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Successful, But Short of Ultimate Goal

When a team doesn’t meet its ultimate goal and loses in the playoffs, it seems everyone wants to identify why, find fault, blame someone or criticize something. That’s human nature, and I’m guilty of it too. Let me summarize the Capitals series with the New York Rangers this way: They won. The Rangers made the necessary plays – at both ends of the rink – that needed to be made when the situation arouse. Period.

Like many of our fans, I still have a hollow feeling a week after our season ended. We all had higher hopes and expectations. But that’s what the NHL playoffs provide – excitement and hope for the 16 teams that earn a playoff spot.

I’m sorry it ended when it did. I thought we were peaking at the appropriate time and it would translate into more playoff success and a deeper run. We played well, but we weren’t good enough. I remain proud of our team and appreciative of our fans – perhaps that’s why losing hurts so much. I feel we have let you down; I know we have let you down, and we let ourselves down. And we will continue to explore all avenues to improve our team in this new hard-cap era.

When the season ends we are left examining how and why it happened. We need to critically analyze what changes and adjustments we need to make to improve our chances in the future. Right now, all but eight teams are in a similar position.

I was pleased with how our team progressed after an incredibly slow start, and I’m excited about our future with Adam Oates behind our bench. We have the utmost faith in him as a teacher, communicator, leader and coach.

Winning in the NHL – or any sport – is difficult. Here’s a look at the last five Stanley Cup champions and their seed:

2012 – No. 8 Los Angeles

2011 – No. 3 Boston

2010 – No. 2 Chicago

2009 – No. 4 Pittsburgh

2008 – No. 1 Detroit

There is no exact formula, which is frustrating but also exciting. You can have the best record in the NHL during the regular season, but that doesn’t come close to guaranteeing playoff success. You can enter the playoffs on a winning streak, but the playoffs are a different “season.” There are numerous variables that go into winning and losing, and we need to focus on the variables we control.

It’s typical to wonder if or when the Capitals will achieve the level of success we envision. I assure you our organization’s daily commitment is keenly focused on winning the Stanley Cup. Our fans and a championship are at the top of our strategic pyramid. Every hockey operations decision takes into account how it will impact the potential of winning a championship. And every business operations decision takes into consideration how it will impact our fans.

While a playoff loss stings – no matter how or when it is delivered – I also won’t let it tarnish what this franchise has accomplished.

Three decades ago the Caps started a run of 14-straight Stanley Cup playoff appearances. While we’re proud of that stretch of our history, we also recognize that the NHL was much smaller during that era, and it was a bit easier to make the playoffs when there were only 21 clubs in the league. Today the salary cap ensures that no team will have a “perfect” roster; we all must choose and navigate our own path to winning.

We are proud to be one of only five teams to make the playoffs in each of the last six seasons. In the 30-team, salary-cap era, nailing down one of the 16 available playoff berths is becoming increasingly difficult. You have to get in to win, and we remain proud of our regular-season success over the last six seasons. Admittedly, we have work to do in order to achieve our ultimate goal, but we have been a successful organization for many years, despite what you my read, see or hear in MsM or on social networks. Here are a few facts:

The Capitals have enjoyed some of their most successful seasons in franchise history over the past six seasons and have become a perennial playoff contender. Clinching their sixth-straight playoff berth in April, the Caps have the longest streak of playoff appearances in franchise history since their 14-straight postseason trips between 1982-83 and 1995-96.

- The current streak of six-straight playoff appearances is tied for the fourth-longest active playoff streak in the NHL.

- Since 2007-08 the Capitals have won 148 games on home ice, tied for the second-most home wins in the NHL in the last six seasons.

- The Caps 116 road wins since 2007-08 rank tied for seventh in the league during that span.

- The Capitals have won five Southeast Division titles in the last six seasons, joining Vancouver as the only two teams in the league to accomplish that feat.

- 2012-13 marked Washington’s 24th playoff appearance in franchise history.

- Washington has advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals in three of the last five seasons.

- In the past 10 years only one team has won multiple Stanley Cups (Detroit), and there have been nine different Stanley Cup winners in each of the past nine seasons. (That underscores the parity in this league.)

- The Capitals finished April with an 11-1-1 record, the best record in the league and the most productive month in Capitals regular-season history.

- Adam Oates helped guide the Capitals to the Southeast Division title in his first season as a head coach in the NHL.

- For the fourth year in a row, the Capitals sold out every home game and continue to build upon their club-record 181 consecutive sellouts (including playoffs and dating back to 2008-09).

- Earlier this month Stadium Journey ranked Verizon Center No. 2 overall in the NHL in terms of overall fan experience. Their criteria: “Our ratings are meant to measure the overall fan experience of attending a game. Factors we include are food and beverage in the arena, overall atmosphere, the neighborhood, the fans, access (which includes parking, traffic, restrooms, and concourses), return on investment, and an "extras" category for any unique or bonus points.”

- Our season-ticket renewal rate this year was 96%. (We have been in the mid-to-high 90 percentile in recent years, and I’m extremely grateful for the incredible fan base we have in our region. It’s an important part of what helps shape our franchise.)

- There are many positives off the ice too, including our $1.5 million pledge to local charitable organizations and our numerous amateur hockey and community outreach programs.

While we weren’t able to achieve our ultimate goal, we have established a solid foundation that gives me every reason to believe and be hopeful. We will spend the upcoming days, weeks and months examining 2013 and preparing for 2013-14.

We have earned a playoff berth nine of the last 13 seasons, and I never take qualifying for granted. We have reached a level of success, but by no means are we satisfied with that current level.

Thank you for reading this post and for your support.