- - Thursday, April 25, 2019

They’ll always have Vegas.

That Stanley Cup the Washington Capitals won last year and all the celebratory trappings that came with it — the parties, the parades, the championship shirts and hats that Capitals fans could finally wear — bought a lot of goodwill. Plenty still remains, even after a first round elimination in the Stanley Cup playoffs almost a year later.

Wednesday night’s 4-3 double-overtime Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes won’t dull Capitals fans’ memories of Alex Ovechkin and teammates taking the Cup on a drinking tour of D.C. After all, this franchise waited 44 years for a title. That glow doesn’t fade in a season.

Still, fans are entitled to their feelings of disappointment, frustration — anger, even — in the wake of this unexpectedly early end to the season. What’s better than one Stanley Cup parade? Two parades.

You could make the case they lost the chance to repeat as champions not with the overtime loss to Carolina, but less than two weeks after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in Game 5 in Las Vegas last June, when owner Ted Leonsis refused to pay the coach who led this franchise to a championship what he was worth.

The arrogance of Transparent Ted was evident throughout this first-round series. Rookie coach Todd Reirden, the assistant who replaced Barry Trotz, was outcoached by the other rookie coach, Rod Brind’Amour, whose team outplayed Washington much of the series and in particular in the deciding game.

Reirden had no answer for the repeated attacks by the Carolina offense and his team’s inability to get out of its own end of the ice.

“We were inconsistent throughout the series,” Reirden said.

That shouldn’t happen to a well-coached veteran team.

Before and during this series, Capitals players talked about what they learned about themselves last season during their Stanley Cup run.

“I don’t want to call it answers, but we’ve been through a lot more on that run than we ever have before,” John Carlson said before the series began.

“Knowing nothing is going to be perfect or always go as you wish … but just respond. I think that’s a big thing. Just respond.”

They learned that last season when they responded to Trotz, not Reirden.

Reirden was undoubtedly a valuable assistant and a contributor to their success, but there is a big difference between that job and the head man.

“As a first-time coach, there is always doubt,” said Brind’Amour, who was also an assistant. “You wonder if you are doing it right.”

You think Trotz has those doubts — the coach who resigned here last June and was hired days later to be the New York Islanders head coach?

Trotz took the job and proceeded to take the team, which had lost its biggest star to free agency, to the playoffs and a first-round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I went to the Caps and said, ‘I think it’s a little unfair based on value around the league,’ and tell me if anything could be done,” Trotz told reporters about negotiations for his contract extension. “When I got the response, I decided it was time to go in a different direction. I thanked them. They were nothing but first class. I said we were going to come there and win a Cup in four years … we did that … [it’s] a special group and we are tied together.

“From a standpoint from myself in terms of principle, I took my chances and stepped down.”

Transparent Ted took his chances, too, on principle — money principles.

There was no guarantee that Trotz would have led this team to a second Stanley Cup championship.

But the Capitals, under his replacement, are going home after one series, while Trotz, after sweeping the Penguins, gets his chance to face the Carolina Hurricanes.

I’m sure he would have rather faced the Capitals — so he could have a chance to rub Transparent Ted’s nose in the ice.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.

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