with positive thoughts. They can do this, you’ll stupidly think. They’re both gonna win tonight.

— 6 PM. You need to go ahead and eat something. You’ve been drinking for awhile, and once the Caps game starts, food will be the furthest thing from your mind.

— 7 PM. Turn on the Nationals-Orioles game for some pre-game distraction. Make sure you’re on MASN2 so you don’t have to hear FP and Carpenter. You’re in no mood for their bullshit tonight.

— 7:30 PM. Alright, time to flip to NBC Sports. Shit is about to get real. Pour four fingers of bourbon.

— 7:40 PM. The puck drops on Game 7. They can do this

— 8:16 PM. It’s the first intermission with the Caps up 6-0. Flip to TNT where the Wizards and Celtics have just tipped off.

— 8:33 PM. The Wiz are up big early, second period of hockey is about to start so get back to NBC Sports.

— 9:09 PM. It’s the second intermission with the Caps up 11-0. There are still about 13 minutes before halftime of the Wizards, so get back to TNT and see if Isaiah Thomas has found a D.C. fan in Boston to fight yet.

— 9:22 PM. It’s halftime of the Wizards game and they lead by 22. You have about four minutes until the third period of the Caps game starts. Use it wisely.

— 9:26 PM. The third period is underway. You’re drunk and happy.

— 10:02 PM. The final horn sounds. The Caps are onto the Conference Finals after winning 14-2. Or they lost a heartbreaker 4-3 in the final seconds. Could go either way, really. Change it back to TNT.

— 10:50 PM. The Wizards win and take a 3-2 series lead. Or they lost on a Thomas dagger. You never can tell.

— 11 PM. Go to bed, fall asleep watching the Nationals’ bullpen blow a 9th inning lead then lose in extra innings.

Ted Leonsis Was Caught Giving Penguins Fans The Business

Most Penguins fans were already seeking cover from the brutality being inflicted inside the PPG Paints Arena by the second half of the third period, but a few in the expensive seats decided to stick around. And if what was happening on the ice wasn’t painful enough, they had to endure being hollered at by Ted Leonsis:

According to Russian Machine Never Breaks, this happened right after Andre Burakovsky’s beautiful goal that put the Caps up 5-0. The conversation did seem fairly civilized, as you’d expect from a man drinking white wine in a luxury suite during a playoff hockey game.

Manny Machado Is Sick Of Boston’s ‘Fucking Bullshit’

Not satisfied by throwing five-ounce projectiles 95 miles per hour at every part of Manny Machado in the last Orioles-Red Sox series, including once at his head, Boston took one more crack at injuring the Orioles best player on Tuesday:

This is all seemingly stemming from Machado’s hard slide into Dustin Pedroia on April 21. For those keeping track — as I’m sure Machado is — that is six times he’s been thrown at in the last four games against the Red Sox. It is, for lack of a better phrase, fucking bullshit, and Manny has had enough:

A few points here:

1. Manny is correct, this is fucking bullshit. But we covered that.
2. Hopefully he doesn’t decide to use his bat to take things into his own hands, but his point is well taken: pitchers have the power to use baseballs as weapons and there’s nothing the hitter can do. It’s an incredibly dangerous situation, as SB Nation’s Marc Normandin detailed this morning.
3. Aside from people potentially being seriously injured, this is all making for an incredibly fun rivalry between these two teams. It helps that Manny keeps dropping bombs on Boston — he’s gone deep in each of the last two games.
4. This rant got the remix it deserved:

Sidney Crosby’s Injury Has The Takes Reaching A Boiling Point

After trying their very best to lose a game in which they held a 2-0 lead with under two minutes left, the Caps allowed us to hang onto the tiniest sliver of optimism by winning Game 3 early in overtime. Certainly, our souls will still be crushed later in the series, but for now, there’s hope.

Of course, that’s not the big takeaway from Monday night. The injury to Sidney Crosby is the talking point du jour, and the takes are coming in hot and heavy.

The most absurd of which comes from this guy:

This is Rob Rossi, who I’m not convinced isn’t Darren Rovell’s brother. He used to write for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and now pens opinions like this for something called Upgruv.com:

Makes you wonder what that closed-door meeting called by Capitals players was really about after their blowout defeat in Game 2, huh?

Not really.

If they say it wasn’t about eliminating Crosby, the Capitals are liars. And if that sounds like an unfair accusation to make of the Capitals, then please consider my decade of experience covering a sport I love and a league I really, really, really want to give the benefit of the doubt.

(Or maybe consider their coach publicly saying his players must go places they hadn’t gone before?)

Sorry, but I cannot give the Capitals, or the NHL, any benefit. And I doubt very much there wasn’t an intent to injure Crosby when this series shifted to Pittsburgh.

The plan to injure Crosby, which was devised in a closed-door meeting, worked to perfection: Give him a scoring chance, then have Ovi make just enough legal contact to cause Crosby to lose his balance so he falls directly into the waiting cross-check of Niskanen. And it looks like they’re totally going to get away with it — Nisky won’t be suspended.

But this wasn’t the only take coming from Pittsburgh suggesting the play was possibly intentional. Kevin Gorman of Triblive.com offered this:

Maybe you’d be more willing to buy [Niskanen’s] explanation if it wasn’t from the Capitals, the same organization against which Crosby suffered a concussion on a blindside hit by David Steckel in the 2011 Winter Classic, an injury that caused him to miss 63 games over two seasons.

So the evidence being used here to suggest intent on Niskanen’s part is that a guy who hasn’t played for the Capitals since that 2010-11 season hurt Crosby six years ago. There’s your smoking gun, folks.

There are still at least two games left in this series. Let’s hope everyone continues to remain calm and rational.

The Redskins First-Round Draft Pick Will Probably Be One Of These Guys

Something interesting I learned the other day: the NFL Draft happens this Thursday. I wasn’t aware of this, likely on account of the draft being boring as hell, and the Skins once again reverting to a complete dumpster fire over the offseason. Couple this with the fact that it’s happening at the same time as Game 1 of Caps-Penguins and you’re left with no legitimate excuse to tune into the draft. If you’re watching the draft for any reason other then your son is expecting to hear his name called, you should go to jail.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at who the Skins might take with the 17th overall pick!

As you may have gathered, I haven’t followed the draft speculation closely, so I decided to turn to the mock draft experts in this game of make believe. Using data collected from 11 sites (some of which have multiple people creating mock drafts), I tried to come to some conclusions about who Washington might end up being unable to keep beyond their rookie contract.

Here are the results!

Three players were selected more than once:

— Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama (picked four times)
— Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State (picked two times)
— Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC (picked twice, once via a trade with the Jets up to No. 4 lol)

The positions most commonly selected:

— Linebacker: seven times
— Cornerback: three times
— Defensive lineman: three times
— QB, RB, WR: two times each

The full list of players selected:

Bleacher Report: Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
ESPN: Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
SI: Mitchell Trubiskey, QB, UNC (via trade)
NFL: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
NFL: Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
NFL: Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU
NFL: Mitchell Trubiskey, QB, UNC
FOX SPORTS: John Ross, WR, Washington
The Ringer: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Walter Football: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
USA TODAY: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
CBS: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
CBS: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
CBS: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
CBS: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
CBS: Zach Cunningham, OLB, Vanderbilt
CBS: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
SB Nation: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
CSN Mid-Atlantic: Haason Reddick, ILB, Temple

And here is the only opinion that matters from @BurgundyBlog, who was nice enough to share his thoughts with us:

Needless to say, my preference will depend on the context. If Jonathan Allen somehow falls, you take him. Period. Same with Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker, or Solomon Thomas. Those are dream scenarios that I consider highly unlikely, but would make for an easy decision.

If it’s Reuben Foster who’s available, I’m doing it, but the Redskins never draft character flags in the 1st.

Christian McCaffrey will probably go top-10, but he is the one guy on offense who would really excite me. He changes everything. You can run anything when he’s on the field because he’s an exceptional slot receiver. Defensive coordinators would cower.

I’ve said for weeks that edge rusher is the most likely single position. Haason Reddick is ideal because he can probably play ILB on 1st and 2nd downs, then rush on 3rd. He is a freak athlete, quick-twitch, and highly productive. He’s probably my favorite pick of the more reasonable possibilities.

If Reddick is gone, my favorite pass rushers are not the ones most commonly mentioned as mid-1st targets. I like Tyus Bowser for that twitch (and inside versatility), and I strongly suspect that Bruce Allen has a major crush on TJ Watt — production, potential, family ties, and marketability.

There you have it. Now enjoy the Caps game.

The Nationals Are Horrible

What would make William Ladson, who has covered the Nationals franchise since 2002, tweet that during Monday’s Nats-Red Sox game? Well, how about this:

Or maybe THIS from the SAME INNING:

Or maybe it was Ian Desmond’s fifth error in seven games (thankfully not pictured).

Can we just hit reset on this season?

Making Sense Of The Max Scherzer Deal

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When your team hands out the second largest contract for a pitcher in history, as they did when they signed Max Scherzer to a $210 million deal today, it takes some time to wrap your head around it. Especially when your team already has the best rotation in baseball. And especially especially when what your team desperately needs is more offense.

So, what to make of all this? After consulting Twitter and reading the Internet, here’s my best attempt at figuring it all out.

1) Max Scherzer is Jordan Zimmermann’s replacement

The Nationals knew that Zimmermann only has one more season in Washington. He’s a free agent after this year, and all signs point to him leaving town. Specifically, the two sides being unable to reach a long-term deal before last season, instead settling for a two-year band-aid. So, they signed his replacement a year early to a deal that is likely similar to what ZNN will get on the open market. (And this is to say nothing of the fact that Doug Fister is also a free agent after this season.)

2) Trading Jordan Zimmermann is the ideal scenario

Now that Scherzer has been signed, their best case is to trade Zimmermann and get a bat in return. He’s gone anyway, might as well get something for him. And that sounds great, but that two-year deal he signed is backloaded. The Nats would need to find a trading partner willing to take on the $16.5 million ZNN is owed in 2015 with no guarantee of being able to secure him beyond that.

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