By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Perhaps the early struggles and late run to the playoffs should have been predictable for a rookie head coach, especially given the lockout and shortened training camp. In looking back at his first season running a team, Adam Oates might take all summer to hone his craft for next year and beyond.
Easier said than done, of course. No one is going to hand the Caps a top-level player. Can they afford to sign one? Can they put together enough of a package to trade for one, even if it might cost them someone like Braden Holtby? If they can get one, they need to make sure they do it.
Because the Washington Capitals were done before the final horn in Game 7 Monday night, those watching had some extra time to contemplate general manager George McPhee's work this offseason. But after the Caps became the only NHL team to make the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the past six years and not reach at least the conference finals, don't expect much to look different when they open the 2013-14 season.
The Caps spent much of the past couple of weeks making officials part of the story of the series. Maybe that was the problem.
Ribeiro was second on the Caps in points (13 goals and 36 assists for 49) behind only Hart Trophy candidate Alex Ovechkin. Ribeiro was the Caps' first-half MVP, taking the load off Nicklas Backstrom and other stars who weren't producing early.
The 29-year-old skated for more than an hour Wednesday but was limited. Laich hasn't played since aggravating a groin injury April 4 and said he had skated a few times before Wednesday and was "unsure" on a timeline.
After a victory late in the regular season that included two goals by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom was asked if it felt like the "good old days" when the franchise cornerstones powered a high-scoring team. "It depends how it is in the playoffs," he said. "And we weren't that successful in the playoffs in the past."
Ovechkin's resurgence after a slow start came in the form of 23 goals and 13 assists in the Caps' final 23 games, and they went 17-4-2.
General manager George McPhee brought Fehr back in January on a one-year deal worth $600,000. The idea was that if the 2003 first-round pick could remain healthy, he had the ability to add forward depth and produce.
Even though injury has limited Erat to seven games in a Caps uniform, his arrival meant everything within a locker room of an Eastern Conference contender.
The 35-year-old is the Caps' Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee, as selected by the Washington chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The Masterton Trophy is awarded to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
Forward saw Dr. Michael Brunt and another specialist this week, and coach Adam Oates says doctors are “having a tough time identifying exactly” what the problem is.
A groin injury kept Laich out for the first 28 games of the season with a groin injury, and he has missed the past three. He suffered a lower-body injury Thursday that coach Adam Oates said negatively impacts Laich's groin.
General managers have voted to approve hybrid icing — racing to the faceoff dots instead of the puck — as one way to prevent injuries, but it's hard to find a consensus on the best way to handle the situation.
George McPhee is either a genius who has been able to oversell or a schlub who got taken in a moment of delusion and mad desire to finally see his team make a real, live run at the Stanley Cup. We may know the answer in a couple of weeks. We may not know for a few years.
"I think he can be a terrific coach in this league, one of the really, really good ones," general manager George McPhee said of Oates.
Asked about the core group getting stale, McPhee said: "I don't think that ever playing in the playoffs gets stale. winning hockey games never gets stale. winning never got stale."