The Caps’ loss makes me awfully happy. While I’m sad to lose a team that’s awfully fun to watch, the fanbase is, uh, a little obnoxious. It might just be that their ranks of fans have been swollen with newbies (I’ve never really been irritated by a lot of their bloggers like Eric McErlain and Japers) but I like my fanbases to have an irrational fear of the hockey gods and an expectation that disaster lurks. Leonsis lacks this and his fanbase, by and large, follows it.
Leonsis took some shots at RJ Umberger earlier this year in a blog post after Umberger said that the Caps couldn’t win the Cup with their style of play. I thought that Umberger was wrong then (and I still think that he is now) but I just can’t get enough of Leonsis’ response:
I think this player should be talking to his ownership and coaching staff about their rebuild plan to compete for a Stanley Cup NOT to our fan base and players about ours.
And then I think this player should stand up and communicate to his team’s fan base about their plan to compete for a Cup and how they will qualify for the playoffs year after year. And then back it up. It is a simple formula: Outline a plan – communicate it – back it up.
As I have noted, the best way to compete for a Cup is to qualify for the playoffs which Columbus has done exactly how many times to date?
Why are we even giving this guy airtime?
Let us move on.
This is a pet peeve of mine, guys who have enjoyed extraordinary success and don’t acknowledge the extent to which good fortune played a role in it all. It’s worth pointing out that the Capitals, according to a summary in Wikipedia were tenth in payroll in 2003-04. It appears that they went through a season in which everybody got hurt and they ended up finishing second last. They had finished with 92, 85, 96 and 102 points in the years preceding that. If the plan was to tank and get a shot at Alexander Ovechkin, Leonsis spent a lot of money on guys who weren’t part of Washington’s future.
Even then, it wasn’t quite good enough. Pittsburgh finished a point worse than the Caps and the Caps went into the lottery with 18.8% chance of picking first, a 42% chance of picking second and a 39.2% chance of picking third. Their chances of ending up with one of Cam Barker, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler or Al Montoya were more than twice as good as their chances of ending up with Ovechkin. The hockey gods smiled on Washington, their number came up and they ended up with Alexander Ovechkin. I don’t begrudge the Capitals their good fortune at all, but it’s a little galling to see Leonsis taunt people about his plan (and he does it a lot) when the Caps sucking in 2003-04 was (from their perspective) almost certainly unplanned for and then they got lucky and won the lottery. The biggest piece of the Capitals’ rebuild fell into their lap in a season where they weren’t intending to rebuild. And he talks about his plan.
Tonight, he and his fans got a lesson from the hockey gods. If there’s a little humility in the future, a little acknowledgment of the outrageous good fortune that permitted the Caps to assemble a team like this, it’ll be a lot easier to cheer for them in the future (and I’d love to, because I have no real rooting interest in the East and there isn’t a more fun player, in every sense of the word, than Ovechkin). For the time being though, this is pretty enjoyable. (Particularly because I bet the field to win the Eastern Conference at what seemed to be outrageously good odds.)