Frankly the word to use here is ‘overwhelmed.’ Overwhelmed in a good way. If you can’t picture a room filled to capacity at 10AM, to hear George McPhee talk about front-loaded contracts and think it’s crazy that there were full lines to get autographs from guys who played over 15 years ago, like Kevin Kiminski and John Druce, Saturday’s Capitals Convention was probably not for you. For everyone else, it was absolutely phenomenal!
Here are some highlights of what we heard and saw. We’ll first start with our review of what Bruce Boudreau, Ted Leonsis and George McPhee had to say.
Quotes and Notes from George McPhee’s Question and Answer Session:
- McPhee says he no longer has a full time scout in Russia. “You see the best teams and players in the tournaments anyways.”
- With players such as Alexander Ovechkin, Alex Semin and a slew of prospects like Dmitry Orlov in the Capitals system, McPhee told Saturday’s audience what everyone knows, stating that the Capitals have a major advantage over other teams in retaining Russian players. McPhee also said that Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren is trying to copy the Capitals success in this area.
- McPhee told the crowd that he, ‘can’t wait to get Kuznetsov to Washington.’ Also said he wouldn’t mind if Kuznetsov played some games with Hershey first as this helped others like Orlov further develop their games.
- “I don’t like to really have too many teenagers in the lineup.” Read into that comment what you will.
- In one basic area McPhee likes to keep his player contracts consistent, stating that he doesn’t want any player in the Capitals organization, or anyone looking to join, to perceive the Caps as playing favorites. What does that mean? That means that the Capitals do not include bonuses in the contracts of their players. “Agents will buy into it as long as you’re being consistent.”
- On why the power play didn’t work last season: “When it’s not working you hold onto the puck too long. When it is working the puck is moving. We did more of the later.”
- McPhee told the audience that he has read ‘Moneyball’ and loved it. Said the Capitals thought about getting a full time ‘analytics guy,’ but decided against it. “It always comes down to, is this guy a hockey player or not.”
- In terms of how McPhee and company decide if ‘a guy is a hockey player,’ George told the crowd that the Caps have changed how they scout players, and that the new method is paying off. McPhee didn’t want to disclose what that new technique is. Obviously, the streets are listening.
- McPhee was asked about trading Semyon Varlamov. There’s a lot here, so get ready:
– “Going in we had no intention of trading ‘Varly. We wanted to wait one more year.” Basically, McPhee said that the Colorado offer was just too good to pass on.
– On Varlamov’s attitude: “Varly wanted to be treated different than Neuvirth.”
– When the Varly to the KHL rumors started popping up and Varlamov’s Russian agent basically said he was going to play in Russia, McPhee became very concerned. “We were concerned that if Varly goes to Russia, he will have to go through waivers to come back. We didn’t want to get nothing for Varly.” How did McPhee react to this? “We sent a fax to the league, ‘if you’re interested, (In Varlamov) call.’”
- McPhee on Tomas Vokoun coming to Washington: “We traded Valry and the next day the hockey gods had Vokoun for us.”
- McPhee thinks the 2012 NHL draft class is very strong. In comparison, McPhee told the gathered audience that he thought the 2011 draft class was rather weak. This was the reason why the Capitals traded their 2011, first round pick to acquire Troy Brouwer from Chicago. “We wanted a difference maker.”
- Most interesting question from the convention audience? It came from a man who asked George, “Do you ever feel up in the club level, will somebody knock that guy (On the other team) on his butt? “Yeah,” was George’s straight-forward answer, a response that generated a lot of laughs.
- On this current Capitals team: “They remind me of team we went to finals with. It’s going to be a hard team to play against. Maybe not as offensive, but more physical.”
- Does not view the KHL as a threat to the NHL. “The best Russians play in the NHL.”
- According to George, the Capitals told the NHL that they would not accept an invitation to the Winter Classic unless the Capitals were able to host their own Winter Classic game, in the D.C. area, in the next five years.
- George told the Capitals Convention crowd that the Caps plan on carrying only seven defenseman this season. Also said injuries to some of his defenseman were a contributing factor in the Capitals second round loss.
- On the noise in Verizon: “It’s unbelievable. I can’t tell you how good our fans are here. Folks around the league have told us it’s between Montreal and Washington. (In terms of who has the loudest building.) Barry Trot, (Nashville coach) says Washington is the one place he has to yell at his players on the bench.”
- McPhee on Matt Bradley calling out the motivation level of Alexander Semin over the summer: “I still like Bradley, and he did call to say he regretted that.”
Notes and Quotes From Ted Leonsis’s, Q&A Session:
- On 24/7 filming the Caps: “I’m glad we did it, but I’m glad they’re gone. They were magnificently talented but they tell the story they want to tell. You had piano music for one team, organ music for another. Happy families for one team, ‘F this and F that,’ for another team.”
- “It’s really hard for us to work as hard as we do and not win the championship. In business you can be really successful with other people also successful. In sports, there is only one winner and 29 losers.
- Said the Caps have the second largest ticket base, according to some statistics.
- Ted had a funny story about how he was telling a business owner that there are, ‘tectonic changes’ occurring in the business world, the moment before D.C. felt the earthquake. Moments later Ted recalled that the business owner told him, “Holy sh*t! I will never not listen to you again!”
- On the Capitals not having preseason games on Comcast: “We can’t do anything about it. E-mail Comcast!”
- Ted absolutely had the best one-liner of the day. “You have to trust me, Alex isn’t fat, I’m fat!” Ted also gave fans permission to pinch Alex’s stomach when he was signing autographs for them. (According to Alex, no one pinched his stomach, and here I thought Ted had control of his fanbase!)
- “From what I’ve seen in terms of strength, endurance and body fat, this is the best offseason we’ve had. I think it’s maturity.”
- I wasn’t surprised to hear Ted say that he had a very strong friendship with another sports owner who made much of his wealth off the internet, and also takes a very proactive approach in interacting with fans, in Mark Cuban. According to Ted, Cuban told him, “No one has greater empathy for what you’re going through then me.” After the fan Q&A session, I was able to ask Ted what advice Cuban had also given him. “Never quit. Keep at it. Do what you think is right and believe in your people,” said Leonsis. “He suffered a lot of criticism, he has a very passionate fan base and he deserved what he got. I’m hoping the same fate befalls us, but no one’s going to give it to us. We have to earn it,” Leonsis continued.
- On the job security of George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau: “I’ve learned never to make big decisions based on emotion. After the playoffs, there was not one player, including Alex Ovechkin, that the fans didn’t demand we trade or cut. I was blistered by emails. I believe in George and Bruce, but mostly because the players do.”
- “I can’t tell you how to win a championship, but I can tell you we’ll die trying.”
Notes and Quotes from Bruce Boudreau during Saturday’s convention
- The Capitals had Bruce Boudreau speak with Alexander Ovechkin and two of the guys who produced the 24/7 Penguins/Capitals series for HBO. Bruce got a big cheer from the crowd after answering if watching 24/7 made him have any more respect for the Penguins. “No. I don’t have any friends on the Penguins.”
- According to Bruce, he watched 24/7 with his kids but left the room whenever anything bad would happen to the Caps. This means that Boudreau has not seen much of the first two episodes, he told the crowd that he’d be in another room and one of his kids would tell him, ‘They’re killing you dad.’
- Things you may not have known about Bruce Boudreau: He was an avid Spider-Man comic collector as a kid, and also had a collection of baseball cards. Included in that baseball collection were a few Yankee rookie cards, (Coach Boudreau was then, and still is a big Yankees fan.) of guys like DiMaggio and Mantle, that Boudreau unfortunately no longer has. “It devastates me to know how much those are now worth.” Chin up, coach.
Final note: You asked these guys better questions then we do. Nice job fans. I also thought McPhee was absolutely fantastic in terms of giving thorough, complete answers, and also being honest in explaining some of the decisions he’s made. Not sure many NHL General Managers would be as personable as he was in that area.
We’ll cover the responses players like Brooks Laich, Jeff Halpern, Dennis Wideman and more had to fan questions next.