An Open Letter to Ted Leonsis

Posted January 31, 2014

(Photo by Caps Outsider)

Dear Mr. Leonsis,

You’re a smart businessman who has made a lot of money throughout the course of your life. You attended Georgetown University, were the president of America Online, and are currently the owner of sports franchises and a venture capital investor. Once in a while, there comes to a point in business where you have to cut your losses and move on to the next adventure. This “loss” I am referring to is the 2013-2014 Washington Capitals season.

The roster that was built by your general manager George McPhee was flawed from the start. This is the same team that was ousted from the first round of the playoffs last year and made no significant upgrades outside of center Mikhail Grabovski. On top of all this, the Capitals moved to a tougher division and had to play teams like the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins more than they had to in previous year. Even in previous years the team was flawed. The reason why nobody noticed it was because they played in a weak Southeastern Division and ended up finishing first just about every year.

Before each season, yourself and Mr. McPhee address the fanbase and tell everyone how much you like the way the team is built and that this is finally the year the Stanley Cup comes to our nation’s capital. I hope you can look inside yourself and realize that this team; both the roster and some personnel within the hockey operations department are not going to achieve the ultimate goal. Now is the time to abandon the team as is and start preparing for the future.

This starts by becoming sellers at the deadline. I know it’s a tough spot to be, especially after being buyers at the deadline over the last few seasons. Don’t get sucked up into the trap. You cannot afford to do so as it will jeopardize the future. Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mikhail Grabovski, Eric Fehr, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Mike Green, Braden Holtby, and Philipp Grubauer should be tagged as “non-tradable.” Everyone else is fair game. Sell as many players as you can and start freeing up cap space. This will be especially helpful when the cap goes up this summer and you have a general manger that will be able to bring on the right players who can help win a Cup.

Speaking of general managers, I know you have been reading the blogs and newspapers. You have seen what people have been saying about Mr. McPhee. I know you’re a loyal man Mr. Leonsis, but loyalty is a double-edged sword. It’s good when it’s used in the right situations but can be lethal when used in the wrong ones. I know you’ve stood by Mr. McPhee in many situations, but this is the time where you must say “thank you for your service to this organization but we must go in a different direction.” He has been here since 1997 and has only a handful of playoff series victories to show for it. While I understand that making the NHL Playoffs is a daunting task, I know deep down that’s not what you want. It’s also not what the fans want and deserve. It’s time a fresh face steps into the role and injects some new ideas and life into this organization.

Since I am the type of person who doesn’t just tell you what the issues are but also gives ideas on how to improve upon things, I’ll go ahead and give you three names you should give serious consideration to when selecting the new general manager:

1)      Jason Botterill – He is the current assistant general manager in Pittsburgh and has helped Ray Shero build the Penguins into the title contender they are. The Penguins blog Pensburgh wrote a nice article about Botterill a few weeks ago when Buffalo was going through their general manager hiring. They mention how Botterill helped the Penguins stay cap compliant when they sent Eric Tangradi to the ECHL a few years ago when Jordan Staal went on long-term injury reserve. He’s picked up a lot of knowledge working side-by-side with Shero and would be a valuable asset to your organization.

2)      Paul Fenton — He is the current assistant general manager in Nashville. In an article written by Predators blog On The Forecheck, it mentions how Fenton is responsible for the Predators’ drafting and development; even having the responsibility of running the organization’s draft operations every year.  Having someone who is responsible for finding talent in a draft – and doing a good of it – will benefit the organization down the road.

3)      Julien BriseBois – He is the current assistant general manager in Tampa Bay under Steve Yzerman. This is what you could consider to be an “outside the box” candidate, but his credentials are there. BriseBois served as the Vice President of Hockey Operations of the Montreal Canadiens before taking his current role in Tampa Bay. He is a lawyer and has been integral in contact negotiations for the Lightning as well as CBA/salary cap compliance. If you would like to read more about BriseBois, Jonathan Willis did a great write-up about him when profiling potential candidates for the Buffalo position for the Edmonton Journal. It’s well worth it to read about his background and what he could bring this club.

Finally, the issues with the coaching staff must be addressed. While most of the fan base was excited over the hiring of Adam Oates, his welcome is starting to feel worn out. I can’t completely knock the job Oates has done since he’s been in Washington, though. Oates has re-energized Alex Ovechkin’s career and has helped him find his scoring touch again. That being said, after Thursday night’s loss in Columbus Oates said to the media, “We were terrible. It was probably the worst period I’ve seen the boys play in over a year, the first period. Why? I don’t know.” Mr. Leonsis, you are paying Coach Oates to have these answers. He should be able to look at a certain situation and figure out how to fix it if things aren’t going right. It’s time the organization hires a head coach who has NHL experience, who has won the Stanley Cup, and knows what it takes to do so. I’ll even give you another recommendation: hire Peter Laviolette before someone else does. Guys like Ovechkin, Green, and Backstrom are in the prime of their careers. They deserve a Cup

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, Mr. Leonsis. I know deep down you know what needs to be done. I hope you have the strength to pull the trigger and set the events in motion.


Washington Capitals fans everywhere