Capitals

Bills fire Gailey after 3 straight losing seasons

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Bills fire Gailey after 3 straight losing seasons

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Chan Gailey didn't work out after three losing seasons, leaving the Buffalo Bills looking for their fifth head coach since 2001.

The Bills fired Gailey on Monday after he failed to deliver on his vow to transform a losing franchise into a playoff contender. Gailey's entire staff was fired, too, but the status of general manager Buddy Nix remained uncertain, and could be decided as early as Tuesday.

Bills CEO Russ Brandon returned to Buffalo on Monday night after spending the day meeting with team owner Ralph Wilson at his home outside Detroit. Nix did not make the trip, and instead stayed at the team's facility.

The Bills have made tentative plans to have a team official address the media Tuesday.

The decision to fire Gailey was announced shortly after Brandon arrived in Detroit.

Gailey's teams lost twice as many games as they won, going 16-32 over three seasons. The Bills have now posted eight straight losing seasons, and closed with a second straight 6-10 mark after beating the New York Jets 28-9 on Sunday.

``I understand this is a business,'' said Gailey, who had at least one year left on his contract. ``We didn't get the job done.''

Gailey spoke for a little over a minute. He declined to take questions, while growing emotional at one point. Among the assistants fired were assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

``I've been called two other times to get things turned around, was able to do it,'' Gailey said, referring to previous stops with Dallas (1998-99) and Georgia Tech (2002-07). ``We weren't able to get this one done soon enough, and I understand that completely.''

It was a disappointing finish for a team that had much higher aspirations. The Bills spent much of the past 14 months securing their top players, re-signing receiver Stevie Johnson and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to lucrative multiyear contracts.

The spending spree reached its peak in March, when they signed defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract.

``It's always disappointing,'' said defensive tackle Kyle Williams, one of the only players left in the locker room when the team announced Gailey's firing.

What frustrates Williams more is how the Bills keep making changes without getting any results.

``I get tired of losing,'' Williams said. ``More than anything, I get tired of putting in tons and tons of work. And it's hard sitting here talking to you guys at the end of December feeling like another one kind of slipped through your fingers.''

What's next remains unclear.

Nix was not available Monday, and canceled his weekly radio show on Friday.

Gailey's dismissal is a significant setback for Nix. The general manager announced in November that Gailey wasn't going anywhere, because another coaching change would stunt the team's development.

The Bills, however, closed by losing seven of their final 10 games.

Wilson had initially backed Nix's build-through-the-draft approach. Three years ago, the 94-year-old owner said he expected the rebuilding process could take as long as five years.

Brandon has been unhappy with the criticism leveled at the Bills, and how it's translated into poor ticket sales. Buffalo failed to sell out its three of its final four home games. And the fourth, against St. Louis on Dec. 9, wasn't a sellout until a local restaurateur purchased the remaining 10,000 tickets.

One option is for the Bills to make a splash in hiring their next head coach, as they attempted in their previous search.

After firing Dick Jauron in November 2009, Wilson expressed a desire to open his checkbook to lure a high-profile coach to Buffalo only to be rebuffed by Mike Shanahan, who instead landed in Washington.

The most high-profile candidates available include coach-turned-broadcaster Jon Gruden and Andy Reid, who was fired by Philadelphia on Monday. Then there's two candidates in the college ranks, Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien, who had numerous friends and former colleagues on Gailey's staff.

An offensive specialist, Gailey was unable to spark the Bills popgun attack under Fitzpatrick. The Bills finished 19th in the NFL in yards gained and 21st in points this season. Gailey was faulted for under-utilizing the offense's most dynamic threat, running back C.J. Spiller.

``It's sickening,'' running back Fred Jackson said, referring to how the Bills failed to play up to expectations. ``As players, we had the highest hopes out of everybody. And for us to fall short of that, we don't like it at all. It's depressing.''

Ultimately, it was the Bills' porous defense that doomed Gailey.

The Bills allowed 400-plus points in each of the past three seasons, including 435 this year - the second-most in team history. Though Williams' presence improved the pass rush, Buffalo became the NFL's eighth team, and first since the 1986 Jets, to allow 45 points four times in one season.

Fitzpatrick's status is uncertain in part because he's due a $3 million bonus in March. He went 16-29 since taking the starting job three games into the 2010 season.

Fitzpatrick declined to speculate on his future. After speaking to reporters, Fitzpatrick hugged Johnson, and the two left with the receiver's arm over the quarterback's shoulder.

Reading from notes he jotted on a Bills pad, Gailey's eyes welled with tears when he credited Bills fans for their loyalty, and Buffalo for being a passionate football city.

``I think that the next staff will have a great opportunity for success, and make this another great football franchise,'' Gailey said. ``This will probably be, and I say probably, but I think it will be the first place that's ever fired me that I'll pull for.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.