McPhee didn’t want to talk about Ovechkin or Oates

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As we noted earlier, George McPhee “honestly” believes the Washington Capitals can win a Stanley Cup sometime in the next few years.

However, it’s the topics the ousted general manager didn’t comment on today that made the big headlines.

From the Canadian Press:

Of all the subjects raised with George McPhee at his on-the-way-out news conference after being told he’s done as the Washington Capitals’ general manager, the two most vital to understanding the team’s future and recent past involved captain Alex Ovechkin and fired coach Adam Oates.

And those were two topics McPhee did not want to address Monday, two days after the Capitals announced the 17-year GM’s contract would not be renewed.

“I don’t really want to answer questions about individuals. I’m going to duck those,” McPhee replied when Ovechkin’s name was first brought up.

Like McPhee, Oates won’t be back with the Capitals next season. But Ovechkin is signed through 2020-21, and questions are rightly being asked about the likelihood of a team winning it all with a one-way winger that takes up almost $10 million in cap space.

For all the goals Ovechkin scores — and nobody scores more — it’s Selke Trophy-type forwards like Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Pavel Datsyuk that have led their teams to championships in recent years, not to mention Norris Trophy-caliber defensemen like Duncan Keith, Zdeno Chara, and Drew Doughty and Nicklas Lidstrom.

That’s not to say offensive wingers can’t win Cups. Patrick Kane isn’t going to get a Selke nomination anytime soon, and he’s an extremely valuable part of the Blackhawks. But Kane’s cap hit is $6.3 million, not an NHL-high $9.5 million like Ovechkin’s. Plus, Kane has Toews, Keith and another elite two-way forward in Marian Hossa as teammates.

Bottom line: blaming Ovechkin for all the Caps’ woes is misguided. The team around him wasn’t nearly good enough this season. But that doesn’t mean he can’t work to improve his shortcomings. Forget how much he’s being paid. Great athletes are constantly looking to add facets to their games, and being a winger doesn’t mean he’s helpless to contribute defensively (see: Hossa).

“Of course I have opinions,” said McPhee when asked about Ovechkin, “but those issues are for the next guy.”