- - Monday, May 24, 2021

I wonder what that meeting was like back in June of 2018 between Ted Leonsis and his men of intelligence, empathy and compassion.

They were likely still basking in the glow of their Stanley Cup victory. Heck, they may have had the Cup sitting right there on Ted’s desk while they discussed the business of happiness.

Barry Trotz, the coach of the Stanley Cup championship team — the first one the Washington Capitals franchise had won in its 44-year history — wanted a new contract that would take him from being among the lowest-paid coaches in the league to one of the highest, at $4 million a year. 

But Trotz had a deal that the men of intelligence, empathy and compassion were determined to hold him to — a two-year extension of his existing contract with a $300,000 bonus for bringing the franchise its greatest single moment.

After all, they had Todd Reirden, Trotz’s assistant and apparently the real architect of the team’s success.

“Todd has played an integral part in helping lead our team to the Stanley Cup championship,” general manager Brian MacLellan told reporters upon the departure of Trotz and the hiring of Reirden. “We feel his appointment as head coach will enable our organization to transition seamlessly into the next season and beyond.”

Maybe these men of intelligence, empathy and compassion sat in that room, looked at the Cup, and said, “How hard can it be?”

Apparently, after the Capitals’ third straight first-round exit from the NHL playoffs, it’s harder than it looked in 2018.

Maybe somebody should write a book called, “The Business of Arrogance.” 

There has been little seamless since Trotz left.

“Beyond” didn’t last long for Reirden, fired after two seasons of first-round failures.

On Sunday, the Capitals were again shown the playoff door early, this time with their Trotz replica, Peter Laviolette, a coach who, like Trotz, had won a Stanley Cup and would wind up being paid the money that Ted and his brain trust could have paid Trotz.

But they were too smart for that. The Capitals’ current coach, one with a Stanley Cup on his resume, wasn’t good enough to change the outcome from the two previous seasons.

All that money to Laviolette and still the Capitals managed to nab just one of five games from the Boston Bruins.

And despite all sorts of reasons — similar and dissimilar —for the early exits since Trotz left, it’s impossible to ignore the line that connects those events.

Based on his remarkable 2018 Stanley Cup playoff performances, the powers that be likely believed Evgeny Kuznetsov was about to step up to become one of the top scorers in the league. 

They likely didn’t count on him being suspended for cocaine use and becoming an irresponsible teammate who has embarrassed the organization with COVID-19 protocol violations and disciplinary benchings. 

That could have happened under Trotz as well. 

We’ll never know. 

Instead, they took place under a rookie head coach and then this year with an unfamiliar face in charge of the volatile Russian star.

The chaos around the net this season could have happened under Trotz as well.

They let Braden Holtby leave for free agency because of salary cap restraints and signed legendary goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for one year as a bridge and mentor to the team’s young goaltenders. But who could have predicted that Lundqvist would miss the season with heart surgery and one of those young, promising goaltenders, Ilya Samsonov, would become Kuznetsov’s partner in crime with a lack of maturity on and off the ice?

And now we sit with all sorts of questions about the future of this team, as they squandered three seasons in the twilight of Alex Ovechkin’s career — a career that is now in question. He is set to become a free agent this offseason. When asked about his contract following their 3-1 elimination loss to Boston Sunday, Ovechkin said, “We just lost a playoff series. Let’s talk about my contract and stuff later on.”

No one seriously expects Ovechkin to leave. Everyone assumes the business of arrogance that has put this franchise in this position doesn’t extend so far as to say goodbye to one of the greatest athletes this town has ever seen. But hey, Morgan Moses is gone. 

Anything’s possible — even showing the door to the coach who helped lead you to your only Stanley Cup title.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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