Truth is, though, the cliche message also applies to the Capitals and pretty much every NHL franchise not nicknamed the Blackhawks or the Penguins.
Sure, it’s the August long weekend.
There are likely a few shreds of ticker-tape still stuck in the gutters in the Windy City, Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith is still getting accustomed to his new teeth, and most Manitobans haven’t even had a chance to dip their toes in Toews Lake.
For fans of the frozen game, though, it’s never too soon to start talking about next season — and beyond.
Since the lockout ended, the NHL has been blessed with a seemingly endless line of exciting and, for the most part, likable stars.
Barring a longtime allegiance to the Red Wings, you probably had goosebumps when Sidney Crosby hoisted the Stanley Cup two years ago.
Unless you give two shakes about the Flyers, you didn’t mind seeing stone-faced Jonathan Toews actually wearing a smile in mid-June.
That’s old news, though, and the modern sports fan doesn’t necessarily dig dynasties.
So who’s next?
After adding Taylor Hall to a stockpile of offensive prospects that also includes world junior hero Jordan Eberle and skilled Swede Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, the Oilers are being billed as a future force to be reckoned with.
Jonathan Bernier finally seems ready for stardom, giving the Kings a hotshot puck-stopper to complement an up-and-coming core featuring sniper Anze Kopitar and blueline ace Drew Doughty.
The Coyotes and Avalanche have stashed a cache of young weapons, while sharpshooters Steven Stamkos and John Tavares are trying to author turnarounds in Tampa Bay and Long Island, where they’re not yet legal drinking age.
But the Capitals seem closest to sipping champagne from Lord Stanley’s mug.
In an era when the best way to rebuild is undoubtedly to hit rock-bottom and load up on long-term investments, Leonsis’ squad has been there, done that.
Alex Ovechkin was the first-overall selection in 2004, the same year the Capitals scored the rights to Calgary-born blueliner Mike Green, while Nicklas Backstrom was the fourth prospect to hear his name called two years later.
As a result, the Capitals now boast the NHL’s most high-octane offence, are making room for fellow first-rounders Karl Alzner and John Carlson on an increasingly reliable blueline brigade, and seem ready to roll the dice on a couple of intriguing prospects in the crease.
A testament to their talent on the farm, the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate captured a Calder Cup last season.
And the parent club? Well, they won a President’s Trophy.
No wonder they’ve been no-shows for the annual free-agent spend-a-thon.
“We got 121 points last year because we’re a pretty good team,” Capitals GM George McPhee told the Washington Post. “We don’t really need a lot.”
Maybe what they needed was time.
The Penguins turned four consecutive seasons of high draft choices — and a bit of lottery luck at the end of the lockout — into goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and forwards Evgeni Malkin, Crosby and Jordan Staal, the centrepieces of their Stanley Cup triumph in 2008.
Although Keith and fellow blueliner Brent Seabrook were already being groomed for stardom, the Blackhawks didn’t really take off until they added Toews and Patrick Kane in successive summers.
Although Ovechkin certainly would’ve liked to win the big one before his arch-rival, Crosby, it seems more and more likely it could finally be Washington’s turn.
Keep in mind, though, the Penguins and Blackhawks aren’t going anywhere, either.
Before LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up to form the an insta-dynasty of sorts with the Miami Heat, Crosby, Toews and Ovechkin made long-term commitments to their current cities. Ditto for Malkin, Kane and Backstrom.
That’s why the bookmakers haven’t budged much on their Stanley Cup odds since the NHL’s free-agent market opened for business.
As other owners forked over hundreds of millions in contracts July 1, Leonsis logged on and reminded fans the Capitals’ key pieces are locked up.
“Most great teams are built around their own home-grown star players. Those are the facts,” he wrote in an entry posted last week. “Guess who was playoff MVP this past season in the NHL? Guess who scored the winning goal for the Blackhawks in the last game of the series? See what I mean? Patience is a virtue, I believe.”
A couple of awful seasons doesn’t hurt, either.