Ted Leonsis has often talked about the Nats in relation to his own sports franchises. He’s frequently praised the team for sharing the Caps model of rebuilding from scratch via young stars acquired in the draft.
“It shouldn’t be lost on anyone what’s happening with the Nationals,” he said in 2010. “They’re gonna be good for a long, long time. The Caps are gonna be good for a long, long time. That’s what we need to be able to say about the Wizards and the Mystics. [After young players have a chance to grow together], you wake up one day and you’re an overnight success.”
He later said his Wizards were doing something similar to the Nats, bringing a few veterans to join a young core.
“We saw that with the Nationals this year,” Leonsis said last fall. “All of a sudden, the light goes on, and it’s hey, we’re good. And it happened fast. The light went on. And they got great, because their young players grew together. And then through some trades, through free agency, all of the sudden they have a united and dynamic team, that’ll be really good for a long, long time.”
This week, however, Leonsis used the Nats as a cautionary tale. This happened at Tuesday’s media day, when he was asked about his expectations for the upcoming hockey season. (Watch the clip here.)
“My first expectation is that the team not take for granted qualifying for the playoffs,” Leonsis said. “I think that there’s a trap that you can fall into: Just because we made the playoffs so many years in a row previously, that this year we’ll qualify for the playoffs, and we should focus on doing better in the playoffs. We’re in a much tougher division. And as I’ve said, I just saw what happened with the Nationals, who I thought had the best team in baseball going into the season. And I want that to serve as a reminder that you can’t take anything for granted.”
Later he was asked another question that’s been occasionally asked about the Nats: how long is the window open, and does he worry about the window closing.
“Well, when our players are 36 years old, I’ll probably feel that,” he responded. “But we still have a relatively young team. I mean, our core players are just now entering their prime. And so no, I think that this is the key time. Alex and Mike and Nick Backstrom are all now of age where they’re looked at as being veterans. They can reach out to the young players and teach them the ropes….We have a lot of players who are NHL ready, we have depth now if we have injuries, and I think our young players now have grown up and know what it takes….So I don’t think the window has closed. I think the window is still wide open for us.”