For Washington Capitals fans frustrated by the 2-8-1 start who want trades and shake-ups to change the team’s fortunes, general manager George McPhee doesn’t subscribe to that theory. Not one to make a trade for the sake of it, he doesn’t plan on sacrificing the future to make a knee-jerk move right now.
“If there’s something I can do to make the club better, I will. … If there’s something I can do to help the club out I will. But I’m not gonna do anything stupid,” McPhee said Friday. “We’re not gonna do anything short term. We’re not gonna blow anything up.”
That’s not to say there won’t be a move or two coming. McPhee, who held a State of the Caps news conference on Friday morning 13 hours after a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, doesn’t have itchy fingers but he has had conversations with ownership about the disappointing start.
“They’re obviously not very happy. But they’ve been supportive,” he said. “At times like this ownership can pile on and make things worse. Or ownership can say ‘How can we help and what we can do to make it better?’ And it’s been the latter. It’s been ‘How can we help, what can we do to make it better?’ And I provided some options and they provided some real fair direction, which was great.”
There are many directions in which McPhee could go if he decides to make a trade. But he’s certainly not showing his hand.
As for ownership, Ted Leonsis blogged Friday about the Caps’ embarrassing loss to the Penguins, which he called not acceptable in a WMAL interview.
“Obviously, our goal tending is struggling, as is our offense,” Leonsis wrote. “We have many challenges as an organization, and as a team.”
The challenge for McPhee, in his 15th season as general manager in Washington, is that he has a new coach in Adam Oates to go along with a burden of expectations because Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green are in their primes. Talking about the slow start, he called penalties the primary culprit, with the goaltending of Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth getting a heaping helping of the blame, too.
Dealing with these struggles after the lockout isn’t good timing, either.
“It’s been difficult. It hasn’t been a secret. I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t like it this year,” McPhee said. “I like that month-long training camp when you can get through all the preseason games where a coach can get a great orientation to the team and to the players and everything else.”
The Caps being in the NHL basement with five points has sparked plenty of talk around the league and among fans about what needs to change. But McPhee isn’t worried about that kind of external pressure as he assesses the next move.
“Tthe opinions that matter are the coaching staff and our pro scouts and ownership. We’re all on the same page,” McPhee said. “We’re disappointed with the way things have started. It’s not over. Nothing that a couple of wins won’t really help. But we’re gonna make good decisions. … We like the people here. Just got to be smart about how we do it. We’ve made a lot of good decisions over the last five or six years. Hopefully we made good decisions this year.”