George McPhee had constructed a Stanley Cup Playoff team in 2002-03 that included the highest-paid player in hockey, a Vezina Trophy winner and two other All-Star-caliber skaters.
But something was amiss for the Washington Capitals. The $11 million man, forward Jaromir Jagr, was not producing at the level expected of him. Nor was he providing a boost at the box office. A franchise known for regular-season consistency (and postseason disappointment) wasn't moving forward or backward, and the roster was getting older and more expensive without improved results.
A terrible start to the 2003-04 season confirmed the suspicions of McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis. It was time to try something else.