With his team last in the NHL standings with a 2-8-1 record after 11 games, Capitals general manager George McPhee met with reporters Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. In the second of a thee-part series, McPhee addresses the play of Alex Ovechkin, the possibility of a trade and the play of his goaltenders:
On Alex Ovechkin playing right wing:
I really like it. I really like the way Alex has played the last four games. Adam is convinced that he can get him playing the way that Ovi can play and a couple of these are the best that we’ve seen him in a long time. I thought that he was really good last night, he had a lot of scoring chances, he had a lot of touches and he’s playing physical. In the first period I think he had three quality scoring chances alone. He’s getting a lot more chances on the right side than the left. He’s a much more effective player. I like it a lot. You may disagree but it looks a lot better to us.
On convincing Ovechkin the benefits of playing right wing:
There certainly has to be a lot of discussion with that. And you do that with every player that you have if there’s something you think you can do to make him better. So we talked about it. We’ve thought about this a little bit the last couple of years. But Adam really believed that when he came here that that’s where he should play. And I agree with him. And I think it’s gonna take a little time to get used to it, but I think he likes it. I think he’s understanding that he’s gonna get more scoring chances this way.
On his patience level in a lockout–shortened season:
Yeah, it’s been difficult. It hasn’t been a secret. I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t like it this year. I like that month-long training camp when you can get through all the preseason games where a coach can get a great orientation to the team and to the players and everything else. But all the teams have had to go through this. I just felt like in the last four years until this one – with a full camp – we came out really well prepared and played well. But with respect to getting itchy fingers and whatever, if there’s something I can do to make the club better, I will. I had some real good discussions with ownership over the last couple of days. They’re obviously not very happy. But they’ve been supportive. At times like this ownership can pile on and make things worse. Or ownership can say, ‘How can we help and what can we do to make it better?’ And it’s been the latter. It’s been ‘How can we help, what can we do to make it better?’ And I provided some options and they provided some real fair direction, which was great. So that being said, if there’s something I can do to help the club out I will. But I’m not gonna do anything stupid.
On balancing the opinions of ownership and the pressure from fans:
Well, the opinions that matter are the coaching staff and our pro scouts and ownership. We’re all on the same page. We’re disappointed with the way things have started. It’s not over. Nothing that a couple of wins won’t really help. But we’re gonna make good decisions. We’re not gonna do anything short term. We’re not gonna blow anything up. We like the people here. We’ve just got to be smart about how we do it. We’ve made a lot of good decisions over the last five or six years. Hopefully, we made good decisions this year, but we’ll see.
On deficiencies he’s seen through 11 games:
Well, first of all, I’ll mention where I think we need to be better. But I’m not trying to blame anyone. I’m blaming no one. This is my responsibility. I like the trade for [Mike] Ribeiro. I think he’s been terrific for us. I like the way our defense is playing. I think the only – the two areas we must get better is keeping pucks out of our net and it starts by not taking penalties. And protecting the goalies more. And they’ve got to be better. We think we’ve done a real good job of developing them. They’ve had their time in Hershey. There is upside there with these goaltenders. But they can both play better and they know it. And it’s time for them to play.
On the play of Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby:
That’s sort of the question you go over in the summer. ‘What can we do with the goaltending? What else would you have done?’ Neuvirth is a good solid goaltender. Holtby played really well in the playoffs. It’s time for these two guys to play. Give them lots of games and see how they do. And right now it’s not going the way they had hoped. I’ve seen young goaltenders win Cups in this league. I’ve seen young goaltenders come in and play really well. If you haven’t developed them properly then maybe there’s an issue. For young goalies they’ve played a lot in the American League and getting games here.