WASHINGTON – General manager George McPhee and coach Adam Oates lost their jobs with the Washington Capitals on Saturday after the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
McPhee’s contract was up and the team announced it will not give him a new one after his 17 years as the GM, which included drafting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the first round.
Oates was fired with one season left on his three-year contract. A former star player for the Capitals, he was in his first job as an NHL head coach.
This season, Washington finished with the ninth-most points in the Eastern Conference, one spot out of a playoff berth.
“I feel a change is needed in order to get us back to being a top echelon team that competes for the Stanley Cup,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said, according to the team’s news release announcing the moves.
Ovechkin has won three league MVP awards and again led the NHL in scoring this season with 51 goals, but the Capitals haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs during the Russian wing’s career.
The Capitals reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1998, McPhee’s first year on the job, and were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Later, McPhee oversaw a “rebuild” ordered by Leonsis, including jettisoning top players with big contracts such as Jaromir Jagr.
While McPhee eventually built a young roster filled with offensive stars, he never placed as much emphasis on constructing a rugged, defensive-minded blue line crop. He hired a succession of coaches with zero previous NHL experience running a team, including Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau, Dale Hunter and Oates.
Led by Ovechkin, the Capitals produced terrific regular-season results for a half-dozen seasons, without similar success in the post-season. Four years ago, Washington won the Presidents’ Trophy for having the most points during the season, then lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens.
“George has been a terrific, longtime executive for our franchise, and I’m grateful for his commitment to the Capitals organization for the past 17 years,” Leonsis said.
“Under his leadership, the Capitals won seven division titles, twice were the top team in the Eastern Conference, earned a Presidents’ Trophy and competed in the playoffs 10 times,” Leonsis continued. “He was a highly effective manager who is extremely well regarded within our organization and around the NHL.”
The Capitals went 65-48-17 under Oates in his two seasons.
In 2012-13, they reached the playoffs before losing in the first round to the New York Rangers in seven games.
“We are also appreciative of Adam’s efforts and thank him for his devotion, work ethic and contributions to the Capitals the past two seasons,” Leonsis said. “He is a smart, tactical coach who improved the performance of several of our players. He is a Hall of Fame player who we believe will be a longtime coach in the NHL.”
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