Capitals Offseason – Part 1
I know I haven’t posted in forever, but planning for a wedding and my actual job have been quite busy the past few months, but I’m hoping to start posting this summer and I want to start by rolling out many parts of what I think needs to happen for the Capitals this offseason. So consider this part 1 of the many options and plans that I think the team should consider.
Note that the big, fat caveat with all of this is of course I have no idea who their coach will be next year. I’m not well versed enough in the coaching situation to make a prediction or decide who is the best candidate. I do tend toward the camp that they need someone that has prior NHL experience, particularly someone who has experience winning deep in the playoffs in the NHL. I think the new coach needs to have a strong defensive system and hold players accountable. So-called players coaches need not apply. The Caps have to take some of what they developed under Dale Hunter and build on that. I think the new coach will be closer to the Dale Hunter style than Bruce Boudreau and as a fan I’m fine with that. But they certainly need someone that plays a more aggressive offensive style as well.
Look you can have the defense, but you need to not just rely on blocked shots leading to odd-man rushes the other way for offensive chances. The Caps need a new coaching staff that also has someone – even an assistant – that has proven to run a good power play. The Caps need to be good on special teams again, particularly the power play.
So while I don’t know which coach I would prefer, the options that I guess you could consider based on the above would maybe be Paul Meurice, Craig MacTavish, Tom Renney and Bob Hartley. I think those four probably are the closest to fitting the bill I’ve outlined above, but I’m not for certain. There are many more people who have vastly more expertise in breaking down coaches and knowing who is best for a team.
One thing I’m very confident in predicting is that this is George McPhee’s last coaching hire barring a Stanley Cup under this coach. I think there should be serious questions about whether or not he should have been retained this year as well, but here he is trying to improve this team during an offseason once again. He has over the past three seasons continually failed to address the Caps most glaring need, one that has kept them from getting even deeper in the playoffs than they have the last two season and three of the past four. It’s called a second-line center. It’s not rocket science.
I know there are no good free agency options for a great second-line center this season so it might have to come via the trade route (And I’ll address such scenarios in the coming weeks). But if McPhee doesn’t get a serviceable second-line center, even an aging guy in free agency that can handle the duties for at least two years then that has to be the nail in his coffin. He has built a team that is on the cusp of breaking through, but he continues to miss the most obvious need – or believes it’s too cost prohibitive. Well you know what? It’s going to end up being his downfall if the Caps don’t make the Cup finals in the next two years and he still hasn’t addressed the problem. Heck, he could address the problem this year and if the team doesn’t make it to the finals in the next two years, he’s got to go. If not sooner depending on how the team plays under a new coach next season.
If you couldn’t tell, clearly I think management is as much at fault here as coaching and players for not going beyond the second round in recent years. I didn’t necessarily agree with some of the free agent maneuvering last year and think that kept the Caps from being truly great this season. Oh well, time to play summer GM for me again this year and hopefully the Caps can play a lot more playoff games next year.
Oh and leading up to free agency, I’ll try to broaden my horizon and talk more than just about the Capitals. Just know that the Caps will be the vast majority of hockey talk around here.