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.)

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old:

Gretzky defends McDavid’s outburst after Manning incident

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23: Wayne Gretzky (L) and Dale Hawerchuk drop the puck in a ceremonial face-off between Blake Wheeler #26 and Connor McDavid #97 during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Fred Greenslade /Getty Images)
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PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

“I guess we can put the whole ‘if he did it’ thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that,” said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers’ loss.

“I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player,” Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. “I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I’m a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.”

Gretzky didn’t mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

“And Connor, he’s going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him,” Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. “He’s been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he’s always responded and done his part.”

Related: McDavid accuses ‘classless’ Manning of injuring him on purpose

Bishop trying not to let contract situation affect his play

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 06: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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Ben Bishop was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, and that makes it particularly striking to see his numbers a quarter of the way through 2016-17.

After 18 starts, Bishop is 8-10-1 with a .906 save percentage. He got the hook after two periods last night at Amalie Arena, where he surrendered four goals to the Vancouver Canucks in a 5-1 loss.

Last night marked the third time in his last five starts that he’d surrendered at least four goals, and one of the goals he allowed looked like this:

So, do things feel different this season?

“I feel fine,” Bishop said today, per Lightning Insider. “We go back and watch the games and technically it’s all there. There is really no difference from the way I’ve played the last couple of years to now. I don’t like saying this, but it’s been a strange season with goofy goals on tips and bounces, goals off your own players. So I think if you took some of those away, the numbers would be pretty similar to years past. I would like to get the wins a little higher.”

Bishop, of course, is a pending unrestricted free agent who is unlikely to re-sign with the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy appears to be the goalie of the future in Tampa Bay. On July 1, the 22-year-old re-signed through 2019-20.

Vasilevskiy is also 6-2-1 with a .929 save percentage.

So in that regard, it’s a bit like the situation we’re seeing in New York, where Henrik Lundqvist is struggling and Antti Raanta is thriving.

The difference is Lundqvist isn’t going to be looking for a new team anytime soon. Remember that Bishop “was close” to being traded to Calgary in the offseason. He could still end up there in free agency, depending if Brian Elliott bounces back.

Bishop says he’s trying not to let his contract situation affect his state of mind; however, he admits he’d “be lying if I said I never thought about it.”

“It’s definitely there in the back of your head,” he said.

The Lightning host the Penguins on Saturday.

Expect Vasilevskiy to start that one.