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McPhee didn’t want to talk about Ovechkin or Oates

Apr 28, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT

Adam Oates, Alex Ovechkin AP

As we noted earlier, George McPhee “honestly” believes the Washington Capitals can win a Stanley Cup sometime in the next few years.

However, it’s the topics the ousted general manager didn’t comment on today that made the big headlines.

From the Canadian Press:

Of all the subjects raised with George McPhee at his on-the-way-out news conference after being told he’s done as the Washington Capitals’ general manager, the two most vital to understanding the team’s future and recent past involved captain Alex Ovechkin and fired coach Adam Oates.

And those were two topics McPhee did not want to address Monday, two days after the Capitals announced the 17-year GM’s contract would not be renewed.

“I don’t really want to answer questions about individuals. I’m going to duck those,” McPhee replied when Ovechkin’s name was first brought up.

Like McPhee, Oates won’t be back with the Capitals next season. But Ovechkin is signed through 2020-21, and questions are rightly being asked about the likelihood of a team winning it all with a one-way winger that takes up almost $10 million in cap space.

For all the goals Ovechkin scores — and nobody scores more — it’s Selke Trophy-type forwards like Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Pavel Datsyuk that have led their teams to championships in recent years, not to mention Norris Trophy-caliber defensemen like Duncan Keith, Zdeno Chara, and Drew Doughty and Nicklas Lidstrom.

That’s not to say offensive wingers can’t win Cups. Patrick Kane isn’t going to get a Selke nomination anytime soon, and he’s an extremely valuable part of the Blackhawks. But Kane’s cap hit is $6.3 million, not an NHL-high $9.5 million like Ovechkin’s. Plus, Kane has Toews, Keith and another elite two-way forward in Marian Hossa as teammates.

Bottom line: blaming Ovechkin for all the Caps’ woes is misguided. The team around him wasn’t nearly good enough this season. But that doesn’t mean he can’t work to improve his shortcomings. Forget how much he’s being paid. Great athletes are constantly looking to add facets to their games, and being a winger doesn’t mean he’s helpless to contribute defensively (see: Hossa).

“Of course I have opinions,” said McPhee when asked about Ovechkin, “but those issues are for the next guy.”

  1. hockeyflow33 - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    Sorry but you couldn’t be more incorrect. All of those teams have been led by goaltending and strong defensive play.

    • Jason Brough - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      Me: “Teams need great defensemen and great two-way forwards.”
      You: “You couldn’t be more incorrect. Teams need strong defensive play.”

      Goaltending is a given.

      • hockeyflow33 - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:28 PM

        This was my point of contention

        “it’s Selke Trophy-type forwards like Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Pavel Datsyuk that have led their teams to championships in recent year”

      • Jason Brough - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        Um, well, those four players do have Stanley Cup rings. I would argue they contributed. Quite a heck of a lot.

      • njadvocate111 - Apr 28, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        The point here is that these one dimensional players like Ovi, because lets call a spade a spade, he is a one dimensional player, are falling by the way-side. The point being, give me Toews, Bergeron or Datsyuk and they will shut down Ovi 1 on 1 for an entire series, while still contributing. The playoffs are a different animal and most games, regardless of the seeds are played tight and tend to be one goal games. Scoring 40 or 50 goals during the regular season means exactly nothing in the playoffs (ask Dallas or Pitt). Having the worst +/- in the league, now thats a stat that will get a coaches attention come playoff time.

    • m1k3g - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:27 PM


      I think that was the point…. That none of the aforementioned teams has a winger that’s as big of a defensive liability as Ovechkin.

      • hockeyflow33 - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:31 PM

        He wouldn’t be as much if his team was built with that in mind. They’ve continued to build offensive first and don’t have that anchor defenseman and great goalie.

      • m1k3g - Apr 28, 2014 at 5:31 PM

        Man, you Ovechkin apologists really are funny.

        I think I have a solution to the Caps’ problems:

        Sign a few defensive specialists that play wing…. Guys that score like 5 points a year that you can get for like $20/week.

        After that, they can implement a new system:

        When the Caps lose the puck in the offensive zone, Ovechkin can just race back to the bench and be replaced by one of these D guys. That would save him the grueling effort of having to skate that extra 50 feet back into his own zone and having to do that whole ‘back checking’ thing.

        I think it could work….

  2. joey4id - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    “blaming Ovechkin for all the Caps’ woes is misguided” Most would agree that Ovi is not solely responsible for the failures of the Caps. However, Ovi is not worthy of the responsibilities bestowed upon him. They either need to surround him with quality leaders who can mold him to become a true leader, or strip him of the C. Leonis has been given the perfect set of circumstances to fix the problem now. Enough not wanting to hurt the feelings of some superstars. Fix the foundation now, and start building for success.

  3. 950003cups - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    Can someone ask McPhee if the rumors are true that him and Oates were casted for the re-make of The Munsters? I heard McPhee is playing Herman Munster and Oates is playing Eddie Munster?

    • barkar942 - Apr 28, 2014 at 9:18 PM

      Glad to see your sense of humor is returning after the Devils missed the playoffs. Time heals old wounds.

  4. njadvocate111 - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    I couldn’t agree more. There is a clear recipe for success in the post season, game changer down the middle, on the back end and in net (for the most part). There are certain styles that translate in the playoffs, specifically on the road and the Caps style is not one of them. Dale Hunter got those guys playing the way they needed to to compete for the ECF. But Ovi wasn’t happy. A first year coach who takes a team to the ECF doesn’t just resign for his health and go back to coach Junior. There has to be a clear direction given, Wash is either interested in Ovi winning the Rocket every year, or they want to win a cup. The two will never coexist in today’s NHL.

  5. 19to77 - Apr 28, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    In fairness, Brough, Kane’s cap hit is going to skyrocket with his next contract. If he doesn’t crack at least $8m, I’ll be shocked at the bargain. It’s an unfair comparison. His current contract was signed several years ago, with a much lower salary cap. Granted, Ovi’s was too, but he was fresh off a Rocket, an Art Ross, a Hart and a 65-goal season (all at once) the year he signed (plus the Calder two years prior). Context does actually matter.

    • Jason Brough - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:11 PM

      It’s not an unfair comparison at all, because when Kane and Toews sign their extensions the Blackhawks will have a serious challenge on their hands. Will it cost them a guy like Brent Seabrook? Maybe, maybe not. But at the very least, they’ll need to keep restocking the roster with young, cheap guys.

  6. puckmepuckyou - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    I wondered what happened to Hunter. The team was hard working under him then he was gone. Ovi is a huge talent but the guy scored 50+ goals and was a -35 this season IMO that is a problem. Who’s problem remains to be seen.

    • alexnewca - Apr 28, 2014 at 7:17 PM

      Hunter left because his heart and soul are with the London Knights and he didn’t wanna get stuck coaching Ovi. If Hunter had it his way, he woulda had Ovi traded most likely because that’s not the type of player Hunter wants..

      • matt14gg - Apr 28, 2014 at 8:14 PM

        Excellent point on Hunter…he basically benched Ovi other than the PP. It was clear he couldn’t wait to get back to the relative sanity of the OHL. What does it say about a team that a coach who had a pretty good run for having come in half way through the season to a VERY talented team bailed out as soon as the season was over? The Windsor Spits are a great organization, but that Caps team had every reason to believe they were on the verge of challenging for the Stanley Cup. That team had/has a toxic mix and the worst kind of leadership…bad leadership. Leadership is a funny thing…good leaders can make a good unit great, but bad leaders will take a talented group right over the cliff.

  7. radar8 - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    Unless Ovechkin starts playing defense, the Caps are going nowhere. In almost every Caps game that I saw this year (6), Ovi skates hard on offense and usually hangs around the neutral zone when his team is on defense. You can’t win a cup when your best player is a one-way player.

    All of the recent cup winners had great defensive forwards.

    • capsnbohs23 - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:52 PM

      I think this is the one millionth time we have heard this stuff, we get it people, you are beating a dead horse

    • matt14gg - Apr 28, 2014 at 8:20 PM

      It’s not that he has to “…start playing defense…” That’s not who he is and it’s never going to happen. It’s just not in his DNA…but that’s not to say that he can’t back check once in a while, and what is most disturbing is that with Ovi it’s an attitude thing. You can see when he senses things aren’t going his way he quits. He quits on the game and he quits on his team and so in a situation where he needs to sense danger and bust his ass to get back, he decides to pack it in, pout and coast through the neutral zone while his guy blows right by him. That’s your captain sending a message to the rest of the team that they can’t win so they might as well quit.

      • capsnbohs23 - Apr 29, 2014 at 12:05 AM

        As many times as you think he has quit on the team, there is an equal amount of times where he has played like a bull in a china shop trying to get his team going

  8. cdalton2690 - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:59 PM

    As an avid caps fan I wish Ovechkin was more of a 2 way player. However when he tried to be with Hunter not only was he bad at it, but it took away from his offense and everyone said to trade him because he wasn’t scoring. I can live with Ovechkins effort on the defensive end if he is able to score goals, IF this team had a solid defense or goalie. They don’t have either, and that is the biggest downfall for this team. Championship teams are built from the goalie out. If they can bring in a solid defense and replace people like Green, Erskine and whoever they plus in from Hershey they have the potential to get back to the playoffs.

  9. dontbsuchapuss - Apr 28, 2014 at 7:43 PM

    You would have to be insane to take that cap hit to get a one dimensional player like ovi. Don’t get me wrong he can score but unless you want your team playing like your on the pk everytime he has a shift

    • capsnbohs23 - Apr 28, 2014 at 8:17 PM

      its not that insane when the cap continues to go up..

  10. pastabelly - Apr 28, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    Nobody in his right mind believes Ovechkin is as good or valuable as Toews, Datsyuk, or Bergeron. As Jason says, that doesn’t mean Ovechkin is to blame for that mess. You can blame McPhee for overpaying for a one dimensional player.

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