Look no further than the defense and you’ll see why Oates may be gray or bald before too much longer. McPhee needs to take one of the three goalies — right now it doesn’t much matter if it is Braden Holtby, now-in-Hershey Philipp Grubauer or Michal Neuvirth — and package him with one or more players and/or prospects and deliver a real, live, veteran defenseman. If he wants to make some other moves to shake up the locker room, that would be OK, too. In fact, it would probably be good.
But this team really needs another defenseman in the worst way, preferably one who thinks defense first.
On Tuesday against Ottawa (a 2-0 loss), the Caps left defenseman John Erskine in street clothes as a healthy scratch. That left them with Mike Green, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmitt and 19-year-old Connor Carrick on defense. That’s three proven NHL-caliber players, one non-rookie who is still feeling his way in Orlov and two rookies in Schmitt and Carrick who will probably be fine NHL defensemen eventually but probably don’t belong in the league right now.
In his big three, Oates has at his disposal one who is more offensively minded in Green, one who is more defensively minded in Alzner and one who can fill both roles in U.S. Olympian Carlson. Finding an available defenseman in the Alzner mode shouldn’t be all that difficult, should it?
The NHL trade deadline is March 5, but this needs to be done before that, if at all possible. Because if this team continues on its current path, the first tee is going to be calling early.