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Why Caps GM George McPhee didn't do more in the off-season

Sep 18, 2010, 11:00 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for georgemcpheecapsgm.jpgA lot of fans and observers around the NHL are going to be watching the Washington Capitals with a curious eye this season. After a shockingly disappointing playoff exit in the first round at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, many thought that this off-season would bring changes to the Capitals lineup in the form of a big-name defenseman, a playmaking second-line center and even perhaps a goalie.

As it turns out, the Capitals did nothing significant at all, choosing to go with their home-grown youth to lead them into this season. Defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner will get the chance to prove themselves worthy of full-time NHL play while Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth will be the goaltending tandem in D.C.

If it seems shocking that a team wouldn’t make drastic moves after a miserable playoff performance that followed a brilliant regular season, Capitals GM George McPhee inserts some of his own logic to the mix courtesy of Caps Insider’s Katie Carrera.

“We had a fabulous season last year and for about six and a half months we were a terrific team and in five days we lost it. We came to camp expecting to do good and we had a real good season with really no adversity.

“We start the playoffs three games to one and in five days it fell apart. We didn’t play well enough in game five (against Montreal); we couldn’t have played better than we did in game six. That was probably the best game we played all season. We were pretty good in game seven but the goalie was great, our powerplay didn’t work and we scored one goal a game the last three games and our strength last year was scoring.

“It didn’t work out but I cant allow five days to get in the way of what we think is a terrific team. So we’d like to keep them together and see how they do this year.”

What McPhee says makes a world of sense. The Caps were a great team last year that got ushered out by a team with a system and a game plan that they stuck to to the letter. In the NHL playoffs, these things happen sometimes and it usually leads to that losing team getting a chip on their shoulder the following season to correct those wrongs.

The catch with the Caps is that they’ll be doing that with a handful of guys that aren’t just new to the Caps but are new to the NHL as well. It’s somewhat like playing with fire for both McPhee and head coach Bruce Boudreau, but with the amount of talent the Caps have it’s a risk worth taking.

After all, guys like Alzner, Carlson and Neuvirth have done their part in winning the Calder Cup in the AHL so they’ve done that much. Adapting the skills learned there and trying to make the Caps a Stanley Cup winner might prove to be McPhee and Boudreau’s most daring challenge to date.

  1. Fecteau - Sep 20, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    My problem with this, as I’m a Capitals fan, is how there was NOTHING done. They lost players and seem to only grab minor leaguers and bush league players to fill the holes. Varlamov and Neuvirth will be fine if they stay healthy, but the defense is what is and has been the problem for a while; namely Mike Green.
    Green spends so much time concerned about offense that he leaves his goaltender and D partner susceptable to odd man rushes, which is the real reason why they didn’t win against Montreal. Granted Halak was playing stellar goaltending and also knocked out the Penguins the next round, but there were at least two losses that were completely Mike Green’s fault. I loved how Boudreau made a statement along the lines of he only messed up twice this game, but it ended up hurting us both times… Yeah, a game that’s final score is 3-2 and he’s responsible for screwing up so Montreal wins, but if a guy like Willie Mitchell or another solid stay at home defenseman would have prevented those 2 goals, all of a sudden the score is now 1-2 and the Caps win! And there wouldn’t have been a game six needed…
    Furthermore, you have two potential future All Star defenseman coming up for full time roles in Carlson and Alzner, but let’s not get a guy that can really show them leadership and how to play D in the NHL (like Pronger needed with Al MacInnis while in St. Louis) so 2-3 years down the road they’re All Stars, rather than having for them to learn the hard way and take 6 years like most defenseman without that mentor… In 6 years, expect half the team is gone because of salary cap reasons, you can’t keep Semin, Backstrom, Knuble, Ovi, Green, Laich, Fleischmann, etc on the same team without sooner or later having to get weak(er) on D, goaltending, whatever…
    Plus it shores up that D line that has put the goaltending in between a rock and hard place during the playoffs. If they were able to find a player that could handle having to get left high and dry by Green on a regular basis that’s fine; but I think the way to go is to get rid of Green. The Caps HAVE offense; they’re the best in the league by far. So there’s proof that you don’t NEED a defenseman to play offensively other than to quarterback the power play if you have all those players I’ve listed above…

  2. Caps Fan - Sep 20, 2010 at 7:43 PM

    Obviously you don’t know jack about hockey. I am sure you’ve never played.

  3. Langway Rules - Sep 20, 2010 at 11:13 PM

    Great analysis Fecteau. You do understand the game and laid it all out clearly. Just as Paul Coffey prevented some strong Red Wings teams from taking the Cup in the mid 90s, so too will Green prevent some strong Caps teams from winning. GM GM is a student of the game and knows this all too well. Expect him to jettison a loose cannon Green to shore up the blue line before mid season. It’s no secret that the Coaching staff has lost patience with his year in year out undisciplined play.

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