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Dot-com strategy for Caps Add to ...

If his management group believes the Capitals are close to winning the Stanley Cup next summer, then Leonsis is prepared to listen to arguments for adding an unrestricted free agent or two.

However, he understands that throwing money at a team is not necessarily a tried-and-true solution. For proof, he needs only to examine the folly of fellow dot.com millionaire, Daniel Snyder, who purchased the Washington Redskins for $800-million, bumped the team's payroll to the top of the National Football League's salary scale and then missed the playoffs anyway. The Redskins' pratfall, along with the struggles of the basketball Wizards, have suddenly made the Capitals the darlings of their market.

"I wish you could just write a cheque and win," he said. "If that were the case, then all the richest guys would be winning championships. So what I believe is, the way you break through is, first, you have an oversupply of young talented players, who are pushing themselves onto the team, from fourth line, to third, to second, to becoming stars.

"Secondly, you make trades and hopefully, those trades will play out correctly. We just got a steal of a deal with [Dmitri]Khristich from Toronto. Then, when you think you're there, you can go into the free-agent market to get you home. But chemistry is vitally important. I'm not going out and being stupid. I'm telling George: 'Engineer a team the fans can fall in love with.' But I also don't want it to be overhyped so you can't live up to expectations."

Some of Leonsis's theories may have a larger application around the league, but he says his primary focus is getting the Capitals straightened around first.

"I'm only 18 months into it and I don't think we're anywhere close to being there," he said. "But if I allow myself a minute of reflection, I'd say over the two seasons, we are the fastest-growing team in the NHL. The buzz on us is high. We've made an impact. So far so good, but the goal is a Stanley Cup and then another Stanley Cup and then to be sold out, with very high levels of satisfaction. That's what AOL does and I think I can do the same thing with the Caps." Eric Duhatschek writes analysis and commentary for globeandmail.com; his column appears on the Web site Tuesday through Saturday.

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