Ha, and you thought the Capitals winning the Stanley Cup would end the D.C. sports doldrums.
If anything, that on-ice triumph last June for, as defined by the Associated Press, Washington’s first major championship since 1992 added a new curse.
Don’t believe in hexes or jinxes, or at least in any caused by that joyous moment on June 7, 2018, when the Capitals won the first title in franchise history? Fine, be grounded and mature if you must, but allow me to present a list of events and results since that day in Las Vegas.
* On June 7, an off day, the World Series contenders were first in the NL East and a season-high 11 games above .500 (36-25) after winning 11 of 15 games.
* In their next game on June 8, Stephen Strasburg exits his start after two innings with tightness in his right shoulder. Sure, Strasburg injuries aren’t exactly uncommon, but he would not make another start until July 20.
* Two days later Washington fell out of first place for good, and starting with a 9-5 loss to the Giants on June 8, went 6-18 over its next 24 games. The Nationals finished 82-80 and missed the postseason.
* Any day the sense is they will also lose generational slugger Bryce Harper in free agency. There will be a different kind of cursing going on around town should that assumption turn reality.
* The running back-needy Redskins selected the playmaking and exuberant Derrius Guice in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Before the LSU product played a single game, he was arguably the real fan favorite. Guice then suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason opener.
* In 3 ½ seasons, two-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff played in 52 of 54 games. Then came a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in Week 9.
* It gets worse. Two weeks later, quarterback Alex Smith suffered a horrific leg injury that ended his season and put the veteran’s career – and health – in jeopardy. Hopefully, Smith’s day-to-day life turns normal over time. His absence throws Washington’s plans into disarray with uncertainty at the game’s most crucial position.
* The Redskins were leading the NFC East at 6-3 and poised for a playoff berth for the first time since 2015 when Smith went down. They lost six of their seven final games and missed the postseason.
* The last weeks of the regular season went off the rails on and off the field. The organization claimed controversial linebacker Reuben Foster off waivers, made significant changes with their business executives, and released starting safety D.J. Swearinger. Another safety, Montae Nicholson, was arrested for assault and battery. On Tuesday, Maryland governor Larry Hogan poured on some more bad news for those hoping for an upgraded stadium.
* Washington opened the 2018-19 campaign with goals of 50 wins and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. Then it began the year losing six of seven. Reports soon emerged of infighting during a heated practice. Though they remain on the edge of the playoff chase, the Wizards’ record (24-33) has not been better than four games under .500 all season.
* We learned in training camp free agent addition Dwight Howard would miss the time with back/buttocks issues. The projected starting center played in nine games before undergoing back surgery in November. Forward Markieff Morris suffered a neck injury in late December and missed several weeks before the Wizards dealt him to New Orleans ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
* The significant pain involves John Wall. The Wizards knew they would play the remainder of the season without their five-time All-Star after heel surgery on Jan. 8. At least Wall would return for the start of the 2019-20 season. Oops. One slip in his bathroom changed everything. Wall, whose $170 million supermax contract starts next season, ruptured his left Achilles and now faces an approximate 12-month rehab following Tuesday’s surgery.
* The organization, facing roster and salary cap concerns, altered its plans by trading forward Otto Porter, the team’s highest-paid player, before the deadline.
* The highs from the Stanley Cup success remain but wobbles emerged in pursuit of a repeat performance. Most notably Washington lost seven in a row and eight of nine in January. Though the Capitals are 3-1 over the next four games, they remain second in the Metropolitan division behind the New York Islanders.
* Speaking of the Islanders, that’s where Barry Trotz landed after the Cup-winning head coach and the organization parted away shortly after that ultimate triumph. Controversial in the moment, Trotz’s exit could take on additional dimensions should he lead the long-suffering Islanders to a deep playoff run.
That’s just what happened with the local MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL teams. We also had:
* D.C. United star Wayne Rooney, the fulcrum for their successful season, arrested at Dulles Airport in January on a public intoxication charge.
* Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne suffering a hyperextended left knee during the WNBA playoffs that limited her effectiveness during the team’s first appearance in the league finals.
Are you still not convinced in a new D.C. curse? Whatever, be sensible, but something is off even for those tracking the local sports scene over decades.
This stretch is just some nasty blip if we’re lucky. Maybe Harper stays with the Nationals. Perhaps the Redskins steady themselves by drafting Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray and the Wizards lottery-luck their way into Duke phenom Zion Williamson should their playoff push fall short. We can imagine the Capitals finding puck luck as the playoffs move close, right? It’s a bit early to be panicking for them anyway.
For now, be careful out there. Something is amiss ever since that wondrous night in Las Vegas. Of course, Vegas is called Sin City for a reason.
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