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Capitals GM didn’t want to “chase a bad deal”

Feb 27, 2012, 8:40 PM EDT

Washington Capitals Press Conference Introducing New Head Coach Dale Hunter Getty Images

Despite an undoubtedly large group of disenfranchised fans and heavy helpings of disappointment, Washington Capitals GM George McPhee decided to sit out the league’s annual round of trade deadline chicken.

McPhee explained that he didn’t want to “chase a bad deal.”

“The theme of this year’s deadline was everybody wanted to add and there was no one selling,” McPhee said. “There were probably three or four sellers and a couple of them are in our division, so it wasn’t like we were going to able to do much with them. Everyone seemed to want our players, but they wanted to give us futures and prospects and I wasn’t interested in doing that.”

Many questioned McPhee’s choice to stay put, including media types such as’s Chuck Gormley and The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno.

The sexier comment came when McPhee proclaimed that this Capitals team “can beat anyone in [the Eastern] conference” with a healthy Nicklas Backstrom.

To some, that comment seems preposterous considering how uneven Washington has been – with or without the talented Swede in its lineup. Then again, this is still a talented team on paper and if you’ve followed playoff hockey for even a few years, you know that a hot squad can ride a wave of momentum to shocking heights.

McPhee’s overall logic is actually quite sound for two less-contentious reasons, though:

1. The prices on the market really were ridiculous. (*cough* Paul Gaustad for a first-rounder *cough*)

source: AP2. Washington’s pending free agents make a “give ’em one more shot” strategy quite sensible.

Parity is a great thing, but it tends to breed impatience. Capitals fans wanted change NOW, but to paraphrase a hokey saying about Texas weather, if you don’t like Washington now … wait until the off-season.

McPhee could clean out much of the supposed “cancers” or underachievers/malcontents/whatever once the season’s over. Take a look at this list of the team’s most noteworthy upcoming free agents (sorry, Jeff Halpern):

Mike Green, Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Tomas Vokoun, Dennis Wideman and even head coach Dale Hunter.

Naturally, many want Alex Ovechkin to be fair game, but that list contains a ton of scapegoats who could be jettisoned for a new frame of mind and a ton of cap space.* So, yes, McPhee could have closed his eyes and thrown up a Hail Mary, but Capitals fans only need to sit through hockey’s answer to a two minute drill before victory or serious change comes.

* It would be about $17 million or so, if everyone in that group walked (not counting Hunter’s salary, of course).

  1. sportsfreak13 - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    If he truly believes that he is one Nicholas backstrom away from being a cup contender he needs to lose his job. I do agree that prices were to high at the deadline. Capitals might win their division but anyone who sees them as true contenders even with backstrom is delusional. Sorry caps fans.

    • gbiscottagecheesefatties - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:01 PM

      not a caps fan at all but they have been and clearly are a different team without him.

      it’s pure speculation so know one is wrong.

    • gbiscottagecheesefatties - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:01 PM

      not a caps fan at all but they have been and clearly are a different team without him.

      it’s pure speculation so no one is wrong.

    • James O'Brien - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:24 PM

      The only interesting thing could be the freeing effect of not being favorites for once. Doubt it would matter much, really, but with all those contract year guys and less pressure? Interesting story, if nothing else.

      • stakex - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM

        Well Washington hasn’t been able to go deep as the front runner… can’t hurt for them to try as the under dog. That is of course, IF they make the playoffs.

    • patmanbnl - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:46 PM

      Caps were 9-6-1 between the coaching change and Backstrom’s injury, had won 4 in a row and seemed to be beginning to gel. Since then they are 10-11-3. So it would seem that a healthy Backstrom makes a big difference.

      • sportsfreak13 - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:54 PM

        Couple things to consider though is the quality of teams they beat in that stretch and also you have to remember semin pulls a hudini in the playoffs and disapears. That plus sketchy goaltending doesn’t make them contenders, more like pretenders.

      • rsl22 - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:58 PM

        Semin actually has pretty decent playoff numbers….30 points in 37 games ain’t too shabby. He had one series where he couldn’t buy a goal, but he did fire like 50 shots or so in that series. Halak was just unbelievable.

      • sportsfreak13 - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:46 PM

        true but in the past 2 seasons he’s had 8 points in 16 games

      • rsl22 - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:00 PM

        I think you have to take the whole body of work. Otherwise I’d just say, barring the Halak domination, he’s got 28 points in 30 games.

        I actually agree that he needs to be much more consistent….

        Also, if you want to go by a short-term view, why not criticize Backstrom’s 0 goals, 2 assists in 9 playoff games last year. I love guy, but you should hate equally.

      • sportsfreak13 - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:08 PM

        very true. The NHL is very “what have you done for me lately “. Example oveckin season.

      • rsl22 - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:16 PM

        Exactly. A bunch of my buddies were talking about this last night….

        I think it’s pretty funny the way OV get’s called overrated by the NHL now and can’t perform in the playoffs, but is 4th all-time in points per playoff game and 2nd all-time in goals per playoff game.

        At the same time, Nash is all over the news, worthy of a huge salary and should get to go to any team he wants because he’s such a good guy (read: Canadian). His play with an all-star team at the Olympics is reason enough for his demands. Russia had half their team made up of NHL rejects, something like 10 players from the KHL. Are they really supposed to beat the US or Canada?

        Ovechkin’s worst season was about equal to Nash’s best. But as you put it, his down season (without Backstrom and Green), has him in a very ugly “what have you done for me lately” position.

      • sportsfreak13 - Feb 27, 2012 at 11:26 PM

        exactly! Makes for a great debate.

      • stakex - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:16 AM


        You make a good point about Ovechkin. His playoff numbers are pretty amazing to be honest (25g and 25a in 27 games), yet hes always blamed when they wash out.

        However, I disagree with you about Semin. He had one solid point per game playoff season, but aside from that hasn’t been there when Washington really needed it. Yes, Halak had a good year in 2010 and held Semin to only two assists in that seven games. However, Washington and especially Semin really did do alot to make Halak better then he was that year. They took a ton of wide angle shots, and were awful at getting traffic in front of the net. One really good shot on an NHL goalie is always worth more then 50 wide angle or no traffic shots.

        To prove that point, Ovechkin (who was blamed by the media for Washingtons loss to Montreal) had 5 goals and 5 assists in the seven games. There was goals to be had, its just that only one of Washingtons big guns showed up. Semin, Backstrome, and Green did a lot more that year to make Halak look good in that series then Halak could have ever done himself.

    • watermelon1 - Feb 28, 2012 at 4:46 AM

      Well… when they WERE a contender they choked. So perhaps when everyone sees them as nowhere near a contender… they might finally step up?

  2. rsl22 - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    The Caps are 9-0 with Backstrom and Green healthy (and everyone else of course). The problem with that is the fact that Backstrom doesn’t appear to be coming back any time soon.

    The prices were definitely high, but for years this team has been in desperate need of a center, even with Backstrom healthy. Not addressing that was a big mistake.

  3. bmoreredfury311 - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:19 AM

    Being a Caps fan I’m kinda happy they didn’t do a thing today..G.M. put a team together on paper that should be one of the top five teams in the league ..But we all know they are far from it, as stats show. As I read in a article, there was no need to chase a ghost for a bad deal on a hope and a dream ( like they have done in the past ).. I do wish that they were able to acquire a vet center man but that’s where the center man they got need to step up. Some might think G.M. is already counting his loses and considering to nuke the team in the off season. But realistically with 20 games left, the Caps have a small chance to pull it off and make the playoffs. And this is the main reason why I love hockey so much, because any given night you don’t know what your going to get ( specially with the jackal and hide Caps we have seen this season and years past ). They’ve got the means and the depth to make it happen, but the biggest question to Cap fans/even more the team and franchise, is do they have the heart and soul to pull it off.

  4. wheresdapuck - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    A couple of points: Semin has actually played very well over the last 10 games – some multi-point games with either goal & assist or two assists. He has definitely stepped up his game. When both Alex’s are playing & scoring, the Caps win.

    The problem with the Caps has been more a defense problem than an offense problem for them. Opponents score most of their points on the Caps on turnovers in the Caps defensive or neutral zone – still way too many odd man rushes. McPhee needs to find some gritty blue-liners. Erskine is the only one the Caps have and they to have about 3 of them to be successful. Orlov is still too young and inexperienced from the play I have seen so far – yeah, he has a couple of goals, but has turned the puck over way too many times.

    • dowhatifeellike - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:17 PM

      The odd-man rushes result primarily from bad passing and poor skating. The passing has been awful lately. I went to an Avs game last week and their passing and skating was poetry in motion. By comparison, the Caps seem to be flinging the puck where they think their teammates should be, not where they actually are.

  5. dcfan4life - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Backstrom has missed 25 games. He is second on the team in points even after that. And some of you doubt his production wouldn’t be vaulting the Caps into first place and at least 3rd position in the conference. Hence why McPhee said that, cuz its true.

    • govtminion - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:48 AM

      But that’s just it. IF they have Backstrom, they’re a much better team… right?

      Remember when he got hurt, back in January? The day of that game, the Caps were a top-tier playoff team, had run away with the division and were already looking towards April with their eye on-

      -No. No, they were sputtering along just like they have since Backstrom’s injury. Win one, lose one, lose in overtime, lose, win, lose, lose, shootout loss, win, lose… the only thing that’s changed since is that the one guy in the front six who seemed to be finding his game suddenly wasn’t there.

      They’re a better team with Backstrom, no question about it when it comes to raw talent. It’s heart that this team is missing- and that’s not something that Backstrom, Green, or anyone else seems to have provided this team at any point this year.

      • dcfan4life - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:25 PM

        But do remember at the time when Backstrom went down the Panthers were playing well and the Caps were still there. Now the Panthers have slipped, the division is up for grabs, and that missed production has been huge. Not only are Backstrom numbers down, but so are everyone who has played on his line. Since 2 points have seperated this division for most of those 25 missed games, i believe and so does McPhee that if Backstrom was in the lineup, we would have won at least 2 more games and be in first. I didnt say we were winning the East or stanley cup, i said be in first in our division and 3rd in the conference. Can you really say that wouldnt be the case with a healthy Backstrom considering the state of this division?

    • sportsfreak13 - Feb 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM

      that would be like me saying if the pens had Crosby back they would win the presidents trophy because he’s had 12 points in 10 games. One guy can’t make or break a team. I know caps fans will hate me for saying his, but the penguins lead the league in man games lost and are still 4th in the east.

      • kantnockdahustle89 - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:10 PM

        Im a Caps fan and I dont hate you for saying it because its the truth. Also shows you how important the center position is to a team (Malkin). If Ovechkin was a center and Backstrom the winger I think things would be different. Us Caps fans used to use the excuse of man games lost because most of the 90s we were the #1 team in that category. Cant use it anymore…

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