Washington Capitals: Why Ownership Is Not to Blame for the Team's Failures

Ryan DavenportContributor IAugust 15, 2012

ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 09:  Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitols speaks during Microsoft's 'A Salute to Our Troops' Operation USO Care Package Day at Kettler Iceplex on November 9, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia.  (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Microsoft)
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

In each of the past five NHL seasons, the Washington Capitals have entered October as a favorite to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup, or at least to advance beyond the second round for the first time since 1998.

Each time, for a variety of reasons, the Caps have come up short in an agonizingly, painful fashion.

Despite all of this, the franchise's ownership and management teams haven't faced an overwhelming amount of criticism for the Caps' late-Spring shortcomings.

Fortunately for Ted Leonsis and the rest of the folks at Monument Sports and Entertainment, the group that owns both the Capitals and their Verizon Center co-tenants, the Washington Wizards of the NBA, sports fans of the D.C. are generally quite patient by default as championships have been hard to come by in the nation's capital.

It isn't as if Leonsis doesn't deserve the adoration from Capitals fans as the former AOL executive has always appeared to be focused on building a winning team.

After Leonsis' attempt to buy a championship-calibre team failed (which included dolling out over $100 million to an uninspired Jaromir Jagr and an aging Robert Lang), the team auctioned off all of its highly paid players by the end of the 2003-04 season.

Fast forward eight years since Leonsis ushered in a rebuilding phase, and the Capitals are in a vastly more desirable position. Regardless of the team's disappointing postseason showings, Washington is still a team perfectly capable of making a deep playoff run, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon.

As an owner, Leonsis has done everything a fan, player or coach could ever ask for. He built the team a state-of-the-art practice facility in Arlington, VA, spent up to the cap in player salaries consistently and, until recently, was accessible to Caps fans via e-mail for any comments, suggestions and criticism that they may have to offer.

Leonsis is a passionate owner, and when things haven't gone right for the Caps, he's aired his frustrations out on his blog, "Ted's Take." During the team's toughest moments, like the red-rocking fans in D.C., he's ranted about his team's lack of gusto in the postseason. 

Most importantly, Leonsis hasn't interfered with McPhee's plans for the team. As an owner, he recognizes that the reason he pays McPhee in the first place is because he believes that McPhee is the person most capable of bringing a Cup to Washington.

Though Leonsis and McPhee haven't faced an inordinate amount of criticism for the team's inability to move past Round 2, that will almost certainly change if the Caps disappoint again in 2013.

When the Caps hit a rut in the fall of 2011, Bruce Boudreau was fired after four consecutive seasons that produced divisional titles. Alexander Semin was allowed to leave this summer after more than a year of constant criticism with regards to his dedication.

Eventually, when teams continuously under-perform, fans run out of people to blame on the ice and behind the bench, so management and ownership groups come under fire.

In the curious case of the Washington Capitals, if this team ultimately isn't destined to win a Stanley Cup, Ted Leonsis doesn't deserve to be blamed.

Under his watch, the Caps have gone from a perennial also-ran to a consistent Cup contender, and based on his track record, he'll do everything in his power to bring the city its first-ever Stanley Cup victory parade.


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