Updates from Monday, April 28
George McPhee says he could sense the Washington Capitals were going to get rid of him as general manager, but he thinks the team is set up to reach the Stanley Cup finals "sometime in the next three years."
Meeting with the media Monday, two days after being told his contract would not be renewed after 17 years as GM, McPhee declined to answer questions about captain Alex Ovechkin or Adam Oates, who was fired as coach with a season left on his deal.
Updates from Sunday, April 27
Chuck Gormely of CSNWashington.com provides a statement from Capitals owner Ted Leonsis discussing the process that ultimately led to Adam Oates' departure from the organization:
For the first time in his 14 years as owner of the Capitals, Leonsis closed the door behind him and, along with Capitals president Dick Patrick, asked members of the Capitals to speak their minds.
“When we spoke to all of the individuals, we said, ‘We know this is uncomfortable and you should be able to tell us whatever you want or tell us nothing, but whatever you tell us is just going to be between me and Dick because we’re seeking out information,’” Leonsis said.
“Honestly, it came down to, after all of the work we did and the due diligence, Dick and I sat down and said, ‘Do we think this team with this leadership can compete for and win a Stanley Cup going into next season,’ and our answer was obviously no,” Leonsis said. “That’s why we made the change.”
After just two seasons as the Washington Capitals' head coach, Hockey Hall of Famer Adam Oates was ousted Saturday.
According to the Caps' official press release, the organization decided to fire Oates and also opted against renewing the contract of vice president and general manager George McPhee.
Oates provided a statement on his firing:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ted Leonsis, Dick Patrick, George McPhee, our coaching staff, the players and everyone involved with the Washington Capitals organization. It was a tremendous honor to coach the Capitals these past two seasons. It is a great franchise with a wonderful fan base that will always be close to my heart. I’m grateful for the opportunity they provided me and wish them nothing but the best in the future.
The Capitals experienced plenty of ups and downs during Oates' brief tenure, but team owner Ted Leonsis had nothing but good things to say about him on the way out.
We are 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.
After three seasons as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils, Oates was hired to his first head coaching job by the Caps prior to the 2012-13 campaign. He was already a fan favorite in Washington after spending parts of six years there as a player.
John Shannon of Sportsnet says that the decision shouldn't have come as a surprise to fans:
Shouldn't be surprised by Washington dismissals, Owner and Team President did the player exit interviews.— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) April 26, 2014
Ben Volin of The Boston Globe talked about McPhee not returning:
Oates endeared himself to the fanbase even more by leading the Capitals to the Eastern Conference Southeast Division crown in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Unfortunately, Washington's history of playoff failures continued as the New York Rangers eliminated it in the first round.
Was firing Oates a smart move by the Capitals?
The team regressed in Oates' second season at the helm to the tune of a 38-30-14 record, which was only good enough for fifth in the Metropolitan Division and caused the Capitals to miss the playoffs by three points.
Washington has long been an underachieving team despite its immense talent, and that was quite apparent throughout the 2013-14 season. Offensive stars such as Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed excellent seasons under Oates, but the team struggled mightily from a defensive perspective, allowing 240 goals.
After leading the NHL with 51 goals, Ovechkin made it known that he wanted Oates to stay for another season. The Russian star openly discussed his respect for the now-unemployed coach prior to his firing, per Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com.
"I trusted him and I still talk to him," Ovechkin said. "I don't know if somebody in this locker room feel bad about him, that's their mind. My mind is we're still good friends and if something happens I'm always going to ask his advice."
Unfortunately for Ovechkin, he will have to deal with even more turnover at the head coaching spot. When the Caps make their next hire, it will represent the franchise's fifth head coach since 2007.
Nothing that the Caps have tried to this point has been enough to get the team to live up to its fullest potential. Whether they focus on offense, defense or anything in between, they always seem to fall short.
A new coach may be able to turn things around, but perhaps making changes on the ice will have a much greater effect on Washington's success next season and in the future.
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