On the way back from vacationing in Hilton Head Island, I stopped for gas at a station off I-95 in Selma, North Carolina (Population: 7,008). Pumping gas in my Capitals John Carlson shirt, the guy at the pump on the other side of me noticed my team loyalty.
"Is that your team?"
"At least you have a team. I'm from just north of Toronto. We haven't had a team for a while. But Brian Burke's working on it..."
The conversation got me thinking. First of all, hockey really is everywhere, even between a Capitals fan and a Maple Leafs fan in bumblef*ck North Carolina.
But it also reminded me how lucky Caps fans are. When I think about all the moaning thats been going on this offseason about the moves the Caps have made, it just makes me realize that we are so much better off than the majority of NHL fans. And we really do take it for granted.
We have a coach who took over a team in the middle of a complete renovation, and turned them into a President's Trophy-winning Cup contender in just a few seasons. Boudreau constantly pushes his players to be better, admits it when his players are wrong, and defends them when they're being unjustly criticized. In fact, he won a Jack Adams trophy for his tremendous coaching in his first season at the helm. He hadn't even coached a full season when he won - he joined the team in the end of November and won that June.
People have also been tough on General Manager George McPhee this offseason. Yes, the ending to last season was extremely disappointing, but it wasn't GMGM's fault - Montreal is a good team that had a hunger greater than ours. McPhee has been one of the most adept GMs in the biz. He's one of the smartest drafters in the entire league, bringing little names like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Semyon Varlamov, and John Carlson to the Caps. And when necessary, developing them through one of the greatest minors systems available and bringing them in to the big leagues just when they're ready. He's also smart when it comes to money. The Caps are one of the few teams not in a load of trouble right now with the salary cap. His sharp decisions earned him a nomination for the first-ever General Manager of the Year award this June.
Basically, at least we know that our team will have a postseason. Our season isn't a total crapshoot - we know our team can win, WILL win. So stop complaining, Caps fans. At least we aren't the Maple Leafs.
Sorry, Leafs fans. No offense intended. We were there once too.