Another year, another disappointment for the Washington Capitals.
And another post-mortem from the owner.
"The wheels fell off for us. No doubt about that," wrote Ted Leonsis on his blog, Ted's Take. "I am stunned we were swept in round 2."
Leonsis delivered an open letter to Capitals fans after a shorter-than-expected playoff run, which ended Wednesday night in a 5-3 loss and a sweep at the hands of the division-rival Lightning. It's the second straight year the Capitals captured the Eastern Conference's top seed and bowed out before the Conference Final.
"Congratulations to Tampa Bay," Leonsis added. "They were clearly the better team and they amped it up to another level. They parlayed their momentum from round 1 quite efficiently while we never seemed to be able to step it up and catch them in terms of energy and production. Little things seemed to bother us this series. We weren't resilient and we didn't get over obstacles placed in our way. We are all accountable on this performance starting with me."
Included in his breakdown was a laundry list of factors that determined the lopsided outcome:
"Their role players outplayed our role players.
Their highest paid players outplayed our highest paid players.
In fact, their role players outplayed our highest paid players.
Their goaltending was better.
Their special teams were better.
They adhered to their coaches' system better than we adhered to our coaches' system."
Leonsis stressed that the best course of action was to wait to let the emotions settle down before making any decisions, which includes the future of the head coach.
As things were falling apart for the Capitals against Tampa Bay, much of the talk was about head coach Bruce Boudreau. In Leonsis' open letter to fans following their upset loss to the Montreal Canadiens in last year's opening round, the owner suggested that the Caps' coaching staff was as much to blame as the players on the ice.
"They played committed team defence," Leonsis said of the Habs last spring. "They took our stars out of play all series. I believe our hockey IQ seemed low this series and we didn't adjust well on the ice to the new schemes coming our way."
But Boudreau kept his job, and, despite a slow start to the current season and the lowest offensive output from superstar Alex Ovechkin in his career, the Capitals climbed to the top of the conference by season's end. They made quick work of the New York Rangers in the first round before falling to the Lightning. He did get an endorsement from general manager George McPhee. "I expect him to be back. He's a good coach," McPhee said when asked if he felt Boudreau would be back next season.
"In times like these people are emotional; angry; and demand change. I understand," Leonsis said. "The best course of action for us though is to let a few days pass; be very analytic about what needs to be improved; articulate that plan; and then execute upon it. Clearly we know we have to improve to build a franchise that is as good as our fan base.
"Thank you for caring so much," Leonsis added. "I am so very sorry we let you all down."