Caps out of playoffs. What next?

The Washington Capitals were officially eliminated from the NHL playoffs last night.  It is the first time since the 2006/07 season that the Capitals roster will be watching the playoffs from the comfort of their own homes.

Sad?  Yes.  Necessary?  Yes.

Think about it.  If the Caps squeeked into the NHL playoffs, with the roster constructed as is, they would not have advanced past the first round, in all likelihood.  What woudl that have meant for the Caps future?  Could it have meant that GM George McPhee would be safe for another year?  Would it mean Adam Oates would be safe as coach for another year?  Obviously, answers to those questions would be uncertain and only Caps’ owner Ted Leonsis would have those answers.

Is that what you want?

With the ouster from playoff contention and an expiring contract for GM George McPhee, is seems all but certain that the Caps will part ways with the 17 year General manager.  That may also mean the departure of head coach Adam Oates.   McPhee has been GM for seventeen years.  He has delivered one Stanley Cup berth and no Stanley Cup Champions.  He has produced a rebuild from 2003/04 that produced some electrifying offense on ice from 2007 to 2011, a roster that produced Southeast Division championships, and a roster that produced a President’s Trophy.  However, that same roster over the past six years failed to produce any deep, meaningful playoff run.  It was a roster that was coaches by four different bench bosses, yet the results appeared the same.

With different systems in place, the results were similar.  That points to roster construction as the issue.  That responsibility lies with McPhee.   One of the biggest weakness over the years with this roster has been productive blue line play.  It was no more apparent than this season, as Caps’ goalies were consistently peppered with a ton of shots on goal.   Washington was 27th in the NHL in shots against, averaging 33.5 shots against per game.  Poor defensive play is nothing new for the Capitals.  It has been the main criticism surrounding the roster rebuild by McPhee.  Yet, off-season in and out, trade deadline in and out, McPhee failed to improve the defense, instead relying on a  rotation of AHL defenseman to fill in surrounding John Carlson and Karl Alzner.   The Caps have been plagued with bad turnovers and odd man rushes because of poor defense.

McPhee has had his opportunities.  He has had 17 years of opportunities.  He may be a ‘rising star’ that some use to call him as a GM, but the start has quickly faded int he Nation’s capital.   Hockey is alive and well in the District.  The faithful fan base is growing.  The Caps are 13th in the NHL in attendance, but not sitting at the usual 100%.  The fan base is growing weary and impatient with the flawed Caps roster.

This off-season, eyes of the fan base will solely focus on owner Ted Leonsis.  The owner must share the blame alongside McPhee.  He confidently declared in the pre-season that the current roster was a Stanley Cup contender.  Yet, the very fan base of his team, knew better.  It was hard to find any big Caps fans who would utter that same confidence.

Finally, it is no secret that McPhee and Oates never saw eye to eye.  It was apparent.  That still resides with McPhee.  It was his hire.

However, Otaes doesn’t get off easy either.  He should be sent out the door the same day McPhee is.  I won’t go into why Oates should be fired and his short comings.  It’s been down.  You can read it here.

It’s a sad end to the season.  The Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom era produced plenty in terms of entertainment and fan excitement, but very little in terms of hard ware and success.  How the Washington Capitals move forward will be a closely watched event in the Nation’s capital.  The elimination from the playoffs at least likely spells the end of the George McPhee front office and Adam Oates coaching tenure in Washington.   Elimination from the playoffs may turn out to be a good thing in the long term .  It will bring about the changes the fans want, mainly the end of the McPhee and Oates era.  Whether the Caps rebuild and blow up the roster, improve the current roster, or worsen, well, that now lies in the hands of Ted Leonsis and the tough decisions he must make.

Enjoy the off-season.  There will be plenty to read about.