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Capitals owner Ted Leonsis thinks team’s Stanley Cup window will be open for ’10-15 years’

Jul 14, 2011, 11:32 AM EDT

Ted Leonsis Getty Images

You’ve probably heard this spiel before, but that doesn’t take away from how true it really is: our society focuses on instant gratification more than ever. The Internet alone houses so many venues of immediate analysis (or more precisely, complaints) to tear down good – but supposedly not good enough – things before they ever have a chance to reach their highest potential.

An enormous chunk of the hockey world pleaded with the Washington Capitals to fire head coach Bruce Boudreau. If you ask many fans, they’ll probably characterize Boudreau as a coach who failed over and over again. The thing is, people lose track of the fact that the Capitals experiment hasn’t been going on as long as some might think. Boudreau took over during an abbreviated 2007-08 season, guiding them to the first of what has been four straight Southeast Division titles. My feeling is that with the youth, current structure and still-impressive regular season successes of this team in mind, it only makes sense to give Bellicose Bruce at least one more shot.

Being successful might occasionally boil down to having the courage to ignore the demands of the angry mob while keeping the ship steady. Luckily for the long-term prospects of the Caps franchise, owner Ted Leonsis is willing to take a bigger picture outlook for his team.

“Last year the underreported story of our team was how many young players joined our team,” Leonsis said Wednesday in a speech at the National Press Club. “We probably took steps back because we brought in so many young players.”

(snip)

“They’re not even in their prime,” Leonsis said of the young core. “The team will make the playoffs – as I promised – 10 to 15 years in a row. That’s what I believe.”

There’s no denying the notion that most of the team’s core players probably have some their best years in front of them. Superstar Alex Ovechkin is only 25 years old, Nicklas Backstrom is 23, their goalies of the future are in their 20’s and excessively-maligned blueliner Mike Green is 25.

Meanwhile, Washington also has the flexibility to “blow things up” to a smaller extent if things go wrong next season. The Capitals’ two most criticized semi-stars will be free agents after 2011-12, with Green possibly becoming a restricted free agent and polarizing sniper Alex Semin primed for unrestricted free agency. The one year plan for support players seems more obvious when you combine Green/Semin with a group that includes top goalie Tomas Vokoun, double-edged sword D-man Dennis Wideman, ugly goal scoring machine Mike Knuble and speedy winger Jason Chimera.

With that in mind, it’s important to notice that Leonsis preached the importance of seeing how things work out next year.

“Analytically our coach has a fantastic record, I think the best record in the NHL during the regular season during his tenure,” Leonsis said. “That’s a pretty strong statement. At the same time, our team hasn’t gone deep enough into the playoffs.

“We have to look as a franchise, as the protector of the asset, would we be better off as a franchise changing a player, firing the coach. It’s not an emotional reaction. It just can’t be done. Through the analytics, we thought it’s better to keep the team and the franchise and continuity together and see how we do this year.”

It’s refreshing to see an owner who is willing to take a risk by following his gut rather than bowing to conventional wisdom. The league changes often enough that there’s no guarantee the Capitals will make the playoffs for the next decade-plus, but their front office seems bright enough to realize that it’s only “now or never” in the eyes of anxious fans.

(And, yes, maybe when it comes to Boudreau’s own future.)

  1. jmv5010 - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Leonsis is always good for excuses. It’s either because the team was too young or ran into a hot goalie that they haven’t gotten where people expect a team that talented should.

    How old were the core players on the Pens or Blackhawks when they won their recent cups…?

    They will probably make the playoffs for the next 10 straight years, but just simply say your team wasn’t the better team and move on.

    • watermelon1 - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      When a team runs through the entire league like the Capitals did 2 seasons ago, you can’t exactly say they got beat by a better team. Bottom line is, Halak was just on fire and the Capitals couldn’t score despite controlling the puck most of the series.

      The Capitals window might be open for a while, but they still have to climb through it. Mike Green needs to go, but they waited too long to get as much value as they could have received. At this point, even getting nothing makes them a better team. The defense needs to get better, no matter who the goalie ends up being.

      The Penguins were devastated with injuries this season, so I assumed the Capitals really had their chance to run through the playoffs. Obviously it didn’t happen. This upcoming season is going to be really interesting, especially as the start, with all the player movement this offseason.

      • hystoracle - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:59 PM

        What happened this year? Swept out of the playoffs by a team they play 6 times a year. OOPs!

        Declaring you will win a cup in the next 10-15 years is a pretty long stretch of time.

  2. rabidbillsfan - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    IMO, coaches around the sporting world get the short end of the stick. They are the scapegoats for poor play of the multi-million dollar superstars. It takes time to fully institute “your” system, give these coaches time, ecspecially ones that have had success like the Boudreau. Yea, no stanley cups, but only one team gets it a year, and not only do you need solid coaching but you need some bounces to go your way as well.

    • watermelon1 - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:17 PM

      Agreed that coaches are often the scapegoats… but you have to question why Pittsburgh can get Sidney Crosby wide open around the goal all the time, but Ovechkin is double-teamed almost always and the rest of the Capitals still can’t find an open shot. Either the rest of their players are that dumb, or the coach’s scheme is just not working.

      • jpelle82 - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:03 PM

        ovechkin is a one trick pony that has been exposed. he isn’t double teamed, he skates into trouble and is too ignorant to read defenses. the whole shoot through defenders legs trick didnt seem to work too well this year. he didnt seem to adjust either. he acts like he is just too good to get better. if he had spent any of the off season time studying the game he plays or hitting the gym maybe he couldve scored more goals. this is 2 years in a row now we have seen a decline in the ovechkin scoring. crosby went out and said “i’m going to work on my shot all off season so i can score more goals” and came back and scored the most goals the next season (09-10). he played 30+ games less than ovechkin this past year and scored the same number of goals. you wonder how crosby gets open and ovechkin doesnt? crosby is a scholar of the game and works hard. ovechkin works hard on his clothing line and gold chain collection while he plays xbox all off season.

      • hystoracle - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:02 PM

        @jpelle82 – I went to my local watering hole and asked the bar keep for an “Ovechkin”. He asked “What’s an Ovechkin?” I replied, ” A white Russian without a cup.”

  3. mpops86 - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Youth is no excuse for choking. Most of Boston’s top players are “young” by Ted’s definition: Bergeron, Krejci, Horton, Lucic, Marchand, Seguin, and McQuaid are all 26 or younger.

    Just another excuse from a meddling owner.

    • bcjim - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:12 PM

      Meddling owner? Get out of here with your ignorance and make no mistake, you Tim Thomased your way to a cup and that is fine. There are lots of ways to win a cup. That collection of goons and filler you listed above would be nowhere with out Thomas though.

      • jpelle82 - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:03 PM

        i didnt know thomas scored goals…

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