As Washington sports fans, it seems we are always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. Tempering expectations and keeping hope at a minimum has become a staple of our fandom - a self-defense mechanism of sorts, a way to preserve a tiny shred of sanity amid annual disappointment. It's not all that surprising, then, that word of Evgeny Kuznetsov's impending arrival over the weekend, while garnering a fair amount of excitement among Caps fans, was also met with a fair amount of concern - most of it centering around the fact that his addition didn't address the team's biggest issues.
There's no question that the 2013-14 Caps have a number of problems on which to focus (and we've focused on them quite a bit over the course of the season). There are holes and deficiencies that will take much more than a deadline acquisition or late-season rookie addition to overcome. Systemic issues, personnel issues... it's completely true that none of these things are getting solved when Kuznetsov first steps on the ice in a Caps' jersey.
But why do they have to be?
We have become so programmed to focus on the negative, so trained to complain and find fault, that somehow we've managed to overlook the fact that this is a pretty exciting moment. It's a moment almost four years in the making, one that's been eagerly anticipated and teased for the better part of two years, and one that we weren't sure would ever come. It's a big moment. Being excited about it doesn't mean you have to agree with what George McPhee did or didn't do at the deadline, or that you like the team's defense as configured, or that you're willing to overlook the other problems - and it certainly doesn't mean you have to suddenly declare the Caps to be Cup contenders. The fact is they're probably not... but who cares?
The fact is that there hasn't been much to get excited about in DC this season. Aside from Alex Ovechkin's continued offensive dominance or John Carlson's Olympic debut, there haven't been many things to remember fondly; this is another. And when the team can't hold onto a lead, when one point out of the playoffs feels like twenty, when the defense looks confused more often than not... it's okay to compartmentalize things a bit and embrace what good can be found. It's okay to understand where the team's struggles lie and still be excited about the addition of Kuznetsov - the two do not have to be (and frankly, shouldn't be) mutually exclusive.
No, Kuznetsov will likely not be the savior of this Caps' squad (and for what it's worth, no one has really said he will be); he might not even be enough to help them get to the playoffs this year. There will be an adjustment period for him and the team, a learning curve to be sure - and since he's not a defenseman, he will not be the answer to this team's most pressing need. There are areas of concern with this team that he's simply not going to be able to address, an element that is missing which he will not be able to provide no matter how well he does.
But he's still an exciting, dynamic player with a huge amount of potential - and what he will provide is a much-needed spark, something positive to give us all a lift as the regular season winds down. He may not address the immediate needs, but he doesn't make the team worse, either, and could actually make them better. He's a player for whom we've waited a long time, a player we've watched from a half a world away and perhaps assumed would never arrive.
He has arrived. He's a Capital. And it's okay to be excited about it.