Ted, Shall We Have a Wager on Next Spring?

The owner isn’t thrilled with me. Infrequently but once in a while we squabble, always respectfully. He and I share a passion for seeing greatness on the ice here; we just might go about its architecture in different ways.

I’d like to see the Capitals annually look a heck of a lot more like the Hershey Bears: quality goaltending, two parts skill, one part snarl, a formidible blueline, an overdose of chemistry in the room. And inspiring, adaptable coaching.

Maybe, just maybe, in year six of Ovechkin, we’ll at last see that in D.C. I say Alex has been made to wait long enough for the support parts he needs. (There’s something less than a frenzy to get Jose Theodore signed this July, I notice.)

Yahoo’s Ryan Lambert this weekend authored a highly thoughtful overview on this week’s free agency feast. His thesis is one I wholeheartedly agree with: in general, most often, teams grossly overpay for unrestricted free agents each July. But there are exceptions — astute signings that make a significant impact, and those are fantastically important because signing UFAs, unlike trades, come at no cost to an organization’s prospect or roster assets. I took particular note of Lambert’s observations on Anton Volchenkov’s contract:

“The market for a guy like Anton Volchenkov, as it turned out, was just about what it should have been: a far cry from the astronomical figures that were being thrown around before the summer began.”

A good signing, I say. Time will tell indeed.

But with the owner’s blog file I have before me an interesting conflict of philosophies. The owner has asked for the benefit of the doubt, for even more patience. Fine. But let’s have some sport with our differing views.

If Mr. Leonsis is right, and his team needs merely another season’s experience to break through to elite status in the league (as judged by getting in done in the glory season), if his Charmin-soft team advances to the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, I’ll write a check for $500 to his charity of choice. Heck, I’ll make good on that irrespective of any roster tinkerings between now and next February. I’m a good-natured sort in such matters. All his team has to do next season is what was expected of them this past, and I’ll pony up some serious dough.

And I’ll add to the fun. If his blueline next spring looks as it does right now, with these seven guys and with Jeff Schultz partnered with Mike Green up top, and they merely get to the conference finals, I’ll make that check out for even grand.

However — however! — if any of the Devils, Flyers, or Penguins, this past week’s big spenders in free agency, take out the Caps next postseason, and thereby make this summer’s agony for me look like hot tubbing with hot twins, Ted, you put me and a blogger of my choice on a plane and lodge us in Hawaii for a week, to recover. That expense will be the least of your worries.

You in?

This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Calder Cup, Eastern Conference, Hershey Bears, National Hockey League, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ted Leonsis, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Ted, Shall We Have a Wager on Next Spring?

  1. John says:

    Excellent writing. I’ve been a bit disappointed in Ted recently. Throwing OFB under the bus in a good natured way would be alright. I didn’t detect good nature in his piece.

  2. OvieTracker says:

    Haven’t we heard this, or something similar, from Mr. Leonsis before? He must have the patience of Job, and he expects Caps fans to feel the same. Reading his “explanation’ brings to mind the Pink Floyd song “Time” which laments how 10 years have gone by, no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun, etc etc etc. I hope we’re not singing this tune down the road, 10 years into Ovie’s stay with the Capitals, lamenting yet another lost season, missed opportunities, and all that jazz. I wonder if Ovie has the patience of his team’s owner; I can’t say that I do.

  3. Caps fan says:

    The money that’d be needed for a week long Hawaii vacation could buy a lot of crap like Crocs, iPads, and fattening foods, and since Ted has a lot more passion for those things than building a decent hockey team I doubt he’ll take up your offer.

  4. Paul says:

    You do know that Mr. Leonsis isn’t going to take this bet. What he’ll counter with is that he’ll match your $500 charitable donation with the same. He’ll pay $500 to the charity of your choice.

  5. MJ says:

    This is by far the best post I’ve ever seen on any site. It’s about time blog that is nationally known and featured on such sites as puck daddy, exposed this team. Apparently, GMGM is content with having a defense made up of two rookies, a guy with a serious eye injury, Green and Schultz (schultz who has had one decent year in his life) and then two guys in Erskine and Sloan who don’t belong on an adult men’s league team, let alone an NHL team. Combine that with Bruce’s lack of understanding adapting and changing his “system”, as well as his obsession with Flash and you have a combination for a bad year…oh yea, did I mention that he doesn’t take advantage of last change at home? Of course nothing will happen as Ted has let McPhee skate by for years, even though since 1998, in all the years he’s made the playoffs, only one time has he advanced and that was against a team that couldn’t score if we played with an empty net.

    I fully expect TB (with Yzerman at the Helm) ATL (with a GM who understands the concept of trading) and Carolina (with a full year of Cam Ward) to be right there to win the SE division. Oh well, at least we expect it from the Caps now, for them to do anything BUT lose in the first round would be a shock.

  6. The Peerless says:

    The window on this team, as currently constituted, is this year. At year end, Semin’s contract is up, and I think it 50-50 at best he returns (if he isn’t traded first). Knuble’s is up, and I put his chances of return at less than 50-50. Poti’s is up — he will not be back. Laich… it’s all in the contract. Bradley… not likely to return. If the Caps do not do it this year, it might be a couple of years as they work in young guys and acquire new role player parts.

  7. Chris says:

    I heard the same thing from Ted before this season started when I met with him in the parking lot of Kettler. He said to please have patience and that this is a work in progress that will pay off. (paraphrased). At what point though does this experiment no linger work and do they have to go back to the drawing boards to reexamine the philosophy and methods? As age creeps in with our players and superstars they get experience but at the same time they are one game closer to hanging up the skates. While we can’t have immediate results we need to have something more than two first round and one second round exit. I love the commitment of management to their ideals but at some point you have to tweak it to win it.

  8. Drew says:

    Three years ago, OFB was the first Caps-related blog that I added to my RSS aggregator. Today, this post is the reason I’m finally removing it from my feed.

    Over those three years, I have learned that Ted and the Capitals are perhaps the most forward-thinking and new media-friendly of NHL owners. Maybe among all major sports. Consequently, he has offered access to the press box and opened avenues to expanded coverage of the team by folks who appear to be just like me — long-time season ticket holders and fans with heartfelt opinions, maybe a flair (or curse) for ostentatious wordsmithy and a modicum of journalistic ability. In a word, we are all CONSTITUENTS. And we’re all on a great ride watching this team develop into, hopefully, a champion.

    It’s also my opinion that the best of those bloggers remain gracious about this level of access while attempting to turn out great stories, illuminate aspects of the Capitals that readers otherwise wouldn’t know or that the MSM ignores, and maybe even discern some of the ultimate “truths” about the sport.

    John, you can remove this comment if you want, but this wager contrivance strikes me as nothing more than attention-grabbing. It adds nothing to the discourse. Ted has called you out by name and shined a bit of the spotlight on you, and you’re happily poking the bear to prolong the exposure. But to phrase it in these terms, treating it like you two are old buddies making a friendly wager in the president’s box, is absurd coming from a self-appointed force of anti-MSM rhetoric. Other commenters might applaud you, but if you embroil yourself in this kind of dialog, you are no longer one of us. You become an elite, and in doing so, you discredit the entire anti-MSM premise of this blog.

  9. BONZAI says:

    Solid post as usual. Everything I’ve read here, on puck daddy, espn or elsewhere has been that the Caps have not seriously targeted or even been rumored to be after someone in the free agent pool. That clearly signals their intention to continue the draft, develop, and promote from within policy. I wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts on free agency. Many teams grossly overplay for players, but Volchenkov for 4.25 mil annually is definitely a contract the Caps could have absorbed while retaining the RFA’s they wanted. Are GMGM and Teddy completely gun shy on free agency after getting burned a couple times (see: Jagr, J. and Nylander, M.)?

    Also, while reading Leonsis’ post all I could think of was Darth Vader, “I find you lack of faith disturbing.”

  10. Drew2 says:

    And I’ll gladly add this blog to offset Drew’s removal. I’d rather follow a writer who is willing to criticize their team than an owner who freaks out at every piece of criticism he sees, is willing to threaten a fan’s job over comments he doesn’t like, and other various doucheties (HAMMER!). There’s nothing wrong with being critical or with making friendly bets. There’s something wrong with an owner who has a clear habit of going off on writers and even fans for being critical. He needs to get the f*** over it.

  11. sasha says:

    Adaptable coach. Now THAT’s a thought! You’d think that when a powerplay was unsucessful say um, 5 times, adjustments would be made. Is the Cap’s coaching staff too stupid or too stubborn? Either is simply not acceptable.

    For what Ovechkin and Backstrom has done for this city, they deserve much more than a coaching staff that can’t adjust, can’t motivate, and can’t discipline. Pointing to the President Trophy as a success story baffles me. You could win the President’s Trophy 35 years in a row and still not have a Cup and the Trophy would be meaningless, no? For once, I’d like to see the Caps ownership instill a culture of success that establishes earning the Cup as the primary goal, not advancing farther. And obviously, that goal was not reached this year.

  12. Zach says:

    Really very dissapointed in your posts OFB. You sound like the rich girl who didn’t get what she wanted this year for Christmas. We all know that the team didn’t do as well as it should have this post-season, however, they did finish first during the season, no? Does that not seem promising? Why are you griping about the D, when they are probably focusing on who will play at 2nd line center? This free agent class sucked anyways. If the Caps had signed Anton Volchenkov, would that have been the cherry on top that put this team over the top? I don’t think so.

    Oh yeah, and a real fair bet you proposed. I’ll risk $500 if you risk a $10,000 trip for me. You’re a real barrel of fun, jerk.

  13. Steve says:

    So the bet is: Ted gets one team, you get three? And Ted has an added encumbrance where he only wins if the blueline is not changed? And for this stacked deck he has to put up 10k to your $500? Sounds legit.

    This is obviously just some half baked publicity stunt and not a real attempt to add to the discourse.

  14. OvieTracker says:

    “at least we expect it from the Caps now, for them to do anything BUT lose in the first round would be a shock.”

    I’m there with you MJ. That’s exactly where I’m at regarding this team after all the heartbreak and disappointments. I’d rather expect the worst and then be pleasantly surprised than keep my hopes at an exalted level and then come crashing down to Earth when the Caps flame out in the postseason.

    @ZACH: I assume from your post that “finishing first” in the regular season is not only promising but satisfactory. It is not for me and I suspect not even close for most Caps fans. Promises of something better will only get a team–and its self-satisfied owner–so far. Eventually the moment arrives when it’s time to put up or shut up. The Caps have arrived IMO, it’s time for more positive POSTSEASON results.

  15. Caps fan says:

    “We all know that the team didn’t do as well as it should have this post-season, however, they did finish first during the season, no? Does that not seem promising?”

    Shut up Ted.

    “Over those three years, I have learned that Ted and the Capitals are perhaps the most forward-thinking and new media-friendly of NHL owners”

    Too bad they suck at building a winning hockey team.

  16. cajuncook says:

    So the winningest hockey team during the regular season last year is owned and mananged by a crew which sucks at building a winning hockey team, and this opinion is based off a failure in a seven games series, while the Capitals were slight favorites (at ~20%, mind you) to win the Cup going into the playoffs.

    That is incredible stupidity and shortsightedness.

  17. Phil says:

    I enjoy this blog and I enjoy Ted’s blog. But in this case I have to side with Ted. Caps fans need to all simmer down. The goal is to have a chance to win EVERY year, not just blow your brains out this season. If we had signed Volchenkov, what happens in two year when Green is up, Carlson and Varly and Azlner need new deals??? I think Ted and GMGM have learned their lessons well from Nylander. And for the record I’d like to give them a shoutout for NOT resigning HUET. Many Caps fans were clamouring for this two years ago (just like this year with dmen and a 2nd line center). Look at what that signing has done to Chicago. It’s a disaster. In a capped league, to be competitve every year, you have to resist the siren lure of July 1st. It’s almost never worth it.

    Don’t let the doubters get you down Teddy! There are tons of Caps fans who realize that you are pursuing the smart and enlightened course of action.

    Remember Caps fans, even the Wings had disasterous 1st round exits in back to back years in the early 90’s. They then proceeded to win 4 Cups in a decade.

  18. Dennis Reynolds says:

    In the spirit of betting, who wants to bet that Steve, Zach, and Drew are all the same person?

  19. Tim Higgins says:

    I don’t understand the Caps philosophy at all. I truly believe there is an institutional resistance to playing physical hockey. I understand that the days of of a one dimensional fighter are over but ask yourself this question; do you really think the Caps could have made it past Philadelphia last sason in the playoffs? No way! The Caps are entirely too soft and focus way too much attention on offese to go deep in the playoffs. R. J. Umberger is laughing his butt off now!

  20. Psychoholic Slag says:

    I don’t think we need to sit back and say “remain calm, all is well”. I’ve always had a bad feeling about McPhee, calling him McSleep on many occasions for his lack of reaction time. I’m really surprised that people think McPhee is doing a good job. He’s not that much better than Poile was, IMO.

  21. PGA5 says:

    Nice post. The disturbing thing is, that many teams that did go on to win Cups (like the Nordiques/Avs and Wings) went through embarrassing exits prior to winning. So any ownership can say “well, look at the _____? They didn’t win right away.” It’s true, but weak. It’s also kind of silly for people to whine about “the blogger said he’d give $500 but Ted has to pay $10,000?” I doubt if the blogger is a billionaire with total control of two professional sports franchises and an arena.

    I like the OFB post because there’s some heat on the franchise from media to actually win. Most media would rather curry the team’s favor to get stories versus actually causing a ruckus. It’s about time someone demanded this team do something to win.

    I bet Boudreau would make some changes if he knew his job was on the line.

  22. PGA5 says:

    That said, I think the Capitals could make some improvements without having to pay out a six year contract to Volchenkov (which didn’t make sense, to be honest). NJ’s truly going to regret that; the guy was already beginning to break down over the past three seasons. Not everyone has to be a cap-buster.

  23. sean says:

    If Teddy doesn’t like what he reads here he must not like what is on his own team’s boards. All people are saying is that we need a few pieces not a complete overhaul. We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, we might have something in the works. Also we have a limited amount of cap space with a cap penalty of 1.7m to deal with. So I will be patient, but like the bet says, if we get tossed before the Conference Finals because of lack of grit, I will be very upset we didn’t get a banger or 2 for the blue-line.

  24. Hunter for coach says:

    The biggest problem with all of the discussion about the Caps and the playoffs is that many of us who are real old time hockey fans now realize that neither McPhee or Bruce are going to win the cup. Those Red Wing teams people are comparing the Caps to had much more heart than our club. They also had a coach in Scotty Bowman who didn’t put up with wimps like Green, Semin and Flash. You got tough or you left. You learned to play “team defense” (like the Habs just did) or you left. He also made immediate adjustments. This coach is in over his head, if we’re talking Stanley Cup. McPhee brought in Butch Cassidy, when most in NHL hockey management knew he was a drunk.Why did most of the GMs in hockey know that Mario had his foot on Jagr’s head during those cup runs, when ours didn’t.Jagr was a known head case !! The performance of this team in the playoffs the past 25 years is mind numbing. When A.May flat out says he doesn’t talk to former Caps who didn’t play their hearts out when we had the Pens down 3-1, right after that loss,we’re done. No Stanley Cup with this group. May is a heart and soul guy, who is basically saying their are guys on the ice who didn’t try their best.That’s a heavy statement. He goes on to show Semin high lights and remark, “No second effort at all there”. How can we win the cup ? A bad GM, a Hershey – level coach, and way too many wimps and head cases. What was all that moaning about Green not being on the Canadian Olympic team ? The Caps organization really looks silly.

  25. Hunter for coach says:

    Hey Phil, What disaster in Chicago? They just won the whole taco!To compare our guys to those Redwings teams is a joke.


    “what happens in two year when Green is up” He shoulde be let go that will improve the D by at least 25 %. He has to score to make up for his poor play in the defensive zone.

    Even the Oilers cup winning teams in the 80’s had some snarl with the likes of Messier and McSorley. And as far as Detroit goes, who among the Caps current D will take the role of a shutdown knockdown player like Lidstrom or Chelios, or what Pronger did for the Flyers this year ?

  27. Without debating the merits of challenging the owner to a performance wager, your basic premise that the Capitals as currently constructed will not have playoff success. I think I am more in the camp of the current philosophy than that of looking to make a big splash in free agency. The fact of the matter is that the NHL playoffs are a beast all to themselves and success and failure during the second season is a complicated and ever changing formula.

    Consider what the Capitals have in hand: a President’s Trophy, Back-to-back Calder Cups from the Bears, the best player in the world centered by one of the top young talents in the league, two emerging goalies, a new D-pair that includes someone that knows what it means to score a golden goal, character guys that score 20 goals + and an albeit mercurial wing with a wicked shot. There are at 26 other teams that would swap everything they’ve got for the Capitals organization and talent.

    A better recipe for 2010-11 is to find out what the new kids have to offer in an extended audition (up to deadline day) and then make the moves necessary to gear up for April. The one thing I do strongly agree with you on is the BB situation. His inability to manage the adjustments to beat an inferior team even with a hot goalie is the reason for the early exit. With all his media charms, if Big B cannot take advantage of his physical mismatches, then we will be having this debate again in 12 months and you may (or may not) be in Hawaii.

  28. Thaddeus Guy says:

    This team is doomed to failure if this is the outlook that management has. I don’t know about you, Phil, but I’d trade contending every year for a cup. Ted, GMGM, Bruce, and Bruce’s boys from Hershey are mostly a joke.

    Those of you who want a president’s cup winner every year instead of a cup deserve them.

  29. Duncan says:

    Sadly, I think you’ll be in HI. Been a Caps fan for a long, long time (since 1980). This team has more talent than any we’ve had before, but there’s a dearth of heart. I don’t know why, especially because he’s so rich, but it seems to me like Ted’s more about squeezing as much money out of the fan base as possible and much less interested in creating a true winner on the ice. Sure, we’ll be competitive, but without the snarl, we’ll likely fold like a cheap suit come spring-time. Ted will get his sellouts, sell his books at the games to his fans, charge $500 for golden tickets to the Caps convention, try to cross-market the Wizards to loyal Caps fans, preach that he’s all about doing good things for people, and the like. But it remains to be seen if he’ll do what it takes to bring in the grit needed to win a Cup. Let’s hope I am dead wrong. Maybe he’s got a plan that includes trying to build a playoff winner. Unfortunately, if he does, we’ve not seen it yet.

  30. Andrew says:

    “The Caps have arrived IMO, it’s time for more positive POSTSEASON results.”

    HAHAHA you don’t “arrive” by winning the Southeast Division, the President’s Trophy, and crashing out in the playoffs again, you dolt.

    Congrats on meaningless regular season awards.

  31. muddapucker says:

    All I can tell you is the Caps seem to me to get “beat down”. They really need a key physical player to rally around. The had one, but the league neutered him.

    That player was Ovechkin, but I have to tell you the league has sterilized him. I don’t blame Ovechkin, after the crap the league put him through last year I wouldn’t know how to play either.

    If the league applied the same standard to Gordie Howe, he would have never made the Hall of Fame. In that sense, the league did as much as Montreal to keep the Caps from advancing. They took a way our best player and left us with a confused player who no longer played with his heart and soul but had to think about every hit and its possible ramifications.

    Ovechkin was not the same player at the end of the year that he was earlier in the year. I hope he returns in the same reckless balls to the walls form he previously played with.

    This whole discourse may have been a moot point if the league had let a throwback to old time hockey play his game.

  32. Geo says:

    I saw Edmonton dumped veteran D Sheldon Souray through waivers. I assume his $4.5M salary isn’t something the Caps could stomach. He mighta been nice as a one-year rental just as far as being a big rig who clears the crease, even if he’s injury prone and his minus rating was horrible over 37 games this season (http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/players/55108/Sheldon_Souray).

    I’m guessing he got a monster contract after his 26-38-64pt season with Montreal in 2006. He was fine the one season he remained healthy in Edmonton.

  33. Hunter for coach says:

    Bill in Damascus is right.BB couldn’t figure out how to beat an above average goal tender. The Flyers ate that goal tender for lunch. When Hasek and the Sabers were picked to fly by us in the playoffs in 98, the media asked Hasek what happened with the Caps.Hasek said , “Half the pucks that went in, I never really saw that well”. We beat the best goaltender in the history of the NHL in 98, with grit. If we had one or two more goal scorers, we could have beat the Wings. We got swept, but those games four were competitive.McPhee did NOT build that 98 team. We need a real NHL coach, more like the guy McPhee chased out of here: Ron Wilson. Did McPhee see how talented AND tough that US Olympic team was ? No, he was too busy moaning about Mike (game over) Green not making the Canadian team. (Game over for the Caps, Mike)This is all going to end badly. This owner can’t see that this GM AND coach are not Cup winners.This isn’t a hockey town, but many of us who grew up with sport know that GMGM and BB are not up to the task.

  34. PGA5 says:

    Wow, a Sheldon Souray post. Let’s see, $4.5M/year. Released by a horrible squad. Terrible +/-. Let’s bring him in, he’s got to be better than whatever the Capitals have.

    I’m one of those old time Caps fans who remember Rick Green, Langway, Gartner and all those guys. This team is a far cry from that one, in that this one is a lot closer to winning a Cup than the 80’s and early 90’s teams. This team has talent, and there’s no substitute for that. Those 80’s teams just didn’t have enough talent. The Isles that won 4 Cups in a row were not going away easily.

    I give Boudreau a lot less slack than McPhee, although his inability to get this team some grit is a real sore point. Boudreau is looking worse each year, despite the team’s regular season success. I’d like to see if he’s really learned anything from these post-season failures

  35. penguin pete says:

    obviously, i’m an outsider here, but i’d love to know what other caps blog drew will choose to read? outside of the consistent, erroneous descriptions of ovechkin as the best player in the world, i don’t think there is a better team-based blog on the internet. i go to the pensblog if i want to chuckle, but if i want to read about hockey by people who love hockey, i’m coming here.

    and as far as mr. leonsis goes, were i a caps fan (just threw up in my mouth a little bit) i’d be wondering what he’s doing perusing the blogs. again, as an outsider, he may do this often, so perhaps i’m out of line. but, the guy who made millions getting news/info out to people via the internet should surely understand that patience is long gone. in entertainment, politics, news, and yes, sports.

    kudos to p&b, and hopefully you end up in hawaii. (just don’t post some picture from the beach, wearing a caps jersey and hanging a penguin doll from a noose.)

  36. RSL says:

    “And haven’t we earned a benefit of the doubt” – Ted.

    Well, the Caps have won one playoff series since you bought the team, so no, you haven’t earned anything.

  37. Well I’m not taking Drew to Hawaii, that’s for sure.

    I agree very much with the view articulated above that Ovi wasn’t anywhere near the same player at season’s end that he was in the beginning, and that transformation concerns me. Even his own coach threw him under the bus a bit when others about the league were piling on. Free Ovi, I say. Then get him just two more bad@sses to play with. (One has to be on the blueline.) You’ve got Brads and Chimera, who bring it most nights, but at least two more sandpaper players are needed. A roster’s toughness can be upgraded with just a couple of sage acquisitions.

  38. OvieTracker says:

    YES YES YES! I agree with all the above posters who noted the change in Ovie’s play last season. He WAS the best player on the planet at the beginning of the season, but then morphed into a shadow of his former self by season’s end.

    Blame the Team Russia Olympics fiasco, blame the Campbell hit/suspension, blame the media piling on and beating him down, messing with his head, accusing him of being a dirty player and all the rest of the BS Ovie had to put up with. Add to that Coach BB is clueless about how to best utilize his star player’s time on the ice and make adjustments to how other teams employed gang up tactics to slow Ovie down. The recipe for playoff disaster was already there in place before Ovie himself finished the job with some ill-advised behavior and decisions before and during the playoffs opening round with the Habs.

  39. Isobel says:

    I must ask: what happens if the Flyers or Penguins, what with one of them likely to be a second seed now, take the Caps out *in* the Conference Final, since they wouldn’t be able to meet said team unless they reach it? Do you both have to make good? Or does Ted now only have to worry about the other one(okay, noone saw that whole Devils saga coming…)?

  40. Pingback: On Frozen Blog › Memo to the Revisionists: It Was a Tale of Two Seasons

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