Cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in D.C.

Oates, McPhee walk plank; could Trotz be on way in?

SundayXtra - - NHLPLAYOFFREPORT - By Kevin Allen

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.

CAROLYN KASTER / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Ther ser­vices of Cap­i­tals GM Ge­orge McPhee and head coach Adam Oates (top) are no longer re­quired.

ALEX BRAN­DON/ THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

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