Plenty of people are picking through the archives for Ted Leonsis quotes this morning, now that the Caps have officially been eliminated. And that’s fair enough.
There was this, from 2011:
“The team will make the playoffs, as I promised, 10 to 15 years in a row. There is a 10 to 15 year horizon.”
And there was this, from 2010, to Mike Wise:
“Alex and the Caps are gonna win Stanley Cups. We’re either gonna win it this year or next year or the year after. We’re gonna get better, too. That’s the thing. I promise the team will be better next year than it is this year.”
And this, from last fall:
“My expectation is that this is the deepest team since I’ve owned the team. I don’t see any weaknesses.”
Again, fair enough to pick over those quotes. In his mild defense, anyone who speaks publicly as much as Leonsis does will occasionally be wrong, and I’d rather owners continue to speak publicly than not. He has already addressed the “don’t see any weaknesses” mistake.
But here’s one quote from even further back, that is possibly more harrowing than the above. It comes from an in-studio appearance with the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan in March of 2008. And, if you apply this logic to the current roster … well, just read it.
“The goal is to win a championship,” Leonsis said. “That’s why we do this. And as good as our team was [before the rebuild], and as comfortable as the fanbase was with the brand-name players, we weren’t any good, right? We’ve got to face facts. We hadn’t won a playoff series in 10 years. And so we would make the playoffs. We’d lose. And we were getting older. And frankly, the more money we spent, the worse we got.
“So at some point, I think it was Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So we had the lockout coming, and we said ‘You know what, we’ve got to take our medicine. The media’s gonna hate it, the fanbase is gonna hate it, it’s gonna be so painful. But when we come through it, if we build the right way around young players, we’ll wake up one day and we could have a great team. I don’t want a good team.’
“And so that was a very risky strategy. Still hasn’t borne fruit yet. But I do think everyone can see, we’ve got a 20-year old player who could be rookie of the year. We’ve got a 22-year old player who leads the league in goals and in scoring. We’ve got a 22-year old defenseman who leads the league in goals scored. We’ve got a 22-year old player who’s got 21 goals and missed half the season. He’s on pace to be like a 40-goal scorer perennially.
“And so all of the sudden, we’re looked at around the league – it’s funny how you’re in style and you’re out of style. Now it’s, ‘Well, they really knew how to build the team, and a lot of [teams] have to do that now.’ If we didn’t do it and we were patch-working the team, we wouldn’t be any further along. And so I’m not proud of what we’ve done yet, but I believe in what we’ve done, and it was a strategy. And my promise is I want to have a good team for a long, long time. I’d like us to make the playoffs, you know, 10 years in a row once we get in.”
They came close. But the “I don’t want a good team, I want a great team” part is the part of this quote I can’t forget.