Washington Capitals: 5 Tasks for General Manager George McPhee
Disappointment has run rampant among Washington Capitals fans over the past few years. It seems that they always find a way to let us down. It is impossible to lay the blame on one person, because it is not one person's fault.
However, this team cannot continue to fail in the playoffs and expect to stay intact. George McPhee, also known as GMGM, has a fair amount of work to do. However, I have a few suggestions.
1. Re-Sign Brooks Laich
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This past season, the main scorers for the Capitals (i.e. Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin) struggled to match their totals from 2009-2010. This meant that other players needed to step up and fill the need.
Although Brooks Laich did not match his totals from 2009-2010, his 16 goals were felt much more. Laich was also one of only three Capitals to play in all 82 regular season games. A great example of a team failing to retain core players and experiencing a downturn is the Chicago Blackhawks.
After showing the door to Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and many others, Chicago failed to advance past the first round of the 2010-2011 NHL Playoffs.
2. Sign a Veteran Leader
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It is a shame that it has come to this, but it has gotten to the point that Alexander Ovechkin doesn't look like he can inspire the team as captain. I am as big of an Ovechkin supporter as anyone, but his struggles as captain of the Washington Capitals are well documented.
Bringing in a veteran leader will take the pressure off Ovechkin and allow him to focus on performing on the ice.
The pipe dream of acquiring Nicklas Lidstrom has slim to none odds, but players like Erik Cole, Milan Hejduk and Jamie Langenbrunner are not out of reach. One of those guys would be able to take the captaincy from Ovechkin, along with some of that mountain sized monkey off his back.
3. Find a Defensive Stalwart to Play with Mike Green
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Although Green vastly improved this past season on his defensive game, he still struggled to find his niche on the blue line. Pairing a proven defensive stalwart with Green would make him look better for certain, but it would also give the Capitals a safety net when Green plays himself out of position.
Shea Weber would be a great name to pair with Green, but the salary cap will limit the Capitals' ability to sign free agents. They will have to look elsewhere for a blue-liner.
Hal Gill is a much cheaper option than Shea Weber, but Gill's offensive ability is very limited. Nick Boynton is a much more balanced option, but would also be fairly expensive. GMGM has his work cut out for him when it comes to the blue line.
By the way, I absolutely love this photo.
4. Cut off the Dead Weight
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If anybody watched Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, they would know that Alexander Semin might have played his way out of his new $6,700,000 contract. He indicated to both GMGM and owner Ted Leonsis that he should not be kept around any longer.
If any team is willing to take him, Semin should be traded. If not, cutting him loose would be a better option than keeping him. This picture of him laying down on the ice, a la Albert Haynesworth, tells it all.
Another player who can be let go is goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The best option for the Capitals with Varlamov is to trade him before he darts for the KHL. Braden Holtby is ready to take the backup role behind Michal Neuvirth, who is unquestionably the starter after playing phenomenally in the 2011 playoffs.
5. Keep Bruce Boudreau Around for Another Season No Matter Who Is Available
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By listening to Boudreau in interviews and press conferences, it is evident to me that he is most certainly not the problem. Boudreau lays out exactly what his team needs to accomplish to win, and for some reason, his team cannot perform on the ice.
Firing him would send a message to the players, but keeping him would send an even stronger message. It would show the players that it was their fault that they lost to the Lightning, and would light the inner fire within.