Dave Fay Doesn't Get It

It's certainly not the first time and hopefully won't be the last, but WTimes Caps beat writer Dave Fay has once again shown how out of touch he is with both this current Caps team and hockey reality.

Fay begins his ridiculously-titled rant ("Capitals Keep Getting Worse, Not Better") with the equally-ludicrous implication that the Caps should have been buyers at this year's trade deadline.

Hours after the trading deadline ended late last month, Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier said, "The message to the players is 'We want to get you immediate help.' " Enter Dainius Zubrus and backup Ty Conklin, and the Sabres were better.

It was the same thing in Nashville. The Predators had to make a statement, and general manager David Poile got Peter Forsberg -- a pretty positive statement.

In Atlanta, the statement was Keith Tkachuk. On Long Island, Ryan Smyth arrived to help. In Pittsburgh, the Penguins talked character forward Gary Roberts into leaving Florida and grabbed Georges Laraque from Phoenix.

In Washington, where players have known for a long, long time they need immediate, mid-term and long-term help, it was more of the same: We'll be there when you need us, guys. Don't worry, we've got your backs.

Lots of mouth but no help, not unless Jiri Novotny, who arrived from Buffalo as a fourth-line defensive center and has done nothing to change that impression, is considered help.

Should we stop reading now? Probably. But we won't. Fay continues:
The Caps are fielding a team that has two players with measurable skill levels -- Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin -- and the marketing department wants fans to believe they are dealing with the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens. To make matters worse, there is nothing on the horizon that guarantees things will improve in the immediate future.
Personally, I'd consider Olie Kolzig's skill level to be "measureable" (using metrics such as "Vezina Trophies" or "career NHL wins"). I'd also consider Chris Clark's and Matt Pettinger's 20-goal seasons to be measurable. And regarding his statement above that the Pens had to add character and toughness in Roberts and Laraque - wouldn't he rather have already had that grit on the roster in guys like Clark and Donald Brashear?

As for the assertion that "there is nothing on the horizon that guarantees things will improve in the immediate future," he's right. But then again, there is nothing on the horizon that guarantees anything other than the sun rising and taxes being due on April 15 (actually April 16 this year), is there?

More Fay:
This is the direction the Caps are headed. Two years ago Washington and Pittsburgh started out about the same level -- two bad teams with one exceptional young talent. That seems to be where the teams separated. Today the Penguins are fighting for home-ice advantage in the playoffs after rebuilding to support their young star while the Nationals stand a better chance of making the Stanley Cup playoffs than the Caps do.
Not true. At all. Two years ago the Pens had four top-five picks from the previous four drafts under contract (or at least the exclusive rights to negotiate with them, in the case of Elbows Malkin). The Caps, on the other hand, hadn't had a top-five pick other than Ovechkin since 1996 (that 2005 draft lottery was really fair, wasn't it?). Quite simply, the two teams weren't at "about the same level", and only a superficial glance at a marketer-manufactured rivalry and the year-end standings would make it seem so.
Here's the picture: Take Alex 1 and 2 off the roster and this is a team that would have trouble winning in the American Hockey League.
Odd claim, given that - sans Alexes - the Caps' AHL affiliate won the Calder Cup last year and is in position to make a run at doing the same again this year.

Then comes the bombshell:
To begin with, word out of Sweden is that Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps' top pick in the draft last summer, might not want to come to the NHL this season or even next season. There goes the theory of a first-line center.
"Word out of Sweden... might not." Well-sourced and definitive. Is Eklund an intern at the Times? And what does he mean "this season or even next season?" Backstrom can't come over this season anyway due to IIHF regulations (though I'm sure he'd be chomping at the bit to race over here for a half-dozen meaningless games anyway). Oh, and the Caps see him as a #2 - not a #1 - center, pairing with Alex Semin, Dave. Do some homework.

The rest of the article details the Caps needs - center, powerplay defenseman, rightwing - offering nothing new or particularly insightful and, in fairness, noting that Ted Leonsis et. al. have acknowledged these deficiencies (though Fay is skeptical of the organization's wilingness to address them).

It's hard to tell whether Fay believes that the Caps are getting worse (which he claims in his headline, but doesn't assert in the article), that the Caps should be in a similar situation to that of the Penguins (which he implies, but it's a borderline-idiotic argument - hint: both teams essentially started their rebuilds by trading Jaromir Jagr; should they really be equidistant from the finish line when one got a multi-year headstart?) or that the Caps need to be knocked down a peg after actually winning back-to-back games (there's nothing in the article to support this, but it would fit his M.O.). Whatever the point of this article, Fay has made a larger point - that he'd only be marginally worse as an NHL general manager than he is as a journalist.

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