Ultimate Standings: Trotz turned attitudes around in nation's capital

Jared Silber/NHLI/Getty Images

This story is part of ESPN The Magazine's Oct. 12 Owners Issue. Subscribe today!

Washington Capitals

Overall: 55
Title track: T91
Ownership: 26
Coaching: T20
Players: 56
Fan relations: 21
Affordability: 93
Stadium experience: 54
Bang for the buck: 84
Change from last year: +39

The Caps were heading in the wrong direction a year ago, falling from No. 68 in 2013 to 94th overall. But the hiring of coach Barry Trotz immediately turned attitudes around in the nation's capital. Washington -- which was a Game 7 overtime goal away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals last spring -- now trend all the way up to No. 55.

What's good

How about everything? The Capitals have improved by double digits in all eight categories. But they fare particularly well in coaching, fan relations and ownership. There's no doubt Ted Leonsis' hiring Trotz boosted the scores, but it's not the only explanation for the 26-point gain in ownership. Leonsis cleaned house after the Caps' six-season streak of making the playoffs came to an end in 2014. After 17 years on the job, GM George McPhee was replaced by longtime assistant GM Brian MacLellan. And Leonsis, who also owns the Verizon Center and the similarly resurgent Washington Wizards, stays engaged with fans on his Ted's Take blog, which he often updates several times a day.

What's bad

Even though affordability jumped 12 places, it's still not cheap to see a hockey game in the District. With an average ticket price of $70.98, Caps fans pay more than those in 19 of the NHL's 30 markets. Inside Verizon, the $5 they spend for a 16-ounce soda is tied for the worst deal in the league. No wonder their bang for the buck is 84th out of 122 pro sports teams, with only three American-based NHL clubs providing less return. And, of course, there's that matter of a title: zero, to be exact. No surprise a squad that hasn't played for a Cup since 1998 has its second-worst score in title track.

What's new

Not only did Trotz immediately lead the Capitals back to the postseason, but he did something predecessors Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau, Dale Hunter and Adam Oates could not accomplish: Got superstar captain Alex Ovechkin to play defense without sacrificing his scoring. Ovechkin led the league in goals for the third straight season, but his plus/minus improved massively from minus-35 in 2013-14 to plus-10. No wonder Washington's coaching rank jumped a whopping 71 points even if somehow Trotz wasn't among the three finalists for the Jack Adams award as the NHL's coach of the year.

Next: Calgary Flames | Full rankings