Caps GM George McPhee: On trade deadlines and team chemistry

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For now, we’ll skip the on-ice value of the trades made by the Caps this week. Dustin Penner filled a need at left wing – especially with Martin Erat on his way out – and Jaroslav Halak…well, the Caps decided they needed some short-term competition in goal for Braden Holtby and wanted to move an unhappy Michal Neuvirth. He’s not even starting tonight in Boston, according to reports.

Anyway, general manager George McPhee was asked his thoughts on the role “chemistry” plays at the deadline. It was apropos given Brooks Laich‘s comments on The Junkies during his weekly Wednesday morning segment on that 106.7 – The Fan program. Laich was asked about how a locker room absorbs new players with so little time left in the season. He delivered possibly the quote of the year.

“Because you can get one bad apple in there that just stinks like a fart, and just wrecks the whole room or derails it a little bit,” Laich said.

That led to hours of online speculation about which player Laich thought “rocked the boat” a little too much during a brief stint with the Caps. I’m assuming he meant Jason Arnott, a veteran who was brought in from New Jersey late in the 2011 season to help show a young team how to win in the playoffs and may have taken things too far. Arnott was not re-signed after Washington lost in the second round that season. 

Laich specifically said it wasn’t defenseman Joe Corvo, who, believe it or not, some players liked a lot even if fans still cringe at his memory. Other deadline acquisitions who left quickly in recent years: Cristobal Huet, Eric Belanger, Matt Cooke and Scott Walker.

You could make a case for some of those players. Whomever Laich was talking about – it’s fun to speculate – he seems to believe management gives careful attention to who it brings in so as NOT to disrupt locker room chemistry. Not sure he’s right about that.

Here’s McPhee, quoted in full, with an anecdote about Esa Tikkanen, an eccentric veteran with multiple Stanley Cups who was brought in just a few weeks before the trade deadline in 1998 and helped push the Caps to the finals that spring:

“Without being flippant, you can handle anybody short term. We’re not locked into these players for two or three years. Esa Tikkanen was high maintenance. He was one of a kind. He was fun, but he wears you out. But he was great to bring in the room because he brought this energy and this different attitude. He did a great job with our room. By the end of the playoffs, we were tired of him. The players were tired of him. But it worked. The move worked. It worked for him, it worked for us. He got another job the next season with another club. Short term, it can work, because what you want is from 7 o’clock to 9:30 at night that that guy plays well and you can deal with other stuff short term.”

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