Ted Leonsis did not used to be shy when discussing the Stanley Cup.
“Alex and the Caps are gonna win Stanley Cups,” Leonsis told 106.7 The Fan in the spring of 2010. “We’re either gonna win it this year or next year or the year after.”
“I believe that if the Caps can qualify for the playoffs, 10 or 15 years in a row, and we have a really good team that’s young and has upside, that with that continuity and that knocking on the door enough, that we’ll get our fair share of Stanley Cups,” he told ESPN 980 in the fall of 2010. “It’s just a matter of time, I believe, until we win the Cup.”
The owner appears to have taken a more conservative approach in recent months, an approach that continued late last week, when 106.7 The Fan’s LaVar Arrington asked him what it would mean to win a Stanley Cup. (Audio here.)
“I’m not gonna talk about that,” Leonsis said. “I think that just jinxes it. I really think that the key thing for us is to embrace the opportunity….You can’t take for granted your career, you can’t take for granted making the playoffs and being able to compete,” he continued. “And this group of guys has been together for a while now, and they’re all entering their prime. And I don’t think the window opens or closes; I’m hopeful that this team can continue on a run and make the playoffs 10, 15 years in a row. But, no time like the present, and I’m hoping that they embrace that, and that this is a better run than we’ve had in the past.”
Arrington’s co-host, Chad Dukes, also asked Leonsis if he got any pleasure in proving the national critics wrong by winning yet another division title this season.
“There’s an occasional feel-good moment here or there,” Leonsis admitted. “But to be honest, I do this for the fans. The pressure I put on myself is I don’t want to disappoint the fans. And so making the payoffs is kind of the first promise you make. You can’t win a Stanley Cup unless you qualify for the playoffs. And so this core of the team, this is the sixth year in a row, and that feels good. We just haven’t gotten past that second round. And I don’t’ want the team focused on getting past the second round; I want them focused on [each] game.”
Dukes asked Leonsis about the decision to add rather than subtract or stand pat at the trade deadline, and the owner suggested that it wasn’t a terribly tough decision.
“Well, I didn’t think we needed to rebuild,” Leonsis said. “We have a lot of young players that are in abeyance. I think we have the best player in the world who’s not playing in the NHL right now in this Russian kid named Kuznetsov, who sometime next year or the year after will be here. He’s honestly a world-class player. And so we decided that this group of players deserved the opportunity to get our best. And certainly we weren’t gonna tear it down; we were gonna add to it. We’ve never been afraid of making the right investments when needed, and because we had such a good system, we could trade a prospect and bring a guy like Martin Erat here. And he’s really made that second line gel right now.”
Leonsis repeatedly stressed the virtues of patience, saying “I had a lot of confidence and faith in the guys and the franchise and the coach” despite this season’s horrid start, and that “I was patient and didn’t panic and I’m very proud of them.” Which eventually led Arrington to ask about the Nationals’ somewhat sluggish early-season performance.
“Well, Mark Lerner and I are best friends,” Leonsis said. “We talk all the time. And basically baseball is such a long season, and it’s kind of a war of endurance. And in sports, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. The media’s job is really to be in the moment — now with Twitter, it’s to be in the real-time moment. And so the media’s just doing their job of trying to cover the teams and calling it as they see it, but in the moment. And sometimes they lose sight of what the big picture is. The Nats have so much talent, so many great players, such a great manager. And if they’re healthy, they’re just gonna be fantastic.”
Leonsis also said he thought Alex Ovechkin was the league’s MVP, and that he’s “been taking my health a lot more seriously,” leading to his newly svelte appearance.