Ted Leonsis

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis thinks team’s Stanley Cup window will be open for ’10-15 years’

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You’ve probably heard this spiel before, but that doesn’t take away from how true it really is: our society focuses on instant gratification more than ever. The Internet alone houses so many venues of immediate analysis (or more precisely, complaints) to tear down good – but supposedly not good enough – things before they ever have a chance to reach their highest potential.

An enormous chunk of the hockey world pleaded with the Washington Capitals to fire head coach Bruce Boudreau. If you ask many fans, they’ll probably characterize Boudreau as a coach who failed over and over again. The thing is, people lose track of the fact that the Capitals experiment hasn’t been going on as long as some might think. Boudreau took over during an abbreviated 2007-08 season, guiding them to the first of what has been four straight Southeast Division titles. My feeling is that with the youth, current structure and still-impressive regular season successes of this team in mind, it only makes sense to give Bellicose Bruce at least one more shot.

Being successful might occasionally boil down to having the courage to ignore the demands of the angry mob while keeping the ship steady. Luckily for the long-term prospects of the Caps franchise, owner Ted Leonsis is willing to take a bigger picture outlook for his team.

“Last year the underreported story of our team was how many young players joined our team,” Leonsis said Wednesday in a speech at the National Press Club. “We probably took steps back because we brought in so many young players.”

(snip)

“They’re not even in their prime,” Leonsis said of the young core. “The team will make the playoffs – as I promised – 10 to 15 years in a row. That’s what I believe.”

There’s no denying the notion that most of the team’s core players probably have some their best years in front of them. Superstar Alex Ovechkin is only 25 years old, Nicklas Backstrom is 23, their goalies of the future are in their 20’s and excessively-maligned blueliner Mike Green is 25.

Meanwhile, Washington also has the flexibility to “blow things up” to a smaller extent if things go wrong next season. The Capitals’ two most criticized semi-stars will be free agents after 2011-12, with Green possibly becoming a restricted free agent and polarizing sniper Alex Semin primed for unrestricted free agency. The one year plan for support players seems more obvious when you combine Green/Semin with a group that includes top goalie Tomas Vokoun, double-edged sword D-man Dennis Wideman, ugly goal scoring machine Mike Knuble and speedy winger Jason Chimera.

With that in mind, it’s important to notice that Leonsis preached the importance of seeing how things work out next year.

“Analytically our coach has a fantastic record, I think the best record in the NHL during the regular season during his tenure,” Leonsis said. “That’s a pretty strong statement. At the same time, our team hasn’t gone deep enough into the playoffs.

“We have to look as a franchise, as the protector of the asset, would we be better off as a franchise changing a player, firing the coach. It’s not an emotional reaction. It just can’t be done. Through the analytics, we thought it’s better to keep the team and the franchise and continuity together and see how we do this year.”

It’s refreshing to see an owner who is willing to take a risk by following his gut rather than bowing to conventional wisdom. The league changes often enough that there’s no guarantee the Capitals will make the playoffs for the next decade-plus, but their front office seems bright enough to realize that it’s only “now or never” in the eyes of anxious fans.

(And, yes, maybe when it comes to Boudreau’s own future.)

If there’s an expansion draft, which goalie should Pittsburgh protect?

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) misses on a shot on Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) during the third period of Game 1 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Marc-Andre Fleury could have started in Game 3 on Monday, but didn’t. Instead the Penguins went with Matt Murray, who rewarded their trust by stopping 47 shots in a 3-2 victory over Washington.

What’s remarkable is that no part of that story is surprising at this point. Under different circumstances, the Penguins might have started Fleury as soon as he had the green light to return from his concussion, but why switch course when Murray’s been excelling between the pipes?

But that’s just the reality of these set of circumstances, right? Shouldn’t the starting gig eventually revert back to Fleury given that he is the established upper-echelon goaltender while Murray is still fairly inexperienced?

Under normal circumstances that would seem like a reasonable conclusion and in the short-term that might be the road the Penguins go down, but as Sportsnet recently brought up a potential expansion draft has the power to change things.

As Sportsnet reported:

An interesting aspect of the recent deal worked out by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association regarding expansion draft rules is that only players with a full no-movement clause will have to be protected by their team, according to a source.

Fleury’s contract includes a no-movement clause for the purposes of waivers or being assigned to the American Hockey League, but it is limited when it comes to trades. Each year he submits a 12-team list of teams where he can’t be dealt.

As a result, he’s not exempt from the expansion process and the Penguins would have to decide between protecting either him or Murray if both remained on the roster through the end of next season. It might ultimately force general manager Jim Rutherford into making up his mind sooner in order to trade one away and get a return on the asset.

Sportsnet goes into detail about Murray’s performance in the playoffs as well as the situation this has left Marc-Andre Fleury in and it’s a good read. For our purposes right now, let’s focus on the what if scenario of that possible expansion draft.

It might all sound premature given that Murray only has 19 total playoff and regular season NHL games under his belt and certainly there’s a lot that could happen between now and any potential expansion draft that would make the Penguins’ decision easier. At the same time, it’s worth keeping in mind that the 21-year-old goaltender didn’t come out of nowhere this season. The majority of people might not have paid attention to Murray prior to this season, but his 2014-15 AHL rookie campaign was nothing short of incredible and he remained dominant in the AHL in 2015-16 before getting summoned.

In that context, Murray is more than just a hot goaltender and even if he gets lit up in Game 4 tonight resulting in Fleury being thrust back into service, that wouldn’t dismiss this conversation as no longer relevant. Either way the Penguins decision in an expansion draft would come down to picking between the relative safety of 31-year-old Fleury or the high potential of Murray.

It’s a tough call to make, but the consolation for the Penguins is that they won’t be the only team forced to make difficult decisions as the result of an expansion draft, should one happen.

PHT Morning Skate: Hartley’s not the first to get fired within year of winning Jack Adams Award

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley sets a play during overtime of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Boston, Thursday, March 5, 2015. The Flames defeated the Bruins 4-3 in overtime. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

It took less than a year for Bob Hartley to go from winning the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach to being fired. That might seem like an incredible drop, but Hartley’s not the first to go through this. (Calgary Sun)

Speaking of the Hartley firing, Mark Giordano said “it’s an eye-opener for a lot of our players.” (Calgary Sun)

Pittsburgh has a 2-1 edge in its second round series, but between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals captain has been the bigger contributor. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

After spending a season with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, Mark Morris has decided to go back to coaching college hockey. (The News & Observer)

If you have $7.19 million lying around, you might be able to buy Ryan Getzlaf‘s Corona del Mar house. (Orange County Register)

Finally, on a different note, the Tampa Bay Times have bought and shutdown the Tampa Tribune, as USA Today reported. That ended Erik Erlendsson’s tenure as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s beat writer for the Tribune and Lightning coach Jon Cooper took it upon himself to write this:

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.