Even if you highlight Jaroslav Halak’s incredible three game run after his team was down 3-1, it’s hard to argue against the fact that the Washington Capitals’ first round loss was a disappointment. After all, the team ran away with the Presidents Trophy and boiled over with hubris and swagger.
Some GMs would take part in at least some housecleaning after another Game 7 loss at home, but George McPhee is staying the course with a young team that keeps producing in the regular season. In fact, McPhee thinks that the current Capitals roster might be the best they’ve had in the Alex Ovechkin years.
Instead of making big moves in the offseason, McPhee has been adamant that the necessary pieces are in place to reach the finals this season.
“We have a team that we haven’t lost a lot of players, and all of the players are familiar with the club,” Finalist for GM of Year, McPhee told Comcast SportsNet’s Russ Thaler. “I just think with the combination of our skill and experience and our young guys like [Alex] Ovechkin, [Nicklas] Backstrom, [Brooks] Laich, and [Mike] Green, they’re men now. They came into the league young and they’ve learned, but they’re men now and I think it’s time for them to compete for the [Stanley] Cup as we all believe we can.”
With minor changes to the roster, the Capitals keep to their focus on reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.
“We believed we could have been there in any of the last couple of seasons, McPhee told Thaler. “This might be the best team we’ve had in the last three of four years, so, we are certainly capable of getting there.”
The Capitals were an amazing regular season force last year, so it’s understandable that McPhee would rather count on internal improvement rather than the blind gamble that free agency can be. Still, I think the team could use an upgrade in its second center spot and would also benefit from adding a shutdown defenseman along the lines of rugged (but injury prone) veteran Willie Mitchell.
Even in a rapidly improving (or at least drastically changing) Southeast division, the Capitals are strong favorites to take a top seed in the Eastern Conference and maybe – possibly – finally make good on all that promise. McPhee certainly feels that way.