Sometimes I think there’s this assumption about how you build a championship NHL team, or in any sport really. That you bottom out, collect your draft picks, hit on most of them, bring them through together, add the veterans at the right time and then you win. But that doesn’t really factor in for so many things that are out of your control. Because you can do all those things, and there just might be someone better or farther along their curve when you’re ready. And then when they’re done, one who is behind you on the curve is ready to come to the fore.
The Capitals have gone through this cycle twice. They had one of the NHL’s best teams in 2009 and 2010. They had blended Ovechkin with Backstrom, Semin, Green, Laich, Fehr, Fleischmann, and a few others. They amassed what now looks to be a silly 121 points. But one year, they ran into Crosby and the Penguins in 2009 when they were a post-Therrien firing buzzsaw. They lost in seven games. Not all that far away. The next year they got goalie’d by Jaro Halak. Really, these are two things out of their control. And they lost both series on something of a knife edge.