April 24, 2014

CAPS/WIZARDS/MYSTICS: Happy Birthday, Ted Leonsis

HAPPY BIRTHDAY
TED LEONSIS!

(Majority Owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment that owns and operates the
Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics)

Theodore J. Leonsis was born on January 8, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York.
We sound like a broken record, but its still all true……
Thank you Ted for reaching out to the Caps fans, for being supportive of new media, for linking to our photos and articles often and welcoming District Sports Page on launch day.  You are the best owner in sports. Happy Birthday! Let’s Go Caps!
Caps owner Ted Leonsis with Wayne Gretzky ("The Great One") at the Canadians v. Caps game, 11/22/2013 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps owner Ted Leonsis with Wayne Gretzky (“The Great One”) at the Canadians v. Caps game, 11/22/2013 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps owner Ted Leonsis thanked the fans during second overtime, May 2, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps owner Ted Leonsis thanked the fans during second overtime, May 2, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)


Ted is usually in his Verizon Center box for every Caps game and
often looks down to the players like a proud papa.

Ted’s book proved to draw interest from Caps fans of all ages.

Ted even “represents” at the games sometimes.
(2010 Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Cheryl Nichols is a Columnist and Photographer for District Sports Page. She is credentialed to cover the Washington Capitals and has reported on the community service and fan events for Nats News Network and Caps News Network since 2006. Cheryl is an accomplished action photographer and has been published in The Washington Post and many other local media. She was a credentialed photographer for the 2010 season covering the Washington Nationals. You can follow her on Twitter @cnichols14.

OPINION: Washington Capitals team will be tough to “blow up”

Last season, the eighth place team in the Eastern Conference had 92 points, roughly 1.12 points per game. In this lockout-shortened season, that works out to about 54 points. After Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Washington Capitals record stands at 2-7-1 (five points), a 24-point pace for the season.

In order to garner those 54 points to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs, the Caps need an additional 51 points, equivalent to a 22-9-7 record for the remaining 38 games of the season. For reference, that’s a 110-point pace over the course of a regular 82-game schedule.

So now that we’ve identified how difficult it will be for the Caps to qualify for the playoffs after the horrendous start they’ve played to so far, the more appropriate question at this point may be where, exactly, do the Caps go from here? [Read more...]

CAPS/WIZARDS/MYSTICS: Happy Birthday, Ted Leonsis

HAPPY BIRTHDAY
TED LEONSIS!

(Majority Owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment that owns and operates the
Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics)

Theodore J. Leonsis was born on January 8, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York.
Great news that the NHL lockout is over and fans can Rock the Red and fill Verizon Center again soon.

Thank you Ted for reaching out to the Caps fans, for being supportive of new media, for linking to our photos often and welcoming District Sports Page on launch day.  You are the best owner in sports. Happy Birthday! Let’s Go Caps!

Caps owner Ted Leonsis thanked the fans during second overtime, May 2, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps owner Ted Leonsis thanked the fans during second overtime, May 2, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)


Ted is usually in his Verizon Center box for every Caps game and
often looks down to the players like a proud papa.

Ted’s book proved to draw interest from Caps fans of all ages.

Ted even “represents” at the games sometimes.
(2010 Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Cheryl Nichols is a Columnist and Photographer for District Sports Page. She is credentialed to cover the Washington Capitals and has reported on the community service and fan events for Nats News Network and Caps News Network since 2006. Cheryl is an accomplished action photographer and has been published in The Washington Post and many other local media. She was a credentialed photographer for the 2010 season covering the Washington Nationals. You can follow her on Twitter @cnichols14.

Do the Washington Capitals risk part of their fan base if they miss the playoffs?

If the Washington Capitals fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs do they risk losing a significant portion of their fan base?

The Washington, D.C. market fan base has long been a target of ridicule from other cities. Fans of other cities up and down (but mostly, up) the east coast often chide D.C. fans as being unapologetic, less-than sophisticated homers — bandwagoners if you will — cheering for the teams of the region when they’re winning and forgetting about them when they struggle. It’s a fair criticism.

This town is transient by nature. Hardly anybody that lives here is from here. Entire neighborhoods turn over every few years. It’s no secret that many families have dual allegiances: parents fans of the teams they grew up with in other parts of the country, kids rooting for the locals because that’s where they are growing up. [Read more...]

Wizards Mid-Season Manifesto, Part Two: Into the Offseason

This is the second installment of a two-part column chronicling staff writer Nathan Hamme’s obsession with building a better Washington Wizards team.

Draft post players and shooters.

You can’t stress enough how important this draft is to the Wizards future. They’ve been in the top half of the lottery three consecutive seasons, and returning there for a fourth seems likely. Fans won’t accept if it happens a fifth time, and I’d feel more comfortable with an evaluator like Pritchard at the helm this year.

At the top of the draft there are several players who could help the team to varying degrees next season. The Wizards will certainly hope lightning strikes twice and they end up with the number one pick and Anthony Davis.  A freshman power forward with incredible shot blocking ability (NCAA best 4.8 per game) as well as a great motor and basketball IQ, who’s been called the most polished defensive big man to come out of college since Tim Duncan. He’s the kind of low risk, low-post, high upside, high character guys that would be a perfect addition to the Wizards.

PF/C Andre Drummond may ultimately have the highest upside, but at only 18 and not yet dominating on a struggling UConn team he comes with some risk. His size (6’10”, 270) and post presence are something the Wizards could really use, and he would be an outstanding consolation prize if he decides to declare—and his interestingly timed leap to college this summer suggests he will. Unfortunately this is not the no-brainer pick it seemed before the season, as Drummond has some developing to do.

The next tier consists of more known commodities: Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Thomas Robinson and Jeremy Lamb. Robinson is a DC native whose maturity, rebounding and post play make him a personal favorite. Sullinger has drawn comparisons as varied as Kevin Love and Michael Sweetney, but he’d be another quality rebounder and big body for a rather milquetoast Wizards front court. Barnes and Lamb are both very talented scorers whose viability depends largely on what the team decides to do with Nick Young. They would both be quality outside shooters that could help take some pressure off of John Wall, with Barnes probably the pick should they decide to go for perimeter scoring.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had been rising up boards but is apparently not going to declare for this year’s draft. Bradley Beal is another name to watch for the Wizards depending on how many of these underclassmen decide to stay in school.

I expect the Wizards will try to acquire another pick before this year’s deep draft, but moving up might be just as prudent. In addition to their own second rounder they have Dallas’ (projected in the low 50’s) from the Ronny Turiaf salary dump. They also have two in next year’s draft, and given the number of projects and reserves on the roster it’s probably time to turn quantity into quality. Trading two or three of those second round picks might move them into the first round.

Players like Arnett Moultrie, John Henson, Fab Melo, Terrance Jones, Perry Jones and Doron Lamb may be available in the mid-late first round and have significant upside. If the Wizards choose to stay put, the early second round features players like Kevin Jones, Jeffery Taylor, Augusto Lima and Virginia’s Mike Scott. Jae Crowder is a sleeper pick who may not even be taken on draft day, but his basketball IQ, toughness, defensive motor and three point shooting are things the Wizards covet—could he be Marquette’s next Wes Matthews.

Use the Qualifying Offer but make an overture.

Questions still surround what to do with JaVale McGee after the season when he likely becomes a Restricted Free Agent. Centers are at a premium in today’s NBA—even mercurial and inconsistent ones.

Which is why nobody should be surprised if McGee ends up with a $10 million a year deal at the end of the summer. But heck, nobody would have been surprised if Nick Young was offered a $7 million a year last fall. Is it also possible that this season will end and teams will be wary of McGee’s unpredictable play, just as they were with Young in the shadow of the CBA negotiations?

McGee has not shown that he’s worthy of the deal DeAndre Jordan signed in December (4 years, $43 million), or Brendan Haywood was granted from the Wizards before him (6 years, $55 milllion). Yet it’s the kind of money he’s likely to expect, and if you look at stats alone he’s not the least bit crazy.

McGee averages more points, assists and blocks than Jordan in fewer minutes. He has an almost identical rebound rate, and astonishingly is a better free throw shooter (48.5% vs. 48.1%). McGee’s PER is significantly higher despite Jordan having one of the highest FG percentages in the league. But the main difference offensively is what’s expected of the two centers. Jordan takes five shots a game, McGee almost 10. McGee does not have the benefit of an offensively oriented power forward to take the burden of scoring down low, and gets the ball in the post multiple times a game—as opposed to solely on alley-oops.

Unfortunately his bone headed play count (turnovers + goaltending violations + missed box outs) largely invalidate McGee’s efforts as a shot blocker, and his advanced statistics show opposing centers score and rebound well against him. Jordan is a far more polished defender and rebounds well even with another elite rebounder in his front court. Since Jordan can concentrate on what he’s good at he is regarded as a solid contributor for a contending team.

Hopefully McGee’s reel of lowlights will be enough to dissuade teams from making an offer calibrated on statistics alone. The Wizards should give him his Qualifying Offer, let him spend a couple weeks on the open market, then make him make a decision on a 4 year, $36 million contract. After all, he’s 24 year old true center with very little history of injury—he might just need some seasoning and the right coaching staff to blossom. If he’s given a near-max offer by someone else, the Wizards can move on to Omer Asik and Roy Hibbert, both of whom will be on the radar for teams looking for a center and may demand a similar bounty. Regardless, the team has one true center and is a must have position for any team who wants to succeed.

Wait until the summer to shop Andray Blatche.

Bottom line: ‘Dray is a sunk cost this season. He’s not lived up to his deal, even if he’s put up some impressive stats over the years, and isn’t scheduled to come off the payroll until 2015. The Wizards will be lucky to get another equally unpalatable contract in exchange for him this season—with the team’s interest in Tyrus Thomas being a prime example.

But, as Wizards fans have learned over numerous false prognostications about Blatche’s corner-turning, he’s always seems most appealing in the spring and summer—either putting up empty stats or not around to put his foot in his mouth. If Charlotte agrees to sending Thomas or teammate Boris Diaw it will happen immediately. Unfortunately Blatche’s stock hasn’t been lower in years.

In the broader perspective, however, his deal is not really so unpalatable. He’s made only $2-3 million over the mid-level exception for the duration of the contract, and has a unique skill set that could be more impactful in a reserve role on a contender. A more veteran team may convince themselves to gamble on the big man’s potential, so waiting until the cream of the crop is off the market might be the best marketing they can hope for.

Because Blatche is seen as so toxic in the locker room the Wizards have openly shopped him and destroyed any semblance of leverage in the situation. If a deal can’t be struck that gives some type of return on investment the team would be wise to take a wait-and-see approach instead of pushing the panic button. With Trevor Booker playing increasingly well lately at both power forward and center, and numerous other talented youngsters waiting in the wings, it is still something that should be addressed before next season.

Be a player in free agency—even if you can’t sign your targets.

The players mentioned in the trade deadline section may also rightfully apply here. But with Eric Gordon and others likely entering the market in some capacity over the summer the Wizards will need to act the part of a desirable team.

This means opening the pocket book, even doing it a bit more than others, while being as risk averse as possible. Don’t give a lot of years to a guy with an extensive injury history, and don’t be afraid to give a guy the contract he wants with incentives that make it worth his while.

Gordon may fit into both categories. He’s missed almost a season and a half in his short career due to injury, but also stands to be the prize of the free agent market after the Dwight Howard/Deron Williams situation shakes out. While I love his grit and ability, he’s likely in line for a four year deal in the $50 million range—while entirely shifting the evaluation of the Chris Paul trade. But his injury history makes him a risky proposition, and one I don’t expect, or recommend, that the Wizards pursue.

With no other candidates for maximum contracts the Wizards should start looking at second-tier free agents from the outset. While Orlando is not likely to give him up without a fight, Ryan Anderson has proven himself a unique commodity worthy of a four year, $32 million deal. With all the Dwight Howard drama going on how much can they afford to dedicate to Anderson?

The Grizzlies may give O.J. Mayo his $7.3 million qualifying offer, but would they match if the Wizards went four years $34 million for the talented guard? Ultimately the Wizards positional targets will depend on who is selected in the draft, but the need to add known and talented commodities is paramount.

Then there are mid-level exception targets. Robin Lopez has a $4.0 qualifying offer, but might be attainable at the MLE. Brandon Rush is turning into a knock down three point shooter and has a mere $4.3 million QO. Ersan Ilyasova has been a revelation for Milwaukee, both on the boards and as a long range shooter, and will get a raise in free agency—although if he continues his stellar play it may be a big raise.

As near-minimum salary options, Ian Mahimi, Reggie Evans, Hamed Haddadi and Jamaal Magloire could all help the Wizards in different capacities. Let’s face it—not everyone on the team can be on a rookie salary scale, getting useful pieces with minimum-level contracts can be great value. And since upper-echelon veterans are unlikely to covet a stint in DC, the team must see what still productive veterans are still available.

Use Amnesty on Rashard Lewis and save $10+ million.

If Lewis is waived this off-season he is now officially due only $13.7 million of his $22.7 million deal. Using Amnesty should allow the Wizards to take advantage of that opt out while giving themselves about over $30 million in cap space—a pertinent move dependent on whether they’re able to use much of it. And while Rashard’s contract expires after next season and could be seen as a valuable trade asset it requires that the Wizards not cut the veteran and reap those $10 million in savings–something that only makes sense if they’re unable to lure any free agents in the off-season, though that is entirely possible.

The alternative path would involve using Amnesty on Blatche, who has a combined $23 million due over the next three seasons. If they also choose to waive Lewis this option still leaves the Wiz nearly $30 million in  cap room. That’s plenty of money to build around John Wall, Trevor Booker, and whoever remains after an active trade deadline and off-season.

While I don’t advocate locking up three high priced free agents at once, there is no question the Wizards need to spend some of their money to start fielding a merely competitive team. With a little draft lottery luck they can start seeing drastic improvement by the end of next season.

Wizards Mid-Season Manifesto, Part One: The Trade Deadline

This two-part column chronicles staff writer Nathan Hamme’s obsession with building a better Washington Wizards team. It started as a mid-season recap, then became a second half preview. Then it morphed into trade deadline cheat sheet/NBA draft projection hybrid, and ultimately settled as a 4,000 word State of the Franchise diatribe. The second installation will follow Thursday.

At times this season the Washington Wizards have looked the part of the NBA’s “Most Dysfunctional Team”. Whether they are actually the league’s worst or merely one in the league’s bottom tenth is hardly of consequence and certainly not a comfort to fans.

The Wizards rebuilding project is now into its third season and so far the returns don’t look encouraging. Stacked up against some other currently rebuilding squads the Wizards appears to far lag behind—with Cleveland and Utah both playing playoff caliber basketball despite having undergone recent overhauls.

Unfortunately those two franchises are also particularly rosy comparisons for the moribund Wiz. Both had star players that contributed heavily to their rebuild when they left town. LeBron and Mo Williams left Cleveland with a score of valuable picks, while Utah also got great value for Deron Williams (a guy who Washington wanted in last year’ draft, Enes Kanter, and the number three pick from the ‘10 draft, Derrick Favors).

Meanwhile, Washington turned their competitive 2009 top seven of Haywood, Butler, Arenas, Jamison, Foye, Miller and Stevenson into Rashard Lewis, Trevor Booker, Hamady Ndiye and cap space. That’s it. Unless, of course, you consider the subsequent dismantling of the team (at the time 17-33) the cause of their ability to draft John Wall (9-23 to finish, winning fifth best odds in the draft lottery).

In this sense their situation has much more in common with the Rockets, who were forced to deal with Yao Ming’s abrupt retirement and a gaping hole in their roster, but even Houston was able to get Kevin Martin and Jordan Hill out of Tracy McGrady’s twilight. Regardless, the Rockets’ success provides an equally depressing comparison for Wizards fans.

So how does the organization look to dig itself out of this massive hole? From a team that was a playoff regular to a laughing stock and back? Here is a somewhat chronological, fully comprehensive look at fixing this Wizards team.

Let Wittman finish out the season, but start thinking about a long-term solution.

The Wizards play has improved post-Saunders. That much is certain. But is it a result of better chemistry in the locker room and a measure of calm on the court? Or is interim coach Randy Wittman trying some new—and successful—rotations in the team’s playbook? The answer is probably somewhere in between, and his attempt to instill accountability appears to have had some effect. But considering the team has primarily seemed comfortable pushing the ball up court to minimize half-court sets while creating turnovers on defense, it’s possible that everyone on the team just needed a fresh start.

If the Wizards haven’t shown additional strides at the end of the year does Wittman deserve to remain coach? He’s in a tough spot: it’s not just that he needs to have proven he can help develop this particular group of players, because he also needs to be the guy that will be able to attract players from other teams moving forward—and his head coaching record pre-Wizards is not seen as an asset.

Former coaches like Maurice Cheeks and Jeff Van Gundy have necessary name recognition, while assistants like Sam Cassell and Patrick Ewing are well regarded as former NBA stars. Is John Calipari worth considering? (Hint: the answer is “No”).

While someone in the Larry Brown mode would make sense for this team, it seems to me that Wittman has played an impressive “velvet hammer” thus far.

Unless a proven commodity appears on the market as Rick Adelman did last offseason (Stan Van Gundy?), the Wizards are just going to have to do their due diligence and make an educated decision based on who’s willing to undertake this daunting project.

One team’s trash is another team’s treasure

Every year there are teams who jettison contributing players for below market value. It can be an injury, a positional logjam, a fire sale (have the Hornets been sold yet?) or a straight salary dump (Nets?). Whatever the reason, good teams are unscrupulous in scooping their next bread winner off the trash heap (and apologies for the unsettling visual).

Michael Beasley is currently on the block, with Minnesota is looking for a late first round pick in return (the Lakers being one of several interested). The Wizards are desperately in need of scorers and long-range shooters, and could bring in the Frederick, MD native with zero long term risk. Beasley has a qualifying offer of $8.2MM next season which the team could easily afford if he performs, or if they aren’t in consideration for other available free agents.

Beasley is 23 but already in his fourth season, averaging nearly 20 points per game last year. His “character issues” stem largely from doing something many of the leagues players do, and his talent certainly justifies taking a test drive. After all, Josh Howard was on his best behavior in Washington just last year. The Wizards two second round picks might get a deal done, or they could opt to sacrifice one of their young forwards.

Even now, nearing the trade deadline, there are still free agents who warrant a look. Kyrylo Fesenko, a 25 year old, 7’1”, 280 pound Russian, has proven his chops as a defensive specialist with the Jazz these past four seasons. His offense needs a great deal of polish, but he can clog the lane with the best of them.

He’s fully recovered from a knee injury that kept him unsigned over the winter, and getting a foot in the door might allow the Wizards to add his bulk longer term as a defensive specialist. The Wizards front line lacks girth, and outside of Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker is more likely to be seen getting pushed off the block than posting up on it. Fesenko isn’t going to make them a playoff team, but the Wizards have to look to upgrade their personnel across the board—especially ones with a specific and useful skill-set.

And while Memphis has reportedly stopped shopping OJ Mayo, his previous availability suggests the Grizzlies are hesitant to offer him anything more than his $7.3MM qualifying offer for next season. If they decide to put the guard back on the market it would be a sizable upgrade for the Wizards at shooting guard—and someone they should consider into his restricted free agency.

A final possibility is to get involved in another team’s blockbuster trade by providing some key assets to make salaries work. The Rockets, Magic, Warriors, Bulls and Lakers and others look to be active in the coming days, and with various rules affecting the ability of teams to complete their deals the Wizards should look for any opportunity to get a pick or prospect.

Even more importantly, the team will need to bring in some veteran influences who demand respect and can show the younger guys how to make a living in this league—something more suited for the off-season, since quality veterans aren’t generally shipped to non-contenders.

Let’s face it: no one move is going to turn this team around, and these options are no exception. But until top free agents start believing they can win in a Wizards uniform, it’s going to mean building a roster bit by bit—effectively evaluating talent and accumulating assets in-season and out.

Trade Nick Young at the deadline.

Young is a decent starter and, at worst, a second string scorer in the NBA. He’s often given a hard time about his defense, but he’s actually turned into a respectable man defender and has the athleticism to be a force on the help-side as well. And, of course, he can score in bunches—including efficiently from the 3PT and FT lines.

Despite getting the go-ahead to chuck it these past two seasons Young hasn’t always had it easy in the Nation’s Capital. He languished behind Gilbert Arenas for years and is still pulled for long stretches of games to get Jordan Crawford minutes. The Wizards have been notorious losers these last three years, something that cannot be enticing for a young player looking for a long term deal.

The other variable, of course, is Crawford. He’s a considerably better passer and rebounder (despite being three inches shorter) and while he doesn’t have Young’s shooting ability he’ll continue to get burn because he’s younger (26 vs. 23) and on an affordable rookie deal.

Don’t get me wrong—I would love to retain Nick Young. But at what cost? Is he worth the contract the team afforded Andray Blatche? While there’s no evidence that anyone is willing to give him that kind of money, is he still expecting a deal that pays him $9 million a season?

Something tells me Nick hasn’t made up his mind to be here (maybe he’d feel more comfortable with one of his home town teams). I certainly don’t begrudge him the opportunity to find greener pastures. But is Arenas-esque personality, streaky performance, and poor body language don’t match the seriousness of this rebuild, making it hard to justify a massive commitment.

One thing is for certain: we should be using his current contract to our advantage. At one year, $3.7 million he’s not only a great value but a low risk proposition. Team’s looking to make a playoff run could be willing to part with a draft pick. A team looking to shed salary might sacrifice assets for a trade exception.

And remember, as long as it’s not a sign and trade the Wizards can offer him a contract that makes them comfortable in the offseason—and if I’m Nick Young why would I invoke my no trade clause? Don’t I relish the chance to showcase my skills in the playoffs and earn that big contract? And don’t the Wizards become a more appealing destination if they can get something out of it? It could be a rare win-win-win situation, but there is minimal benefit in having him play out the season in Washington.

Don’t re-sign Ernie, draft Kevin Pritchard.

Pritchard is currently on a one year deal with the Pacers as Director of Player Personnel, but when the Portland Trailblazers fired him in 2010 it raised eyebrows around the Association—and not solely because it came the day before the draft.

Pritchard may be known as the GM who took Greg Oden over Kevin Durant, but 80% of us would bear the same title had we been heading the Blazers draft team that year. More appropriately he should be known for identifying Nic Batum and Rudy Fernandez in the late first round, and being integrally involved in two of the most impressive fleecings in recent memory: getting Brandon Roy for Randy Foye and LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa.

The turmoil surrounding the Wizards was not entirely of Ernie Grunfeld’s making. He’s overseen numerous quality moves and constructed some playoff teams during his Wizards tenure. But while Grunfeld is respected around the league he’s not widely regarded as one of its best GMs, and if Washington is to become the “destination city” Ted Leonsis envisions it will need to embrace that new era—and that means a fresh start at the top.

Pritchard’s chops as a talent evaluator are exactly what the Wizards will need if they stick to their plan of building through the draft. His success in brokering deals via trade and free agency shows he deserves another chance at leading a front office. The Wizards can sit back and let Ernie’s contract run its course, but they would be wise to prepare for this one early.

CAPS/WIZARDS/MYSTICS: Happy Birthday, Ted Leonsis

HAPPY BIRTHDAY
TED LEONSIS!

(Majority Owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment that owns and operates the
Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics)

Theodore J. Leonsis was born on January 8, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York.

I have posted several stories about Ted Leonsis over the last couple of years.  He has won awards, wrote a successful book, started new companies and the Winter Classic will be coming to DC soon thanks to Ted.

I personally admire the man and have repeatedly said that Ted is the best owner in sports and will continue to say so until someone proves me wrong.

Thank you Ted for reaching out to the Caps fans, for being supportive of new media and welcoming District Sports Page on launch day.  You are the best owners in sports. Period.  Happy Birthday! Let’s Go Caps!


Ted is usually in his Verizon Center box for every Caps game and
often looks down to the players like a proud papa.

Ted’s book proved to draw interest from Caps fans of all ages.

Ted even “represents” at the games sometimes.
(2010 Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Caps to host Winter Classic in 2014?

Caps Celebrating 2011 Winter Classic Victory! (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

With today’s Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philly, many Washington Capitals fans are left wondering when the Classic will come to D.C., after team owner Ted Leonsis mentioned last season that the Caps were “promised” a Classic in the Nation’s Capital.  According to several reports over the last few days, that could come as early at 2014.

The game has been played in football and baseball stadiums to this point, with the football stadiums obviously capable of accomodating more fans.  It would be a truly unique experience to build a temporary outdoor arena on the National Mall, but back in 2010 Leonsis made it perfectly clear that the expense and effort to play hockey’s grandest game between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument would simply be unfeasable.

That leaves the possible venues in Washington, D.C. to one: Nationals Park, on South Capitol street just a few blocks south of the Capitol Building.  Nats Park certainly could be configured for hockey, and has hosted concerts and other events in addition to being home for the Nats.  FedEx Field in Landover, MD is the next closest venue, and while it has a larger capacity than Nats Park, it also lacks any charm or grace.

The other suggestions availble for the Caps to host a Winter Classic happen to be situated in Baltimore.  I find it distasteful than M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park remain on the list of possible venues for the WASHINGTON Capitals to host this game.  I’d rather them not host the event at all than to have it played in Baltimore.  Both Nats Park and FedEx Field are dark on New Year’s Day.  The only way this couldn’t happen is if an agreement over money couldn’t be arranged with the owners of one of those venues.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

As for the opponent, I’d just as well like to see the Caps host Pittsburgh.  They’d be division rivals again due to realignment, and the stakes just aren’t any biggeer than when these two teams face-off.  I’m sure NBC would love to feature another N.Y.-area team in the game, especially with next year’s game expected to pit Detroit against Minnesota, but the Caps-Pens rivalry is just too good to pass up.

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