The power-play and the penalty-killing units both showed slight gains. We scored more goals and gave up fewer. We realize that more improvement is needed, and we will be directing our attention in that area during the summer. In the next several months we will be focused on doing what is necessary to achieve even greater strides for the 2007-08 season.
Remember, we just completed the second year of our rebuild. Though we always strive for the playoffs, we realistically knew that it would not be easy, and it would take time.
|Skate and View Party |
|Caps' Alumni Teams |
As we do at the end of each season, we will meet and evaluate all aspects of our organizational performance. We will continue to make the team better on the ice and will continue to bring you one of the best fan experiences available in professional sports.
We expanded our fan appreciation program this year, and the feedback from you was very positive. Many of you enjoyed last week's free skate and viewing party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as well as Friday's open practice and the alumni game. As you know, practices are always open, but we hope to make the other events a permanent part of Fan Appreciation Week as well as improve both experiences and everything else we do. We will continue to find ways to bring the team closer to you via our television and radio broadcast partners, our podcasts and all of our web coverage.
We also want our fans to feel as though they are appreciated year-round, because they are. We love the fans we have, and we cherish our relationship with them. We will continue to bring in new fans until we fill "our" house with "our" fans.
The past season brought about a sea change in the way our team is covered, as a core of dedicated, talented and insightful bloggers devoted a great deal of time and energy toward chronicling our day-in and day-out activities. We're grateful for the coverage, and we believe they will continue to change the way our great game is covered. Even the mainstream media is beginning to take note and to adjust its own coverage as a result. We appreciate your dedication and will continue to cultivate and nurture our relationships with nontraditional media.
I don't want to spend a lot of time looking back at this season and telling you what happened. You were here with us; you witnessed the ups and the downs. I'll cherish the "ups" and look to minimize the "downs." We will move and look forward, and we will only look back when we believe something valuable can be learned from doing so.
Our attention now turns north to Hershey, where the Bears are on the verge of clinching an East Division title. I urge you to go to Giant Center for a Bears game at some point during the postseason. The experience is a wonderful one; the building is tremendous, and the organization is first class and steeped in tradition. I'm so proud of our relationship with the Bears; it's top notch in every respect. It really is a key building block for us.
The IIHF World Championships in Moscow, where we will be represented by at least seven of our players from five different nations, also will garner our attention. It is a prestigious tournament, especially for European players. Anytime a player gets an opportunity to represent his country in an international tournament, it is a momentous occasion. We are in the midst of finalizing plans that hopefully will allow us to bring some of that flavor and pageantry back to you from Moscow next month.
Certainly our attention is on the NHL Entry Draft, to be held in Columbus, Ohio, June 22-23. We hold two first-round choices, including the fifth pick overall, and two second-round selections. Many of our recent drafts are beginning to bear fruit, and we're hoping the Class of '07 will also be making significant contributions here in Washington in the not-so-distant future.
I remember so many of you making the trip to North Carolina for the 2004 draft and how heartened we were by your collective presence there. It's a bit further to Columbus, but it's a great city should you be able to make the journey. For those of you who can't, we will host our draft day festivities back home at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. This summer's event promises to take on an exciting new look as we open our training facility for that purpose for the first time. The Iceplex and its Arlington location offer a host of exciting opportunities for us, and we plan to take full advantage of them June 22.
If you haven't had an opportunity to visit our new complex, I would encourage you to do so - bring a friend and come for a skate. Our players, visiting teams, youth hockey community and public skating groups have raved about the quality of the ice and the general atmosphere at the rink and surrounding area.
We are focusing on the free-agency season, which begins July 1. If we are unable to address team needs from within the organization or via the trade route, we will look to fill them with smart free-agent signings. Our preference always will be to promote from within, but if we are unable to do so, we will utilize our collective assets to bring back needed pieces via trades as well as explore the free-agent market. We'll do our homework and ensure such players fit and contribute to our team chemistry, a key intangible that can't be underestimated. We'll also be signing a few of our draft choices and making decisions on some of our own restricted and unrestricted free agents.
All of these player decisions carefully will take into account not only skill level and speed but also a player's attitude, values and passion to compete. Obviously our lineup will consist of players with varying abilities and roles, but our locker-room chemistry and culture are extremely important as we add new players. We will continue to build with players who demand a team-first mentality, playing and supporting each other in any circumstance. As we proceed in developing this core group of players who will be our foundation for years to come, it will make it easier for us to add incremental parts when necessary.
The first development camp at our new facility, July 9-14, will be another focus of our attention as we continue to improve and make that a good and valuable experience for our players and coaches. It also will be a great time for you to obtain a glimpse of the young men who will be fighting for a roster spot this coming year or in future seasons.
We are in the process of scheduling the 2007-08 season and making your experience as a fan a positive and rewarding one. This summer we will focus on a number of initiatives, including our annual youth hockey camp and the introduction of a kids club.
And as you may have seen at Fan Appreciation Day, in the local media and on our website, Change Is Coming - Summer 2007; we will have more details in the upcoming weeks.
To date, our season-ticket holders have reacted positively to our plan, and the pace of new season-ticket sales is 100% ahead of where we were last year at this time. So, thank you. I know we have more work to do, but your response has been extremely encouraging.
Others have taken notice as well. Former NHL coach Pierre McGuire, who now is working for NBC as an analyst, noted: "The Washington Capitals are the sleeping giants of the East. ... Exciting times in Washington are coming." We certainly believe that to be the case. We have a solid foundation, and now we will add to it. Granted, we have some important needs, but they are few.
None of us likes long off-seasons. We hope this will be the last one we endure for a while. An important summer lies ahead, and we are ready to meet all the challenges the next season brings. It is difficult for all of us at this time of year, but we have not wavered and will not waver from our plan to rebuild this team and rebuild it the right way.
We have the building blocks in place - solid nucleus of players, great training facility and arena, exceptional player development system in Hershey, exciting region in which to live and a fantastic community. And most importantly, we have knowledgeable, loyal and passionate fans.
We are thankful for what we have here in Washington. Our pro and amateur scouts and our front office have done an excellent job of bringing in talent, and we'll continue to help in that regard. We are also thankful for your support and patience. We will have a busy off-season; we've got work to do, so we're going to get to it. I'll check in again in a few months to give you an update.