Capitals general manager George McPhee met with members of the media on Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to discuss, among other things, the upcoming NHL trade deadline, the expectations on his team, and the recent criticism heaped on Alex Ovechkin.
In Part 3 of the interview, McPhee discusses the team’s play since a 2-8-1 start and the change of culture under first-year coach Adam Oates:
On if the Capitals have met his expectations by going 13-9-0 since a 2-8-1 start:
Well, I think the start of the season was really disappointing for us. And I think when we’re all in and we’re a healthy club we’re a real solid team. And since that time when we were 2-8-1, it was just a really bad start that we can attribute to a lot of things. I thought it was hard on our coaching staff in getting to know players and everything else. I wasn’t comfortable with it going into the season. And I guess I wasn’t wrong. We weren’t very good for a while until the system got a little more ingrained. Since that time we’ve been a pretty good hockey club and I think I said then, ‘We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box to give ourselves a chance, to give our goalies a chance so they can play better.’ And, you know, if you look at our team now we’ve got one of the top power plays in the league and our penalty kill since that 2-8-1 start is pretty good. We’re probably top 10 in the league or better. So we’re doing a lot of things well enough. I’d like to see this team healthy for one game. That would be nice.
I’m exaggerating, but I’d like to -- if we can get a little healthier here – and maybe we’re that way if we get through the weekend, maybe we’re completely healthy by next week. So but for the real tough start – and with respect to that start, it gets psychological after a while, too, because it’s hard to get out of the hole. You can win two or three and then you lose one and it feels like a real tough loss. But since that time we’ve been pretty good. And I hope we can keep pushing and win a few more games and then get on a roll.
On Adam Oates establishing a change in culture:
I do think he is. The issue for me is I’m not really comfortable talking about it or disclosing it because why should we give our ammunition away? Why should we tell people what we’re doing if we think it’s a good strategy, it’s a good plan? So he may want to talk about it a little bit. I’m not sure I do. You’ve asked the question before and I’ve thought about it and I guess the conclusion I’ve come to is I don’t want to give other organizations our ammunition if what we’re doing is helpful, is the right thing.
On the comparisons between Adam Oates and the two coaches who preceded him [Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter]:
Coaches have different approaches. There’s a certain way that I think we should do things that is sort of the middle ground with what the previous two coaches did. I think we’ve had some real good coaches here. Bruce obviously won a Coach of the Year award, Dale Hunter is one of the best coaches to ever come out of junior and could have done a real good job at this level for a long time. But as we all know for family reasons he had to go home. People talk about the real contrast in the style and it certainly was between the two coaches [Boudreau and Hunter] but when you’re making a mid-season replacement there aren’t a lot of options. I thought Dale would be a good fit short term and if he wanted to do it long term that was something we would have welcomed and made some adjustments. Having been able to hire Adam and take our time, I think we’ve got a blend of the two previous coaches.