In a few minutes, the Capitals will conduct their annual breakup day, when cleanly shaved players trudge to the podium to answer questions about a season that ended with a loss.
Last year, Brooks Laich summed up a season of frustration in two sentences when he said, “These days suck. There’s no way to polish a turd.”
Today will have a distinctly rosier smell.
Yes, another Capitals season ended with a crushing loss. Yes, they have failed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the 10th time in 10 seasons with Alex Ovechkin, who spent this afternoon practicing with Team Russia for Saturday’s 1:15 ET semifinal game against the Americans in the IIHF World Championships.
But even after the stench of the Capitals 2-1 overtime defeat to the Rangers Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, there was an air of confidence that better days are ahead for the Capitals.
“You have to look forward to the future and that’s what we intend to do,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “We talked about trying to change our past and create our own future and that’s what we intend to do.
“We’re headed in the right direction. Guys like [Evgeny] Kuznetsov are on their way. And [Andre] Burakovsky and Braden Holtby have taken a step, and I think Marcus Johansson has taken another step. I look forward to getting back with this group. They were excellent.”
But in the world a salary caps and free agency, the Caps of 2015-16 will have different faces than the team that finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with 101 points before falling to the Rangers in seven one-goal games.
The Caps have six unrestricted free agents -- Mike Green, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle, Curtis Glencross and Tim Gleason – who could walk this summer, depending on their values on the open market and the space the Capitals have under the salary cap after signing restricted free agents Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Nate Schmidt and Philipp Grubauer.