Capital punishment in D.C.
Oates, McPhee walk plank; could Trotz be on way in?
THE Washington Capitals dismissed their general manager and coach Saturday after missing their first playoff berth since 2007, and they still might not have addressed their biggest issue.
The departures of George McPhee (who contract wasn’t renewed) and Adam Oates guarantees the team will have a fresh approach, but the new people hired still face the same problem that caused McPhee and Oates their biggest headache. How do the Capitals turn Alex Ovechkin into the positive force they need him to be? Ovechkin was the NHL’s only 50-goal scorer this season and he’s among the NHL’s most fascinating personalities. But it is difficult to know on most days whether Ovechkin is the problem or solution in Washington. The challenge for owner Ted Leonsis is to find a general manager, and ultimately a coach, who can somehow help Ovechkin become a star within the framework of a championshipcalibre team.
Ovechkin is 28, and he has not yet demonstrated he can do that. The Capitals need someone to guide Ovechkin the way Scotty Bowman persuaded Steve Yzerman to be a different player in the name of winning. The comparison isn’t perfect because Yzerman and Ovechkin have vastly different personalities. But the important similarity is the Red Wings benefited greatly from Yzerman’s transformation, and the Capitals aren’t going anywhere unless Ovechkin becomes a more complete player.
Whoever gets the Washington GM job, his first call should be to former Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz, who certainly seems like he is exactly what the Capitals need at this time.
The Capitals have been a defensive mess for a while, and Trotz has always had a knack for keeping any team competitive through strong defensive play. His system alone might improve the Capitals’ win total by 10-15 per cent.
Trotz is also a strong communicator. Players like playing for him because you know where you stand. Trotz is not overbearing and he’s not a teddy bear. He’s even-handed, fair and considerate. He’s persuasive because you sense that he factors in what is in your best interest. You want to play for him.
If anyone can figure out a way to transform Ovechkin into a winner without sacrificing his offensive greatness, it might be Trotz. The big problem the Capitals might have is they might want Trotz and he might not want them. He’s going to have other options, and he would have to decide whether he would view the Ovechkin situation as a fun challenge or a roadblock to success.
“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. 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. He was a highly effective manager who is extremely well regarded within our organization and around the NHL. We have the utmost respect for him and his family and wish them nothing but the very best.
“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. 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. We will help him in whatever way we are able and wish him well.
“This is an important time for our organization, and I feel a change is needed in order to get us back to being a top echelon team that competes for the Stanley Cup.”
— USA Today
Whoever replaces deposed coach Adam Oates must be able to get the most out of the enigmatic Alex Ovechkin.
Ther services of Capitals GM George McPhee and head coach Adam Oates (top) are no longer required.