Why Caps GM George McPhee didn't do more in the off-season


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for georgemcpheecapsgm.jpgA lot of fans and observers around the NHL are going to be watching the Washington Capitals with a curious eye this season. After a shockingly disappointing playoff exit in the first round at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, many thought that this off-season would bring changes to the Capitals lineup in the form of a big-name defenseman, a playmaking second-line center and even perhaps a goalie.

As it turns out, the Capitals did nothing significant at all, choosing to go with their home-grown youth to lead them into this season. Defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner will get the chance to prove themselves worthy of full-time NHL play while Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth will be the goaltending tandem in D.C.

If it seems shocking that a team wouldn’t make drastic moves after a miserable playoff performance that followed a brilliant regular season, Capitals GM George McPhee inserts some of his own logic to the mix courtesy of Caps Insider’s Katie Carrera.

“We had a fabulous season last year and for about six and a half months we were a terrific team and in five days we lost it. We came to camp expecting to do good and we had a real good season with really no adversity.

“We start the playoffs three games to one and in five days it fell apart. We didn’t play well enough in game five (against Montreal); we couldn’t have played better than we did in game six. That was probably the best game we played all season. We were pretty good in game seven but the goalie was great, our powerplay didn’t work and we scored one goal a game the last three games and our strength last year was scoring.

“It didn’t work out but I cant allow five days to get in the way of what we think is a terrific team. So we’d like to keep them together and see how they do this year.”

What McPhee says makes a world of sense. The Caps were a great team last year that got ushered out by a team with a system and a game plan that they stuck to to the letter. In the NHL playoffs, these things happen sometimes and it usually leads to that losing team getting a chip on their shoulder the following season to correct those wrongs.

The catch with the Caps is that they’ll be doing that with a handful of guys that aren’t just new to the Caps but are new to the NHL as well. It’s somewhat like playing with fire for both McPhee and head coach Bruce Boudreau, but with the amount of talent the Caps have it’s a risk worth taking.

After all, guys like Alzner, Carlson and Neuvirth have done their part in winning the Calder Cup in the AHL so they’ve done that much. Adapting the skills learned there and trying to make the Caps a Stanley Cup winner might prove to be McPhee and Boudreau’s most daring challenge to date.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.