Ka-choonk. Mike Green Has Got To Go.
Ka-choonk. If The GM, Coach Aren’t Fired and Most of the Players Are Still Here, I’m Giving Up My Season Tickets.
“There wasn’t a single player, or person in the organization — including Alex Ovechkin — that I was told not to trade,” Leonsis said, four months after another crushing end to a year of promise.
The owner’s voice trails off.
“Every one is a virtual GM,” he said, shaking his head.
It was 48 hours before a red-rocking 2011-12 season opener at Verizon Center and, no, Leonsis didn’t grant the zealots’ wishes and back up the truck.
He kept George McPhee, a general manager he inherited more than a decade ago and still the only one he’s ever had.
He kept Bruce Boudreau against many protestations from fans that Gabby was too much of a rumpled, likable good guy to truly capture the respect of his star players.
He held onto Semin and Green, the two main targets for some of the team’s laissez-faire play in April and May the past few years.
Why the loyalty from the man with the purse strings, who in theory should be more punitive than every fan? Leonsis is a dot-com gazillionaire, after all, a guy who made his money in new technology, who knew and once worked with Steve Jobs. Men of their ilk are supposed to delete nostalgia from their hard drives, no? They are proactive, forward-thinking, never ruled by sentimentality or emotion.
“I look at the data first, then I try to show empathy,” Leonsis said.
Regarding those who wanted a roster and front office overhaul, he added: “You say to them, ‘I feel the pain of an early playoff exit but let’s look at the body of work over the last four years.’ Is this on a team on its last legs? Or is it a team just coming into the meaty part of its best players’ careers?”
McPhee, he said, is still here because he successfully transformed one of the worst teams in the NHL to a perennial playoff team, “a team built to last because it’s so young,” Leonsis said.
“I felt with George I had to have his back because he was asked to execute a very radical strategy. He’s executed it very well. He’s gotten us to a point where we’ve got these unbelievable expectations placed on us.
“And, in fact, now I think the expectations are over the top. But George built a team that now has a track record, certainly over the last four years, that says we should have these expectations. So we have to live with those. He earned our respect and loyalty.”
Boudreau? “He’s had the best record for the first four years of any coach in NHL history. And the players really like him. But maybe more important in this day and age, they respect him — they respect his hockey knowledge. . . .