Capitals

Mayor: New Orleans deserves Super Bowl spotlight

201301281440528041923-p2.jpeg

Mayor: New Orleans deserves Super Bowl spotlight

NEW ORLEANS (AP) A 20-story-high mural of the Lombardi Trophy, affixed to the glass exterior of a bustling hotel that was once a shattered symbol of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, rises like a beacon above the expansive white roof of the Superdome.

The Super Bowl is back in the Big Easy, finally, after 11 years, giving New Orleans a spotlight of global proportion to showcase how far it has come since Katrina left the city on its knees and under water in August of 2005.

``The story is much, much bigger than the Super Bowl,'' Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Monday afternoon. ``This is a story about the resurrection and redemption of a great American city.

``The Super Bowl gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we've been and where we're going.''

From 1970 to 2002, New Orleans was a regular host of the Super Bowl and hopes to become one again. This Sunday, when the Baltimore Ravens meet the San Francisco 49ers in the Superdome, the Crescent City will host the NFL's marquee game for the 10th time, tying Miami for the most of any city. If all goes well, it hopes to get back in the rotation.

Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, said his group will ask the NFL for permission to put together a bid for the 2018 Super Bowl, coinciding with the city's celebration of its 300th anniversary.

It is that history, which produced a colorful culture driven by a mix of European, Caribbean and African influences, that makes New Orleans such an attractive Super Bowl city, noted political consultant James Carville said.

``This is not just a city. This is a culture,'' said Carville, who lives in New Orleans and serves as the co-chairman of the Super Bowl host committee with his wife and fellow political pundit, Mary Matalin. ``We have our own food, our own music, our own social structure, our own architecture, our own body of literature. By God, we have our own funerals.''

Carville pointed out that Dallas spent about $38 million to host a Super Bowl two seasons ago, that Indianapolis spent about $25 million a year ago, and that New Orleans spent about $13 million.

``I wish that I could tell you that it's because we're just so much more efficient,'' Carville said. ``The truth of the matter is we don't have to create anything in New Orleans. It's here. It's been here for 294 years. We just have to take what we have, shine it up a little bit, add a little something here and there - but 294 years of history and culture stand on its own.''

Of course, Carville was not counting the billions of dollars spent in the past seven-plus years to rebuild New Orleans since Katrina pushed tidal surges through crumbling levees and flooded 80 percent of the city.

Extensive renovations to the Superdome, done in several phases during six years, ran about $336 million, transforming the stadium to a facility better equipped to host a Super Bowl than it was back in 2002. The lower bowl has all new seats, wider concourses and more concession areas, not to mention exclusive ``bunker'' clubs for those who pay top dollar. There are four high-end club lounges around the second deck which did not exist before the storm. The smaller suites ringing the stadium have all been remodeled and more have been added to total 152.

The faded gray siding that lined the stadium when the Super Bowl was last played there has been replaced. The dents from flying storm debris are gone and it has been restored to its original, glistening champagne color, which serves as the canvass for nightly light shows. The roof was completely rebuilt and there is now a public plaza called Champions Square adjacent to the dome, where part of a shopping mall used to be.

The Louis Armstrong International Airport has undergone $350 million in upgrades, with work going on right up until this month.

Streets throughout much of the city, including downtown and the French Quarter, have been repaved.

A new streetcar line, which opened on Monday morning, can shuttle people from the city's main train and bus station a few blocks from the Superdome to Canal Street, where downtown meets the French Quarter.

There are more restaurants in the metro area than before Katrina. Hotels throughout downtown have been renovated and some new ones have gone up, adding more than 4,000 more rooms than there were in 2005.

The 1,200-room Hyatt Hotel, with the signature giant Lombardi Trophy mural,, finally reopened a little more than a year ago after a $275 million renovation. During Katrina, hundreds of its windows blew out, leaving shredded curtains flapping in the wind. Now it is home to new restaurants and rebuilt convention space.

``The city looks great,'' said Jerry Romig, the Saints' 83-year-old public address announcer, a lifelong New Orleans resident who has been involved in some capacity in the previous nine Super Bowls. ``It's never looked better.''

He also takes issue with the idea that sympathy for New Orleans' suffering played a role in NFL owners awarding the city this Super Bowl.

``The New Orleanean's attitude is they would be very upset if the NFL was going to throw you a bone because you went through a hard time,'' Romig said. ``The New Orleanean would think, `We should get this game every year because we're the best place for it.' ... We've got everything that's necessary to make it a success and that's being shown better this year than past years.''

Pockets of the city still bear obvious scars from Hurricane Katrina, most notably in eastern and low-lying portions of the city - like the lower Ninth Ward - were many homes were wiped out and many residents were too poor to rebuild.

So-called ``Katrina tours'' are still offered, with vans carting the curious to areas where they can see the remnants of the devastation - abandoned, crumbling homes and schools, and streets overgrown with weeds and brush.

When the city was bidding for the 2013 Super Bowl, it floated the idea of a Super Saturday of Service, whereby volunteers could undertake community projects to improve the city. This Saturday, restoration work will be done on five properties run by the New Orleans Recreational Department, including a high school football field where the Archie Manning's sons once played. After Sunday, the field will be the new home of the turf used in the Super Bowl.

Despite the community's ongoing needs, New Orleans has proved repeatedly in recent years that the heart of the city can successfully stage major national events. It hosted college football's BCS national championships in 2008 and 2012, an NBA All-Star game in 2008 and an NCAA men's Final Four in 2012.

Yet given how New Orleans was once a regular Super Bowl city, the return of the NFL's biggest game carries more symbolic weight than any single event since the storm.

``This is just another huge example of how the people of this city, who were 15 feet under water, are now on top of the world,'' Landrieu said.

Quick Links

Your guide to this year's Capitals Development Camp

ap_264303150114.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Your guide to this year's Capitals Development Camp

While this year’s Capitals roster brought home the ultimate prize – the Stanley Cup – it’s no secret that the team won’t be able to stay together as it is.

Despite the NHL salary cap rising from $75 million to about $79.5 million, the team will have less than $20 million to re-sign 19 active NHL and AHL affiliate players.

Challenging seems like an understatement when considering that key players like John Carlson, Jay Beagle, and Devante Smith-Pelly are due for some significant raises from their previous contracts. 

Similarly, the organization has to maintain depth, keeping its core roster strong while still offering smaller two-way contracts to their minor-league players in Hershey. 

With this in mind, this summer’s development camp seems especially crucial. For die-hard fans and new arrivals alike, all eyes are on how management will keep the team’s momentum next season.

Here’s what you need to know about attending Capitals Development Camp –shortened as dev camp – including who to watch and what events are most worthwhile.

What should I expect for Capitals development camp?

Development camp is fairly self-explanatory.

For one week every summer, as offseason contract negotiations take place, prospective players, minor-league players, and junior league players gather for a week for assessment, scrimmaging, fitness testing, practice, and publicity events. However, it's important to realize that the roster will not be finalized until the last minute, and depends on who the Capitals select or trade for in the 2018 NHL draft this Friday and Saturday.

Practices are free and open to the public at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, with coaching and managerial staff assessing players. Fan Fest will take place on Saturday, June 30 featuring the final camp scrimmage.

The Alumni Summer Classic game is scheduled for Tuesday, June 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Kettler. The event is also free and open to the public.

Who should I be looking out for?

Former Hershey Bears on entry-level contracts like Jakub Vrana and Madison Bowey provided essential depth to the Capitals through this historic season. Several of their colleagues may be next in line.

Defensemen 
Following last years’ development camp, Connor Hobbs, Lucas Johansen, and Jonas Siegenthaler joined the Hershey Bears, showing promise on the team’s blue line. 

Hobbs, 21, spent two seasons with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League before coming to the Bears this past season. In November 2017, Hobbs suffered a wrist fracture, missing 32 games of the Bears’ 76-game season. Despite the injury, Hobbs put up a total of 16 points in 44 games.

Assuming he stays healthy, he only stands to get better. Like Siegenthaler, we’ll likely see him in the preseason lineup.

Johansen, 20, also came to the Bears from the WHL – Kelowna, to be exact. The 2016 first-round pick put up a respectable 27 points over 74 games this season. Though this may seem like a significant drop from his previous season’s 41 points in the WHL, the decrease is fairly typical when transitioning from junior to professional hockey.

Siegenthaler, 21, has the most impressive resume of any Capitals defensive prospect. Siegenthaler struggled to produce with the Bears this season, but did finish the full season in Hershey after spending 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons with Switzerland’s ZSC Lions and joining the Bears for their spring playoff push. He’s also made appearances on the international stage at the U20 World Junior tournament, adding his name to Switzerland’s national team roster this season.

It will be interesting to see if he could push for a spot with the NHL club.

Forwards
On the offensive side, Brian Pinho, 23, seems to be poised for a change. Coming off a four-year career with the Providence College Friars, Pinho captained the team to the NCAA quarterfinals this season.

It’s uncommon, yet not unsmart, to finish out a college degree before joining the NHL. Pinho will likely join the Bears next season.

Garrett Pilon, 20, was traded from the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers to the Everett Silvertips. The star child of Everett’s historic playoff run, he proved his indispensability as a scorer who works well under pressure, racking up a whopping 80 points in his final junior league season.

With contracts up in the air for several of the Capitals’ bottom-six forwards and favorable testimonies from management, Pilon might be the strongest chance to crack the lineup.

Goaltending
The Caps’ depth and future in goal looks a bit wonky, with general manager Brian MacLellan strongly hinting at shopping backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer to teams who may be able to use him as a starter. Braden Holtby isn’t going anywhere, but you need more than one goalie for an entire NHL season, plus playoffs.

What to do? We’ll have to see how this year’s draft shakes out on June 22 and 23. But for now, keep an eye on Ilya Samsonov. The 21-year-old posted a 0.926 save percentage across 26 games with the KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk this season. Even if he moves up to Hershey next season, it’ll be interesting to watch his development.

What else should I know?

If this dev camp is your first time at Kettler, get excited!

Note that for all practices except scrimmages, forwards will be dressed in red or white practice jerseys and defensemen in blue.

Since most players are new and/or under watch by management and coaching, all players will have names and numbers on the backs of their jerseys to make them easier to identify.

Keep in mind that whoever the Caps chose – or trade for – with their six picks in Friday and Saturday’s draft will also affect the dev camp roster. It often isn’t finalized until the last minute. Dev camp provides the first and best chance to get up close and personal with the Caps' newly drafted players. The uncertainty of who you'll get to see can be a drawback, but regardless, attending can give a great glimpse into where the Caps may be headed next season.

Between the Alumni Game, practices, and final weekend scrimmages, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to get your offseason hockey fix or take a step back from the Capitals’ salary cap woes. The final schedule for the week is likely to be released Sunday.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Grading the Caps' 2013 draft

usatsi_7325313.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Grading the Caps' 2013 draft

The NHL is different from the NBA and NFL. Unless you have one of the absolute top picks of the draft, chances are you are not going to see any players from a draft class for several years. That makes it pretty hard to evaluate how a team did with its picks.

As the Caps prepare for the draft to begin Friday, let’s turn the clock back five years and see how they did in the 2013 draft.

First round, 23rd overall: Forward Andre Burakovsky

The draft is all about finding players skilled enough to produce in the NHL. They certainly found that in the young Swede. There’s no question that Burakovsky has top-six talent, but we all keep waiting for that breakout season when he takes his game to the next level. Even after four NHL seasons under his belt, he still can’t quite get there. Consistency has always been an issue for him and the root of that problem comes from both his durability issues and between the ears. He should be a 20-25, maybe even 30-goal scorer if he can put it all together.

Overall though, this was a solid pick for the Caps. Judging by the players drafted after him to fill out the first round, either Burakovsky or defenseman Shea Theodore were the two best players available. Washington picked one of them and got a top-six forward out of it.

Second round, 53rd overall: Defenseman Madison Bowey

Bowey made his long awaited NHL debut this season, but the jury is ultimately still out on just how good he is. The potential is certainly there, but the growing pains of a rookie were still there as well. The Capitals have an NHL-caliber defenseman in Bowey, but time will tell if he is a top-four one.

Second round, 61st overall: Forward Zach Sanford

Drafted players can provide value in two ways: on the ice and as trade value. Sanford was a traded to St. Louis as part of the package that brought Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington. Sanford was a tweener last season in that it looked at times like he was not quite ready for the full-time switch to the NHL, but was brilliant when he played in the AHL. An injury limited him to just 20 games in the AHL this season, but he looks like he could be a solid bottom-six addition in the NHL if he can get healthy again.

Fifth round, 144th overall: Defenseman Blake Heinrich

This one was a miss. Heinrich’s career has not gone past junior. He has 132 career games in the WHL, 85 games in the USHL and spent the 2017-18 season playing for the University of Manitoba.

Sixth round, 174th overall: Forward Brian Pinho

Pinho spent four years developing his game at Providence College and developed into a very strong two-way player at the collegiate level. He signed an entry-level contract with the Caps at the end of his senior year just before the end of the regular season. He skated with the team a few days before he was allowed to return home to finish his degree. He will likely start next season in the AHL, but there is some potential for him to become a bottom-six center in the NHL which would make him a steal in the sixth round.

Seventh round, 204th overall: Defenseman Tyler Lewington

A hard-nosed defenseman who is never afraid to drop the gloves, Lewington has certainly found a home in Hershey. Overall, his skillset is much better suited for that level and I do not see any extensive NHL time in his future, but to find a dependable AHL defenseman in the seventh round is a good find for Washington.

Overall Grade: B+

Picking at No. 23, there were not many superstars to choose from. The Capitals still found one of the best players available in Burakovsky. With no third or fourth round pick, Washington really needed to nail their two second round picks. It’s too early to tell exactly how good Bowey will be and the evaluation for Sanford changes now that he was traded from “how good is he?” to “was this good asset management?” It’s still a bit too early to answer that question as well. There is only one real bust in the draft class, but the fact that the Caps found value in both the sixth and seventh round including one player who still could potentially fill an NHL role gives this class a high grade.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: