Washington Capitals fans who are tired of watching the team lose have a compatriot in Abe Pollin. Twenty-four hours after assuming a more active role as president of the team, board chairman-fan Pollin promised yesterday to leave no ice unbroken in a search for talent.
"I've obviously been disappointed with the lack of success of the Capitals on the ice," Pollin said. "I thought we'd do better. I'm dedicated to improving the situation.
"We know we're going to produce a more competitive hockey team, somehow, some way. I know it's easy to say, but we are prepared to spend whatever it takes, within reason, to do it.
"Our basic philosophy of saving draft choices is a second one. However, there is nothing I will rule out. We will investigate every possibility - free agents, trades, draft choices, anything."
The "we" includes General Manager Max McNab, who appears to have taken on a stronger role with Peter O'Malley's withdrawal from the club's operation. Pollin conceded that he was a "novice, not an expert, on hockey," and that McNab's "judgment on hockey matters will rule. He's the guy who will make the decisions on player personnel."
Pollin has been criticized for allegedly spending heavily on the basketball Bullets - for example, Bob Dandridge - while neglecting the capitals. O'Malley, in announcing his resignation to concentrate on his law practice, offered a testimonial in the opposite direction.
O'Malley estimated with McNAB's assent, that the Capitals' annual budget was approximately $4 million. He added that income was less than $3 million this season and said that "Abe has been pouring money into the club."
On the basis of that and previous losses, it does not seem out of line to place the Capitals' red ink in the vicinity of $5 million over the last four years.
Pollin will not discuss the team's finances, but he said, "I told Max and Peter personally that if there was a hockey deal that could help the team, we could not afford not to make it. I hope that has been the way they've gone. Now that I'm personally involved, that's certainly the way it will be."
In promising to spend whatever was necessary, Pollin's attached "within reason" was further explained: "I'm not going to spend $800,000 for a hockey player the way I hear some body has done for a basketball player I don't think that makes any sense."
Coincidentally, Pollin's first major hockey personnel expenditure was a contract for defenseman Greg Joly, calling for exactly $800,000 over six years.
Pollin offered no specific proposals to alter the team's situation. Instead, he said that "I'm getting my feet wet, meeting with Max and discussing a number of things. The last year or so, I've taken a very passive role with respect to the league, although I got repports from Peter. Now I will be attending more of the governor's meetings. This is a challenge and I'm looking forward to it."
The Capitals have the second, 20th and 23rd selections in the June 15 amateur draft. That No. 23 came from Cleveland in the Walt Mckechnie deal and McNab said the Barons had been anxious to get it back.
"I wish I knew who they wanted so badly, because I'd pick him myself," McNab said, laughing.
McNab, who contributed greatly to O'Malley's hockey education, saluted his former boss by saving, "I never knew anyone to pick up so much about the sport in so short a time." He can expect just as precocious a pupil in Pollin.