Caps’ GM George McPhee fails to fix defensive woes at the trade deadline

The Washington Capitals problems are clear.  It isn’t forwards.  Despite what some say, it isn’t goal tending.  It is actually quite simple.  Outside the Karl Alzner, Mike Green, and John Carlson, the Washington Capitals have a dramatic falloff in defense.  That being said, many are not impressed with Green’s defensive abilities.  I know I’m not.  Overall, the problems plaguing this team lie at the blue line.

Washington has had a revolving door to fill out the bottom three, jumping between promotions and demotions to the AHL Hershey Bears.  More than likely, we will hear GM George McPhee say that the return of Jack Hillen is like a trade deadline upgrade to the blue line.  Not really.  Hillen is decent, but far from impactful.  He also has not played since the very beginning of the season.

Four of the defenseman the Caps have attempted to use to fill in the lower defensive lines made their NHL debuts this season.  The lack of defensive depth has crippled the Caps and is a primary reason the Caps are fighting for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  The defense has been consistently outmatched with fellow Eastern Conference rivals that have solid offensive depth.  Turnovers have been numerous.  Mismatches have been frequent.  Overall, the Caps have averaged a whopping 33 shots against per game, yet, somehow, goal tending is the problem?

But hey, McPhee grabbed a defenseman in the Martin Erat trade — you know — Rostislav Klelsa.  Well, don’t expect any help there.  Klalsa has since been traded to St. Louis in the Jaroslav Halak deal.  Speaking of the Halak deal, my initial impression is, we gave up  young, decent net minder to acquire, an older decent net minder, who has a contract expiring at the end of the season.  I can’t help but think what we could have gotten for Neuvorth, perhaps a decent draft pick?  Again, goaltending is not the problem on this club.  It is defense and the halal deal does absolutely nothing to fix that problem.

Caps did make a nice trade in acquiring Dustin Penner for a fourth round draft pick.  Kudos to McPhee for that one.  He even recouped the fourth rounder in the Erat trade.  Unfortunately, the big weakness lies on the blue line and McPhee stood still and silent.   Last off-season Caps fans had to watch McPhee deal former first round pick and prospect Filip Forsberg for Erat.  Trade deadline, we deal a disgruntled Erat for a fourth rounder and two player that will be assigned to Hershey.  Makes sense.  .

One thing that McPhee did manage to do yesterday was create some cap room by shipping out Erat.  That will be critical for this coming off-season.  However, let’s hope that the failure to provide upgrades to the blue line don’t end up bringing the off-season quicker than what Caps fans expected.   Indeed, if the Caps do fail to make the playoffs, the more interesting question will be, will George McPhee be making the decisions with what to do with the extra cap space? After 16 years commanding the Caps front office, McPhee has delivered just one Stanley Cup appearance.  Interestingly enough, at the end of this season, McPhee’s contract expires.  Front office executives should be judged just like bench bosses — success and failure.   The next move will be that of Ted Leonsis.  

But hey, be happy.  Last season we traded away Forsberg.  This season we didn’t deal Evgeny Kuznetsov.  

That’s something.  Right?