Ted Leonsis gave an interview to the Washington Post's Katie Carrera Wednesday or Thursday in which he stated he will let superstar forward Alex Ovechkin play in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia even if the NHL decides to not send it's players.
Leonsis is quoted on the Washington Post Capitals Insider blog as saying "it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for him to have something played in Russia" and Ovechkin being a torchbearer as the reasoning for his decision.
However, Leonsis follows those comments by saying it might be a different story if fellow superstar forward Nicklas Backstrom is selected to play for team Sweden in the Sochi games.
I see this as a potentially troubling situation for several reasons.
First and formost, Alex Ovechkin is under contract for 10 more years with the Capitals which means he is signed to play in the NHL for the next decade. There are no clauses in the contract that say he is allowed to leave the Capitals to play elsewhere in the middle of the season.
Second, Ovechkin isn't the only player on the team that might be selected to play in the Sochi games. Nicklas Backstrom will without question be selected by team Sweden to play which leads me to my last point.
If Leonsis is going to let Ovechkin leave, but tell Backstrom or any other member of the Capitals selected they can't go, what kind of precedent is Leonsis setting?
The culture of a franchise starts from the top. So far, Ted Leonsis has done an admirable job running the Capitals, but there were whispers several years ago that the young guns, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Mike Green and the departed Alexadner Semin were not being disciplined enough and that is why the team consistently fell short in the playoffs.
That stopped last year with Bruce Broudreu's dismissal and the hiring of former Capitals captain Dale Hunter. The results weren't immediate, but the discipline Hunter instilled showed through in the playoffs as the Caps beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins in seven grouling games, then nearly did the same to the top seeded New York Rangers in round two.
Players spoke after the season about how the discipline and selfless culture Hunter had instilled needed to stay dispite his departure.
Telling Ovechkin he can leave mid-season to play in the Olympics and not allowing any other player to do the same will potentially ruin that culture. Will some players understand that Ovie badly wants to play in his home country. Absolutely. I understand that feeling as I'm typing these words.
But, some might also feel Ovechkin has put his own personal wants in front of the team and Leonsis has allowed it.
Does Leonsis not see how troubling that could be?
Apparently not, and if the selfless culture that Dale Hunter created and players such as Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Brooks Laich and other players have said was necessary suddenly stops, we know who to blame.