ARLINGTON, Va. -- Last season, the Washington Capitals were one win away from the Eastern Conference Final. The season before that they failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Captain Alex Ovechkin, who led the NHL last season with 53 goals, will turn 30 in September and is entering his 10th season. Owner Ted Leonsis on Saturday rejected the notion that the window to winning a Cup with his franchise player has closed.
CAPITALS OFFSEASON COVERAGE
"I felt the window to win with him was 10 years old," Leonsis said at Capitals Fan Fest. "He's a fantastic player. He plays hard all the time, and I feel I haven't met my commitment to him, that we would build a team that would be able to win Stanley Cups. The difference between winning and losing is just so small, so I do not think our window as an organization is closing.
"We're in it together. He knows we’re committed. He can sense it and see it. He sees how much we invest. He knows how much we spend. He knows how hard we're trying, and it's so close, the difference between winning and losing, it's just so small. I think we've improved as a team and I'm hoping, like all 29 other owners, that this is the year, and the only way you'll know it is talking to you next year at this time to say, 'How did the season go?'"
The Capitals were less than two minutes from eliminating the New York Rangers in five games in the Eastern Conference Second Round but couldn't hold a 1-0 lead and lost in overtime. The Rangers then won Games 6 and 7.
"Last season hurt a lot," Leonsis said. "I thought we deserved better. Our goal is to win a Stanley Cup. We keep falling short and we have to keep trying."
Leonsis had to read a press release to find out about the roster additions of forwards Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie last week because he was out of town, but that's the way he planned it.
"While all of the action was going on, I was traveling," Leonsis said. "I was at Stonehenge (in England). I wanted to be as far away from the activity as possible. I actually didn't know because of the time difference."
This hands-off approach is a departure from years past, but the autonomy allowed coach Barry Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan speaks to the faith Leonsis has in his staff to make the right decisions for the organization.
"They're men of few words but very strong actions," Leonsis said. "When the season ended, they told me what they were going to try to do and they've delivered on that. They tell you what they're going to do, they do it, and there's not a lot of drama around it."