WASHINGTON - APRIL 28: Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Capitals, watches his team's 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Back when Flip Saunders was fired three months back, I had occasion to write:
What happens between now and the end of the coming free agency period is crucial to the future of the franchise. How Ted navigates the paradox of active ownership and effective organizational management will determine the fate of the current rebuild.
Effective organizational management calls for picking the right people for the job and getting out of their way. Agree or disagree that extending Ernie Grunfeld was the right call, his incumbency has real value and that means the personnel dominos are primed to fall in good order this offseason. The Wizards have momentum in just about every way, and that is a surprisingly easy achievement to overlook.
Jay Glassie had at least one thing right when he implicitly stated winning is an institutional effort. One thing I think we can all agree on perceiving at times in the franchise is a lack of accountability. As quickly as problems cropped up, passes were handed out, issues remained and it became hard to see if anyone within the organization or without had faith in an institutional standard. To be perfectly honest, that falls on everyone drawing a paycheck.
Problems get solved when one person takes responsibility for providing the solution. Playing the blame game provides reflexive satisfaction, but on a professional level, when you need everyone to buy in to a culture change, you can't afford to alienate anyone. Wonder why there hasn't been massive turnover at the Verizon Center? Ted got buy-in, established a standard for performance and those metrics are being met (fare thee well, Flip). What other logical conclusion is there to make?
So what are the institutional indicators that tell us how Ted is handling the paradox between active ownership and effective organizational management?
The nature of picking the right people and getting out of the way means we have to infer what is happening at the top. At the very least, we can conclude that things are going well enough as there's been hardly a hiccup from on high. But silence only tells us so much, so let's examine a few of the more significant indicators:
Veteran incumbents Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis were quietly shut down. I said back in January that Ted would make his decision on Ernie Grunfeld on the strength of player development and any moves made before the break. The prospects got pushed harder and have responded well while the roster is in it's best shape since...well, a while. Ted promised there would be additional investment in player development and we've seen the results. The Nene Hilario trade implies Ted had faith in Ernie's ability to find value for volatile, high value franchise assets and gave him the leash to do it.
Ted has stuck to his guns and while DC writers can't put enough asterisks onto the winning streak fast enough, I'm leaving the season with Sean's takeaway from the Cavaliers game; John Wall is smiling. If you would have told me the season would end with that image, I'd have called it a win. But with the offseason beginning today, I'm reminded it's only halftime.