Capital Makeover: Will Ovechkin be Traded?
My hometown Washington Capitals have let go longtime general manager George McPhee and former Capital center and head coach Adam Oates after a trying regular season. The Caps finished one spot out of the playoff seedings to cap an up-and-down season.
McPhee was a mainstay in D.C., where he oversaw several successful runs as GM since 1997 (when owner Ted Leonsis brought him in after he bought the team). According to NBCSports.com, the Caps under McPhee won the old Southeast Division seven times, were the no.1 Eastern Conference team twice, had the best record once and went to the playoffs in 10 out of 17 years. Oates (pictured on the right), who had one year left on a three-year deal, was 64-38-7 overall.
But, what did them in was how the Capitals underachieved each and every year. With a great team in the late 1990s, they lost the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals to the Detroit Red Wings. They got bounced by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals and in the second round by the New York Rangers in 2012 (where they beat the defending champion Boston Bruins in the first round). In 2010, the Capitals won the President’s Trophy, which signifies that the team had the league’s best regular season record, but that year they lost in the first round as the one-seed to the eighth-seed Montreal Canadians. That wasn’t Oates’ team at the time, but current-Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau.
A lot of blame goes around, but it was right to let both McPhee and Oates go. Oates was great coaching up the power play, but even-man strength was awful. Defending had too many lapses and the goaltending was a roller coaster ride.
Now to the big question, what happens with captain and goal-scoring machine Alex “The Great One” or “Ovi” Ovechkin. The Russian superstar is an offensive juggernaut, with scoring goals as his trademark. In a down year for the Caps, he scored 51 goals. He’s won the Hart Trophy three times, signifying the best player in the league, and this past season he won the Richard Trophy (which he has won three times overall) to highlight his offensive prowess. I mean, look at some of his top goals:
But, his critics note that his plus/minus (or how many goals are scored for you and against you on your shift) is an atrocious -35. That is inexcusable for a star player to be on the ice for negative 35 goals, even if you score 51 in a single season. It is not right for a lazy defensive player being the face of the franchise. Ovi’s top-three single-season scoring totals were 65, 56 and 51 goals. He has 422 goals in 9 NHL seasons. Yet, you have to play defense to win championships and the Caps’ failed playoff runs have displayed that lack of defensive hustle, efficiency and intensity.
Do you strip him of his captaincy? Do you trade him? Or do you keep him on the team and then rebuild with a defensive-minded team, like the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and others have done?
I would say that you either keep him and build a defensive team while keeping him for his offensive firepower. He is paid a ton of money ($124 million for 12 years to be exact), so he’s not easy to move.
Yes, McPhee did move Jaromir Jagr back in the day (pictured above and who had a $55 million, seven-year contract), but Jagr wasn’t a prolific goal-scorer with the Caps. Plus, you have an automatic power-play goal machine at your disposal. Ovi will be responsible for defensive lapses here and there, but if he is able to score goals you have to keep him.
But, I would strip him of his captaincy and pass it to a two-way player that will no doubt be acquired in the offseason. If he becomes disgruntled, let him deal with it and demand to be traded. If he really wants to win the Stanley Cup, he will have to make sacrifices in order to do so.
The big question can only be answered on who Leonsis brings in as the new general manager, who will make his coaching hire. We saw with Oates and McPhee that McPhee’s guys never saw the ice with Oates putting them in the doghouse for no apparent reason (see Martin Erat, Dustin Penner). Leonsis has to bring in a GM who will hire his coach and where the coach will put implement his system based on the GM’s players.
Let’s #RockTheRed this next season as the Caps rebuild!