Capitals

Owner says Dolphins have keepers at coach and QB

Owner says Dolphins have keepers at coach and QB

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross thinks years of instability in the coaching and quarterback jobs are over, and the team's losing will end soon, too.

Speaking with reporters Monday, Ross said he was pleased about the work of first-year coach Joe Philbin and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, even though the Dolphins went 7-9 to finish below .500 for the fourth consecutive season.

``The two biggest ingredients in a winning team are your coach - and I think we have our head coach - and second is a quarterback you can build around,'' Ross said. ``This is a quarterback-centric league, and you see every great team that is there consistently has a quarterback. I think we have our quarterback.

``Once you are there, it is a lot easier, I think, to put the building blocks around them.''

Ross believes those blocks can be in place in 2013. When asked the organization's plan for the coming year, he laughed and said: ``Win.''

Philbin was hired a year ago as a first-time head coach - and Miami's seventh coach in eight years - after Ross unsuccessfully courted Jim Harbaugh in 2011 and Jeff Fisher in early 2012. While Philbin wasn't the first choice, Ross said he was impressed by the coach's organizational skills on the job, and the way he followed through on the plan he laid out before the season.

``We have a really solid head coach here, and a guy that I think will be here a long time and hopefully bring all those victories that everybody wants,'' Ross said.

Tannehill, the first quarterback drafted in the first round by Miami since Dan Marino in 1983, became the first Dolphins rookie QB to start all 16 games.

``What really impressed me is his intelligence and the type of person he is,'' Ross said. ``He's a high-character guy, and that's what you want.''

Ross completed his purchase of the Dolphins in January 2009, when Bill Parcells was the football czar and Tony Sparano the coach. Parcells stepped down in 2010, and Sparano was fired late in the 2011 season.

But according to Ross, only now does the organization bear Ross' stamp.

``This is really the first time I've really gotten involved,'' he said. ``I didn't select the people that were here before. I was handed a situation that, for one, I was kind of pinned to the wall. I have a lot of respect for Bill, but I didn't put together that organization. I also felt that I should learn a little bit before I started making moves. Making moves for the sake of making moves is sometimes probably the worst move you can make. You want to sit back and really assess the situation, which I was able to do.''

One position of stability for the Dolphins has been general manager Jeff Ireland, who is beginning his sixth year with the team even though many fans consider him the chief culprit for the recent losing.

Ross was asked why Ireland is the lone holdover from the Parcells regime.

``His football intelligence, his knowledge, his hard work,'' Ross said. ``He has the respect of his peers and he is one of the youngest general managers around. I like dealing with youth and enthusiasm. And I think he has the knowledge and desire. He is smart, and he is committed.''

Ireland has the Dolphins well-positioned this offseason, with five of the first 82 draft picks and more than $40 million in cap space. Philbin has said he prefers to build through the draft, and Ross agrees.

``Free agency certainly isn't the answer. We've all seen that,'' Ross said. ``Oftentimes there's a reason why a guy is out there as a free agent.''

But the billionaire real estate developer said he's willing to spend whatever it takes to build a winner.

``Certainly all my resources are there, and if the right players are there, I don't care what it costs,'' Ross said. ``We'll go after them.''

The Dolphins have reached the playoffs only once in the past 11 years, and home attendance is in decline. This season, they ranked fourth-worst in the NFL at 57,379 per game.

``I can understand, when you're not winning, why some people might not show up. We put a winning team on the field, I think we'll fill up the stadium,'' Ross said. ``We're moving in the right direction, and I feel good about it, more so today than I ever have.''

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What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

Just four more wins. It hardly seems possible.

For only the second time ever and for the first time in 20 years, the Capitals will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final. And they could actually win it.

They’re not there yet. The Vegas Golden Knights have cruised through the playoffs thus far and continue to shock the hockey community with their postseason run. Washington’s players need to think about how to beat Vegas, not what happens after.

But while the players cannot and should not look ahead, for fans, it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to dream about that moment when Gary Bettman hands the Stanley Cup over to Alex Ovechkin.

Winning the conference is always a huge achievement that should be celebrated, but this year is different than 1998’s run. Back in 1998, the Caps played against a Detroit Red Wings team that is one of the greatest teams in NHL history. They were the defending champions after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers the year before. Washington suffered the same fate as the Flyers, losing in just four games.

This year is a battle between two more evenly matched teams. Picking the Caps to win this series is not outlandish or crazy at all. This year, they could actually do it.

So before the puck drops for Game 1 and all dreams are pushed aside for the realities of what may happen, allow a fan a chance to think about what seeing the Washington Capitals actually hoist the Stanley Cup would actually mean.

Breaking news: Washington is not Canada and the Capitals are not an original six team. Hockey is not ingrained in the culture of D.C. the way it is in Canadian cities or in places like Boston and Detroit. Unlike in Vegas where the success of the team in its inaugural season has caught the city by storm, the Capitals won only eight games in their first year. Eight wins doesn’t exactly help a team grow roots in the community.

If you’ve been a fan of the Capitals long enough, chances are you’ve seen some pretty tough times. There have been plenty of playoff disappointments in this team’s history even before the current era. There was also the rebuild that began before the lockout that saw a very bad team play in front of a half empty stadium for several years. And they would not have even gotten to that point without the “Save the Caps” campaign in 1982.

But through it all, that small group of hardcore fans kept coming back. Some may have wavered from time to time, but they came back because being a hockey fan is different than other sports.

It’s hard to be a sports fan in any city with an NFL team and not follow football. Football may not even be your sport, but there is almost on obligation to following it because coverage and interest in football is so prevalent. It’s hard to avoid.

You have to seek out hockey

Hockey at times has been viewed as more of a niche sport than mainstream. Before the age of Alex Ovechkin, if you were from Washington and you were following the Caps, it was because you loved both.

So why did those Caps fans keep coming back after so much heartbreak? Because despite all of the disappointing seasons we always walked away telling ourselves, this will just make it that much sweeter when they do win.

One day, it will all be worth it.

That’s why we watch sports, isn’t it? We watch with the knowledge that sometimes, our hearts will be broken but it’s OK because the good will always outweigh the bad. And the worse the bad times are, the better the good times will feel afterward.

We kept telling ourselves that for a long time, but admittedly some years were tougher to get past than others. It’s hard to keep believing when you’ve seen your rival beat you nine times out of 10 in the playoffs heading into this year’s postseason. It’s hard when a team cannot seem to overcome its playoff history despite having one of the best players of all-time on its roster.

When Ovechkin was drafted, the question we all asked ourselves was not whether he would bring a Cup to Washington, but how many? He brought new fans with him, he brought excitement with him, he brought validation with him…at least initially.

But with every passing year, doubt began to creep into our minds. The upset loss to Montreal in 2010 stung, but Ovechkin was still 24. There was still hope that one day, he would still win the Cup.

Now at 32 years old, many did not know what to expect from the Great 8 this year. When would decline start to show in his game?

Ovechkin is part of why we want the Cup so badly. We want to see the best player in this franchise’s history honored. We want to see the player who transformed hockey in Washington from niche sport to mainstream take his proper place in the sport’s history. No one wants to hear him described as one of the best players to never win a Cup because he should be remembered as one of the best players, period.

But that’s not all of it.

This is about all those times we told ourselves this would all be worth it someday. This is about how we used to cope with the sting of another postseason heartbreak by thinking about what it would feel like when it was finally our year. This is about how we stuck with the team when the stadium was half empty. This is about the blue jersey in our closet with the eagle on the front and the black one hanging next to it with the capitol building on the front. This is about all the 5, 12, 32 and 37 jerseys. This is about replacing Esa Tikkanen as our lasting Stanley Cup memory.

When the Washington Redskins have a rough year, those fans who can remember them think about those three Super Bowl wins. When the Washington Wizards fall short, those fans who can remember it think about the championship in 1978. Even if you’re too young to remember the Super Bowls or NBA championship, those banners still give your team a sense of validation. They have their little piece of history to be proud of.

That’s what this would mean. A Stanley Cup would be not just for the players, it would be for the fans who stuck it out through thick and thin, those fans who despite everything still supported their team. This win would be about the Capitals forever earning their spot in the heart of Washington sports alongside the Redskins and Wizards.

This would be about never having to tell ourselves again that someday all the love we pour into this team will pay off.

A Stanley Cup would mean finally getting to experience a championship and realizing, yeah, it was all worth it.

Let’s go Caps!

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Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One is repping the district in a big way: by changing their logo to incorporate the Capitals' font and name. 

The new Capital One logo appears on the bank's websites and social media ahead of the Caps' Stanley Cup Final games, which begin on Memorial Day Monday in Vegas.

The McLean, Virginia, based bank recently purchased the naming rights to the Capitals' home arena, formerly known as "Verizon Center." And in the first year of its renaming, the Capitals have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Coincidence? 

We've seen a small, Northern Virginia town change its name to "Capitalsville," and now Capital One Bank is all-in for the Caps.

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