Capitals Mailbag Part 2: In defense of Washington fans

J.J. Regan
NBC Sports Washington

It's time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday's Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 below.

Have a Caps question you want to be answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

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Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Nathan S. writes: Lots of recent debate among DC sports media and fans about how Nats fans just aren't as passionate as in many other cities and that DC fans in general aren't great sports fans. The Caps fans seem an obvious exception to that although the atmosphere was often tense in playoffs before team beat the Penguins in the 2018 playoffs. In your view, how does Capital One Arena compare to other cities in the regular season on average? In playoffs, the place can get both raucous and tense although Canes fans were definitely louder in 2019 playoffs.

The attack on D.C. sports fans is a topic I could write about endlessly for hours. I do not know why Washington as a city seems to get singled out, but it is completely ridiculous. First, the Nationals rank 16th in MLB attendance above teams like Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. I do not know why a team should be bashed for having average attendance, especially for a team that only returned to D.C. in 2005 and does not have the same history as a team like the Yankees or Dodgers.

The reason why baseball is experimenting with clocks and robot umpires is that interest in the entire sport of baseball is down, not because of a random Nationals game. That is totally overblown.

The city of Washington is a transient city. There are a lot of people here from a lot of other places who come here to live and it is also an easy place to get to, traffic aside. The result is that more traveling fans end up going to games meaning a lot of Cowboy fans, Phillies fans and Penguins fans. That is a reflection of the city's population and geography, not its fan bases.

You ever try to get to Pittsburgh? It's not easy. It's no wonder why they have such a great home crowd.

I do not know why in the national scene, Cleveland cornered the market on lowly sports teams for so long. From 2005 to 2018, the Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals five times and won once. When the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, they did not just snap a championship drought from 1998. The fact is that no Washington team from the four major sports even made it to a conference or league final since 1998. Everyone looks at Cleveland fans and says good for you then they trash Washington for being a garbage sports city.

At some point, teams have to justify their fan's faith in them. Blind faith is not the sign of a good fanbase, it is a sign of stupidity.

Sorry for the tangent there, but I find this whole topic ridiculous. No one could say Philadelphia's fans are not passionate, but I would rather have Washington sports fans and not have to worry about someone intentionally throwing up on a child because they cheered for the wrong team when I go to games.

For Caps fans specifically, the only legitimate criticism comes from how the crowd reacts in the playoffs. After years of playoff disappointments, a sense of trepidation began to hit in the postseason. Whenever something went wrong, fans would quickly become deflated. The arena would always be packed, loud and raucous at the start, but the moment something went wrong it would take the wind out of the Caps faithful. Excitement turned to panic, which turned to cynicism. When Washington finally got past the Penguins in 2018, people could sense the tide was turning and the crowd responded. Those crowds for the conference final and Stanley Cup Final were great and they were loud. That sense of trepidation was gone, even in moments like Game 6 against Tampa Bay when the Caps had lost three straight and were facing elimination. The crowd was with them then and it was with them last year even when locked in a tighter than expected series with the Carolina Hurricanes. I wonder if the honeymoon period from the Stanley Cup will fade this year in the postseason, but we will have to wait and see.

But in terms of support, besides the postseason panic, the Caps have a great fanbase overall and this is evident on the road as well as at home. I went to a game in Pittsburgh in 2009 and if I had to estimate the number of Caps fans there I would put it somewhere in the hundreds. This changed drastically in the last few years, even before Washington won the Cup. I went to a game in San Jose in 2017 and I would estimate about 15 to 20-percent of the crowd was wearing red.

Washington fans are great, they just get a bad rap for whatever reason.

Roger B. writes: I don't understand the Caps' fascination with Christian Djoos. At 5'11 and 170, his lack of size and strength compromise the Caps' ability to win puck battles and clear the crease. Unlike other younger blueliners in the organization, he doesn't project to being a top 4. Why not trade him to get under the cap and keep Pheonix Copley as insurance for Braden Holtby in 2019?

I'm not sure "fascination" is the best way to put it. He is coming into this season likely competing with Jonas Siegenthaler for the last spot in the lineup and I doubt he will play 82 games this season. I do not think that qualifies as "fascination."

The Caps played 24 playoff games in 2018 on their way to the Cup. Djoos played in 22 of those games. The two he did not play were losses to Columbus.

Djoos' size will never not be a factor and he clearly handled it better in 2017-18 than he did in 2018-19. There is no denying he got pushed around more so last season, but he also had a serious injury and I do not think he was totally 100-percent when he returned.

Djoos has had one good season and one bad season. I think wanting to see which defenseman is closer to the truth is entirely reasonable, it just stings a bit because I think the arbitrator's award of $1.25 million caught everyone off-guard.

Having said that, it is fair to point out that the Caps have a boatload of left-shot defensemen both on the roster and among their prospects. The reason why you do not trade Djoos now, however, is because you would not get anything back for him. At all.

Djoos is coming off a bad year, he has only two years of NHL experience so you are not sure which player he really is, he is undersized and every general manager in the league knows Washington needs to shed salary. The Caps would be getting no value in a trade whatsoever.

If the roster is better of with Djoos on it in a No. 6/7 role and he has no trade value then there is no point in trading him. If the team can make the salary cap work they are better off with Djoos as a No. 7 than Tyler Lewington.

Greg C. writes: What goes into a team's cap total besides salaries? I ask because, according to Cap Friendly (as of 8/13), the Caps' combined salaries (not including Jonas Siegenthaler's) for 19-20 total $81,000,128, but their cap hit is $82,864,294. What makes up the difference?

Not sure why you would not include Siegenthaler's. The Caps will certainly want to carry seven defensemen into the season and Siegenthaler will almost certainly be one of those seven.

If you add Siegenthaler's salary, you get $81,714,294. Then you have to add $1.15 million for a carryover bonus overage penalty from last season.

Performance bonuses do not count against the salary cap until they are earned. When bonuses are earned, the team still needs to fit within the salary cap. If it does not, then the bonus overage slides to the next season and count as dead space.

Bonuses put Washington over the cap last season and the remaining $1.15 million carries over to 2019-20. Add that into the team salaries and that is why the Caps are at $82,864,294.

I honestly have no idea how to answer this question, I just included it because of the response from Bottoms Up.

Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want to be read and answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: In defense of Washington fans originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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