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For All the Cupless Losers: How Do You Measure Success?

Performance measure?
Performance measure?

Japers' Rink has a lengthy interview with Capitals owner Ted Leonsis covering a range of topics, one of which cuts to the heart of sports fandom across sports, across leagues, across ages: In an environment where 29 teams "fail" each season, how do you measure success?

Leonsis says in part:

"Most owners want to win a ring, hoist the trophy and host a parade for their fans and city. Let me assure you that owners are all uber competitive. We all have enjoyed a level of business success, and we are accustomed to "winning." We have a formula for that business success, and while portions of that formula may be transferable to professional sports, there are so many other variables that are out of our control.


We all know - or quickly learn - how difficult it is to win a championship. We have to judge our front offices across multiple dimensions. We just can't say ring or bust year after year - it isn't that simple. As I have said before, winning a championship is the toughest accomplishment in any industry or business.

This is something that's patently obvious -- and yet it's glossed over by many a (once-spoiled?) fan. Perhaps, as Leonsis suggests, it's the fan's job (or at least right) to view things in absolute terms: Win or bust, even playoffs or bust. But the logical conclusion of that standard is that even the greatest teams are "busts" more often than not.

Which is probably how so many miserable people call in to sports radio shows or vent on anonymous message boards as if they're child has just wrecked the car.

But if you don't accept the absolute standard -- if you view things more as they are viewed by a "uber competitive" yet realistic owner who must sign checks win or lose ... then what are your standards of success?

Leonsis points to a recent post on his own blog to highlight "What Goes Into Our Thinking." It's a lengthy list but a very good one of what he examines with his management team.

Just a few of the many items worth chewing:

  • Do we have a plan and a strategy that is rational and could lead to a championship?
  • Are we on plan?
  • Are we investing enough time, effort, resources and money to accomplish that plan?
  • How do we compare to our competitors in this regard?
  • Are we on timeframe?
  • Are we adhering to the plan?
  • Team performance – standings and improvement?
  • Trending analysis?
  • Statistical improvements in key areas?
  • Individual player improvements?
  • Are we developing stars and all-stars?
  • Waiver wire – did we find a steal?
  • Are we scouting well?
  • Do we find International players that add value for our franchise?

It goes on to cover everything from tickets to in-venue experience, customer satisfaction surveys, social media traffic, overall popularity, TV exposure, etc. A lot of metrics fans might know intuitively think about but perhaps don't consider as a whole.

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The next question then for us, as an Islanders-focused site, is: Where are the Islanders on these metrics? Even conceding that they're in the toughest part of a long rebuild, can they point to trends in the right direction?

Do they get any extra wiggle room for A) extenuating arena/revenue/Milburian circumstances and B) a tough division, or alternatively does that just point out how much harder they need to work to meet these performance measures?