- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2011

During playoff games, Capitals general manager George McPhee sat in his suite and jotted down lineups for next season based on how different guys were playing.

McPhee has a plan for the 2011-12 Caps. He’s not sharing explicit details, other than to say he doesn’t expect a major shakeup and could integrate some younger players into the mix.

“I’ll meet with our pro scouts and then I’ll meet with ownership, put it all together, put together a plan and move forward,” McPhee said. “I would like to think we’ve been doing a lot of good things.”

It’s impossible to tell right now what kinds of changes this organization — from owner Ted Leonsis on down — will make and whether it includes coach Bruce Boudreau losing his job or several players getting shipped out of town. But McPhee said he expects Boudreau to be back and does not foresee a complete lineup turnover.

“I don’t see major changes,” McPhee said. “It’s a good team and we’ll continue to add to it to make it better. But we’ll see.”

“We’ll see” could be the operative phrase there after a season in which the Caps finished first in the Eastern Conference for the second straight year and won the Southeast Division for the fourth straight year and then flamed out in the playoffs yet again.

“Getting sick of this feeling,” forward Brooks Laich said.

Still, players — most notably Alex Ovechkin — said they didn’t want this group being broken up.

“I don’t want to talk about the changing,” Ovechkin said Thursday. “Anything can happen; it’s not my decision to change something, trade somebody, do something. My job is play hockey and be the best out there.”

Several key pieces are unrestricted, including Laich, Jason Arnott, Boyd Gordon and Scott Hannan. Every one of them plus Matt Bradley and Marco Sturm said they want to be back, but there might not be a place for many of them.

The roster emphasis for next season could be on getting — or promoting — another puck-moving defenseman. McPhee and Boudreau blamed injuries on the blue line to John Carlson, Mike Green and Dennis Wideman for the loss to the Lightning. McPhee pointed to super prospect Dmitri Orlov as a possible option there.

With a weak free agent class (and McPhee admitting as much), the team will maintain its emphasis on drafting well and cultivating young players. Leonsis wrote on his blog Thursday that he understands fans wanting change. But this playoff exit may not bring radical change — at least if it’s up to McPhee to decide.

“Well, unfortunately, the playoffs don’t go well for 15 of the 16 teams that get there. We’ve won four consecutive division titles, we’ve won the conference twice, we’ve won the Presidents’ Trophy,” McPhee said. “We’ll just keep putting good teams on the ice and hope that one of these years we kick the door down in the playoffs.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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