Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post,
Ted Leonsis is finally doing something besides blog. Up to now, the owner of two of the four major pro sports teams in town has been more blustering than active. But Leonsis acted Saturday in making wholesale changes to the Washington Capitals, weary of their plateaued and dispirited play, even though it meant distracting his customers from the Washington Wizards’ clench-fisted performance in the NBA playoffs.
Leonsis has put himself squarely on the spot — and in an interesting way. His decision is counterintuitive, and equally intriguing for the timing and messaging. The Capitals missed the NHL playoffs this season for the first time since 2007. The Wizards hadn’t made the playoffs since 2006. Yet the Caps are the team whose management Leonsis decided to gut, firing coach Adam Oates and refusing to renew the contract of general manager George McPhee. The difference? “Where we are in the plan,” Leonsis said at a late afternoon news conference.
It’s a striking move, and a viscerally assertive from an owner who until now had seemed more interested in his roles as a marketing impresario, venture capitalist, and quirky self-help author with a shrinking waistline and stand-up hair. It’s based on Leonsis’ personal calculation that the two teams are headed in opposite ways — and he’s right.
via the Washington Capitals PR department...
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ted Leonsis, Dick Patrick, George McPhee, our coaching staff, the players and everyone involved with the Washington Capitals organization. It was a tremendous honor to coach the Capitals these past two seasons. It is a great franchise with a wonderful fan base that will always be close to my heart. I’m grateful for the opportunity they provided me and wish them nothing but the best in the future.”
Please note that this is the extent of Adam’s statement and he will not be making any additional comments at this time.
from Damien Cox of The Spin,
In Toronto, Brendan Shanahan was brought in as team president, and he's getting a feel for the organization. GM Dave Nonis is trying to get his head around how and why the team collapsed down the stretch and surrendered such horrific shots-against numbers while doing so.
Nonis needs to understand what role Carlyle played in that, and then he'll have to justify his decision to Shanahan.
In Washington, owner Ted Leonsis is probably enjoying the basketball success of his Wizards for a few days and taking his time on figuring out how it all went wrong with his hockey team.
The futures of Oates and GM George McPhee are both up in the air. That, of course, ignores the real issue in D.C., which is the future of the team as long as Alex Ovechkin is the centre piece, both with his massive contract and unwillingness to do much else than put up prodigious goal totals.
You can change the GM and coach. But the bigger question is whether you can ever get anywhere with Alexander the Great.
Finally, in Vancouver there were two moves in the final days of the season, the firing of GM Mike Gillis and the hiring of Trevor Linden as president of hockey ops. Like Shanahan, Linden is sorting through the paperwork, and at this point seems to have decided to focus on hiring a GM, and then letting that person decide Tortorella's future.
from John Feinstein of the Washington Post,
If Leonsis is going to jettison McPhee and Oates — or just McPhee, as seems possible — he should have done it Monday. It isn’t as if he hasn’t had plenty of time to look at his dysfunctional team this season and make decisions about who should — or should not — lead it into the future.
Instead, Leonsis met with McPhee on Monday, slapped a gag order on him, refused to speak to anyone in the media himself and said he might take up to two weeks to decide what to do.
Talk about leaving people twisting in the wind. The Caps haven’t won the Stanley Cup, but McPhee built a team that has sold out virtually every game in Verizon Center the past five seasons. He has earned the right to not be left wondering what his future holds.
But beyond common decency, he and Oates deserve to keep their jobs.
from Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington,
On missing the playoffs being a wakeup call:
Of course it’s wakeup call for everybody, for us and for the bosses. I’m pretty sure everybody upset. It’s good wakeup call and I’m hopeful for next year we’re going to be better. [Whoever] is going to be on the team, these guys have to be better....
On whether he is tired of shouldering the blame for the Capitals’ shortcomings:
I’m not a judge. It’s wakeup call for everybody. I’m pissed because somebody says it’s bad system. I’m pissed about it’s bad situation when we didn’t play well. I’m a player, everybody players. Why were we in the playoffs last year? Because nobody point fingers on somebody. Everybody was in same position and everybody played for each other.
On the Capitals’ 5-on-5 play, where they were outscored 155-139.
It’s a situation when right now, 5-on-5 is very difficult to play. If you score on power play and you get the lead guys who play 5-on-5 will get more open and get more chances. If it’s a tie game or situation is 1-1 or 2-2, it’s so hard to score because everybody plays five guys in the [defensive] zone and everybody plays around the goalie.
Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington answers some fan mail...
If Caps were willing to blow up the core, which of Ovi, Backy and Green is most likely to get dealt?
Nothing like being direct. Alex Ovechkin has seven years and $70 million remaining on his contract [he’s getting a raise from $9 million to $10 million next season] and beginning July 1 he can give the Capitals a list of 10 teams for whom he will not play. I don’t see the Capitals shipping Ovechkin out of town, although I do think he holds more value now than he will in his future. That said, I don’t see Caps owner Ted Leonsis allowing his general manager to trade the greatest goal scorer in franchise history, even if he will be getting paid $10 million at the age of 35.
Same goes for Nicklas Backstrom, who in my opinion is just as valuable as Ovechkin. Backstrom has six years and $43 million remaining on his contract.
That leaves us with Mike Green, who has one year and $6.083 million remaining on his three-year deal. Of the three, I think Green is the most likely to be wearing another team’s jersey next season.
more Q&A on the Capitals...
from Mike Wise of The Washington Post,
Ted Leonsis, guilty of believing this seriously flawed roster could be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
George McPhee, guilty the past seven years of not being able to put together a coaching staff and roster capable of getting past the second round of the playoffs — despite building around one of the greatest offensive talents in NHL history.
Adam Oates, guilty of employing more odd-line combinations the past month than the makers of Master Lock, guilty of coaching a team that gave up 13 two-goal leads, a team that rested on its laurels routinely after it scored and never developed a consistent identity — really, a mentally soft team that inexplicably has yet to win a game under Oates when scoring two or fewer goals.
And Ovechkin, inferior linemates and all, guilty of one of the most meaningless 50-goal seasons in NHL annals. With the Caps’ playoff hopes in the balance, the captain failed to score an even-strength goal in 15 straight, gotta-have-it games.
from Ted Leonsis of Ted's Take,
Before the Capitals season started, I was quoted as saying I didn’t see any weakness in our lineup. While I knew some aspects of our team were stronger than others, I didn’t see anything that I believed was a specific weakness. Obviously I was wrong.
I still believe it is good business practice to avoid snap decisions, and I want to conduct a comprehensive review of what transpired this year, listen to appropriate voices and then determine what steps are necessary to ensure the Capitals return to the playoffs and compete for a Stanley Cup.
Our fans and community expected much more when this season began, and I’m sorry we couldn’t deliver on those expectations.
from Stephen Whyno of the CP at the Winnipeg Free Press,
The agent for Jaroslav Halak released a statement Wednesday saying his client never told Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates that he did not want to start against the St. Louis Blues, his former team.
Oates told reporters in St. Louis on Tuesday that Halak "wasn't 100 per cent comfortable" starting against the Blues, who sent him to the Buffalo Sabres in the Feb. 28 trade that got them Ryan Miller. Halak was then traded before the deadline to the Capitals.
"Jaro never at any time said he didn't want to start against St. Louis," agent Allan Walsh said in a statement sent to The Canadian Press. "A private conversation between a player and coach should stay private and not be discussed with the media.
"I am bewildered that a coach would break that trust especially when those comments the coach publicly attributed to Jaro are not accurate. It's the coach who makes the decision on who plays in the games, not the players."
Halak told reporters from the Washington Post and NHL.com after the Capitals' morning skate at Scottrade Center that the incident is still too "fresh."
This is the 5th season of 50 or more goals for Ovechkin.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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