When I filed my pre-season predictions recently, I heard from a few Washington Capitals fans unimpressed by the fact I slotted them in ninth position in the Eastern Conference. But after a handful of games, I’m starting to get the feeling ninth overall was overly generous.
Yes, it’s only been three games – and I realize they started last season poorly as well before recovering to make the playoffs – but this Caps team does not look like a post-season squad, let alone a true Stanley Cup contender. And if it does go completely pear-shaped for Washington this year, there ought to be a change in the franchise’s halls of power.
Specifically, I’m taking about GM George McPhee, who has been in that role with the Capitals since 1997. He’s had fifteen seasons prior to the current one and hasn’t accomplished much – unless you count divisional titles, and I don’t. McPhee Like all long-tenured GMs who don’t achieve their ultimate goal, his regrettable decisions are starting to pile up.
So the question has to be asked: what is it going to take for owner Ted Leonsis to dismiss McPhee and move in a new direction?
After his first season concluded with a defeat in the Cup Final against Detroit, McPhee’s Capitals have won all of three playoff series and never have advanced past the conference semifinal. As Washington’s disappointments have mounted, his decisions have become more questionable. To wit: allowing Alex Semin to leave for Carolina with no return on the asset other than his salary cap space; trading a first-round pick to the Hawks for Troy Brouwer, a decent enough talent who is approaching his thirties and hardly is considered one of the better wingers in the game; and allowing Mike Ribeiro to move on to Phoenix this summer after he’d established great chemistry with Alex Ovechkin.
Another McPhee move that could have far worse long-term ramifications is the deal he did last season with Nashville in which he traded highly-valued prospect Filip Forsberg to the Preds for veteran forward Martin Erat.
Forsberg scored his first NHL goal Tuesday night; at age 19, his best years are yet to come. Erat? Well, the 32-year-old doesn’t have a point in three games this year and is averaging just 7:59 of ice time a night. He also didn’t do squat for Washington in four playoff games for the Caps after the trade.
Say what you will about Glen Sather, the longtime GM of the New York Rangers who has been living off his reputation for years. At least he has Cups on his resume as a coach. McPhee has no such jewel in his crown, yet appears to have been granted lifetime tenure in America's capital.
Regardless of whether coach Adam Oates turns things around for a second consecutive season, it’s time for new blood in Washington. Anything less, and we’re only talking about a different shade of lipstick on the same, underwhelming bovine.