The fortunes of the Washington Capitals may mean little to many sports fans in Baltimore, other than the NHL enthusiasts, but the lesson of their season should not be lost on anyone who follows this town's teams -- especially the Orioles.
Incredibly, the Capitals won the Southeast Division over the weekend, which helped them land the third seed in the Eastern Conference. This was after a season when the Stanley Cup playoffs weren't even a consideration -- the head coach who started the campaign, Glen Hanlon, was fired after a 6-14-1 start -- to an outside chance at the postseason, to potentially falling just short, to a division title and home-ice advantage. They open the playoffs Friday at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.
This has been a long and difficult rebuilding for the Capitals. The past two seasons, they've been at the bottom of their division. But they drafted well and team architect George McPhee made some good signings, nurtured the team and when they had to make a coaching change, brought in a modest, likable guy whose experience was essentially minor league. Bruce Boudreau was named the interim coach in November and then got the full-fledged job about a month later in late December.
Should sound a little familiar to Orioles fans.
Of course, the Caps also have a bona fide superstar, Alex Ovechkin, and that is something the Orioles may not have unless one thinks that Adam Jones can get there (but let's not lay that on the kid yet).
However, as I said, the lesson of the Capitals, about having a vision, building a team, finding just the right leader -- even though he's not a big name strategist -- is something for Orioles fans to note.