SadMcPhee

Since coming to the Washington Capitals in April, Martin Erat has twice requested a trade: once early this season and again last week. During the same timeframe, Erat scored just one goal. You might expect Caps general manager George McPhee to be disappointed. He gave up an elite prospect in the hopes Erat would fill a vital top-six role. Instead, he ended with a fourth liner-cum-healthy scratch who wants the hell out of Arlington.

McPhee, however, has a different view.

“Things change,” he told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday. “No regrets. We did what we had to do then, and we’ll do what we have to do now.”

The GM explained that then when he made the move for Erat in the spring, the injury status of Brooks Laich was uncertain. He didn’t even know whether the forward would be back for the 2013-14 season. The Erat trade, then, wasn’t meant to shore up a long-term hole, but to make a push for the 2013 Stanley Cup.

“You want to give your team the best opportunity possible and we will always do that,” McPhee said of winning the Cup. “You can’t have the guys work their guts out all year and then not help them out at the deadline if there’s something to help them with. So we made that deal.”

What’s curious, though, is that the team didn’t anticipate this situation would arise. Laich is healthy this year, relegating Erat to the land of scrubs and scratches. It’s remarkable that a team would make a trade for a player who would become obsolete to them within months. Nevertheless, that’s exactly where we stand now, less than a year after Erat got himself traded from the Predators.

Erat’s frustration is understandable. Laich, the man who has edged him out for playing time, has been horrible this season. Still, Adam Oates has displayed a steadfast commitment to give him ice time no matter what. Erat never got that benefit of the doubt. Despite his excellent possession numbers, the Czech winger found it difficult to break out of the fourth line. Recently, he received time with Alex Ovechkin on the top trio. Saturday, though, Erat was banished to the press box for the first time in his career after a couple of Capitals loses.

By McPhee and Oates’s own admission, Erat is a good player. It’s natural that he would be disrespected by his given role. If they didn’t see him as a fit for the top-six, why wasn’t he at least put on the third line — still a more effective deployment, I think, then having someone of his skill set play with fighters and grinders. At least publicly, McPhee took no issue with Oates’s decisions.

“It’s okay that coaches want to experiment,” he said. “I’ve always told Adam, ‘You dress the lineup you need to dress to win a hockey game tonight or tomorrow night. Whatever you need in the lineup, put it in. Or take it out. Whatever you think is best.’

Tuesday, Oates insisted that he’s not flippant with his lineup moves, whatever the appearance may be.

“I’d like to think I have a method,” the coach said. “It’s unbelievable how much it’s on your mind. It’s unbelievable. It wakes me up. You’re thinking about it. You’re thinking about everybody’s feelings, you’re thinking about all these conversations that you have to have, you’re thinking about the team, who’s hot, who’s cold, how you get them in. You just try to piece it together correctly.”

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  • Bob

    Fire McPhee! And lets get some trade proposals going. Who would be good pickups for erat?

  • Jesse Morgan

    Have any of the reporters asked Oates why he is sitting Erat with Laich and Brouwer playing like they are? I don’t pretend to know as much hockey as you guys, however it seems pretty clear they aren’t playing very well.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    So there’s something weird going on here.

    According to Chuck Gormley: http://www.csnwashington.com/hockey-washington-capitals/talk/what-should-capitals-do-marty-erat

    “McPhee confirmed that Erat asked to be traded a couple weeks into the season and that Erat repeated that request on Saturday after he was made a healthy scratch for the Capitals’ game in Toronto.”

    Emphasis: Erat requested AFTER he was made a healthy scratch on Saturday.

    But then there’s a Q&A from Oates’ session today. http://www.monumentalnetwork.com/videos/adam-oates-11-25-13

    Oates was VERY hesitant to discuss Erat directly and defers to McPhee automatically, but he does say the following:

    Q: “[The trade request] had no factor in his scratch– lemme just ask that.”
    Adam Oates: “Yeah, it did. But that’s between me and George.”

    So Oates contradicts McPhee (via Gormley) and says the scratch was a *reaction* to the trade request. That doesn’t mean it was necessarily punitive or anything, but it’s very curious.

  • Daniel Walker

    Maybe if we package Neuvy & Erat, we could get Filip Foresberg back….

  • Brouwer Rangers

    The initial trade request could have been a factor – maybe GMGM felt he was close to something and didn’t want to risk injury, so had Oates scratch him. Then Erat reiterated his request after that scratch that was partially a factor in the scratch itself and now I’ve incepted myself.

    The weirdest thing here is taking a Gormley characterization of anything at face value.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I considered that, but between the initial request and Saturday, Erat had played on all four lines– including a multi-game stint on the top line.

    Plus, Oates said of scratching Erat: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capitals-insider/wp/2013/11/23/eric-fehr-returns-to-caps-lineup-against-leafs-martin-erat-out/

    “Marty’s been fighting it a little bit, in my mind. Sometimes when you sit up top you get a fresh perspective.”

    I get asset protection too, but usually that’s only done if a trade is in the works and about to get closed.

    It’s just weird across the board. Everyone looks bad. Oates loses credibility (to me) in particular.

  • Clifford Snarlington

    Glad someone said it. Laich and Brouwer have been awful so far this season and yet they continue to get playing time. Meanwhile Erat hasn’t found his role on the team due to being bounced around more than a puck on 3rd period Verizon center ice.

    Complete mismanagement of talent, from both the front office and the coaching staff.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I’m not in the scrums, so I don’t know. I’d like to know, but it’s not like we’d get anything back except a platitude.

  • Jack Conness

    Let me keep this short and sweet. FIRE GMGM!

  • SupremeLeader

    Interesting proposition – but I like Neuvy, and let’s be honest, he’s never been a bad goalie, he’s only been not helped by our D, bizarre goals against, or a mistake or two – but he’s been solid. Neuvy has been good for us and to us for a decent number of years now. Let’s package Erat+Erskine+Laich and get another top 6 forward and a 1st/2nd round pick, depending on how well GMGM can negotiate (or not…).

  • SupremeLeader

    Any other top 6 forward. Erat is so good, it is a damn shame we aren’t taking advantage of the cap space wasted and loss of FF. I will propose yet again – Trade: Erat+Erskine+Laich. You can get something good from there. Let’s rob another team of their 1st round prospect somehow, and get a top 6 forward, or at least an early pick in next year’s draft. Then when Kuzya comes, we can have insane young talent next to our peaking Backs/Ovi/Green.

  • Roy Schue

    Just my take on this, but when Erat opened the season on the fourth line I thought there was an attitude issue. I’m just guessing and we will probably never know but I would bet that Erats attitude is directly linked to his limited role on the team. And dispite this he got his shot on the top two lines and did jack **it.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I don’t think there’s any trade value in Erat + Ersk + Laich. Laich seems to be a dramatically overpaid player– $4.5M through 2017. Erskine is earning $2M to be hurt (no signs of progress) and wasn’t doing well when he was healthy.

    Neuvy is probably a slightly below average goaltender (.910 lifetime sv%) on a good contract. If there’s interest, he could be dealt. Grubi is doing the same (.910) in Hershey this year. If the second string goalie doesn’t get a lot of starts, it’d be nice to have Grubi up.

    Meanwhile, the team desperately needs a defense upgrade– much much more than they need a marginal top sixer.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Are you saying he’s been grumpy because he was on the 4th line– or that he is on the 4th line because he’s grumpy?

    I’d point out that he was on the FIFTH line when camp began. Did he ride his motorcycle into the locker room on the first day and leave tire marks on the Weagle logo on the carpet?

  • derek

    peaking green?

  • djlotus

    So Erat knew Oates didn’t like him, Oates knew Erat didn’t like him, Erat asked for a trade after camp, and to show his value to the league, we bounce him around from line to line and eventually to the press box? Do I have that right?

    #FIREGMGM
    #FREEBEAGLE
    #FREEDIMA

  • Bob

    i think i like the trade for a draft pick better just because Kuzy is coming in a couple months(hopefully)

  • Roy Schue

    I’m just speculating that something between last season and this season had him fall out of favor with Oates. You don’t trade one of your top prospects for a guy who is supposed to be second line material and put him on the fourth line for no reason. Could there have been some fireworks covered up after the Ovie collision that injured his arm in the playoffs. Who knows but something went south with him before camp even opened.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Well the guy who made the trade and the guy who put him on the fourth line aren’t the same person.

    I think it’s unfair and unproductive to speculate that a bad attitude is the reason why this happened. Unless we’re talking about a Russian player, that is. Then it’s okay.

  • SupremeLeader

    Agreed.

  • SupremeLeader

    Peaked?
    I don’t know, he’s obviously still good at so many things, but the turnovers, and the ill-advised plays/puck-carrying, and the ho-hum defensive aspect of his game are scary.

  • SupremeLeader

    I see what you’re saying. I suppose I am looking more to unload so we don’t sit in a “Schultz-like” series of contracts much longer, whether they are expensive or not. I do not think it is a bad idea to hang on to Brouwer – he just needs a good complement of linemates and to turn his game around because he has higher potential.
    I don’t believe Laich nor Erskine is doing this team any favors even though I like who they are. I wish we could keep Erat and use him well so we can at least say we got something more than just Latta out of the deal (not to mention burning Cap space – bye bye MP85 + Wagon, not that it was entirely because of cap space but it didn’t help).
    FreeOrlov. I accept that he might be a “marginal” top 6 as you said, Peter, but the guy hasn’t gotten a fair shake nor a chance to show his potential NOW outside of the great job he did two years ago. Let’s avoid Orlov becoming another Erat, and keep this young talent engaged.

  • Roy Schue

    I would think and surely hope that McPhee would want some solid reasoning from Oates on that decision considering it involved a recently acquired player with a 4.5 mil cap hit. I’m sure McPhee had to explain to Leonsis why he has a 4.5 mil man on the fourth line. Obviously not the best use of salary cap space.

  • alexnewca

    Package green+erat for a solid top 4 dman that can log a lot of time on ice every night and a prospect or a draft pick. If brouwer and laich begin to play better the forward core will be fine, and especially f kuznetsov comes to play

  • MuzzMuzzington

    NO REGRETS! #YOLO

  • Paul Crist

    I think Neuvy is another player who has really gotten the short end of the stick. I’d rather see him traded, Grubby moved up, and Leggio starting in Hershey than seeing him ride the pine 90% of the time. Holtby has been pretty good and he deserves his time for sure, and I’m not suggesting Neuvy should be playing in his place. I’d just like to see him playing somewhere. He’s a talented kid.

  • Graham Dumas

    Far be it for me to stand up for the guy–we’re all frustrated with this or that. I’m honestly not trying to be a GMGM apologist.

    But just a gentle reminder that this is the same dude who’s brought in clutch talent over the years. Setting aside the top guys he’s cultivated through draft picks and our minor-league affiliates, we’re talking Fedorov, Knuble, Ribeiro, Grabovsky… He’s brought us three really good (though very different) coaches over the past six years.

    GMGM has neglected defense, I think it’s safe to say. And the Forsberg trade is never going to look great on paper, in part because of the hype and the large amount of unknowable data.

    But a smidge of credit where it’s due–that’s all I’m asking.

  • Danny Bugher

    I agree. Green has scored a lot in the past. Personally I don’t care about a scoring defenseman. I want a defensive defenseman. Green is not that. He gets beat a lot and is often sloppy with the puck. Not to mention ovi has more hits than green.

  • Matt

    What can we realistically get back for Erat? I’m hoping it’s not just draft picks or AHL players.

  • Danny Bugher

    Like Hendricks, Perrault, or Ribiero?

  • Roy Schue

    I would be surprised if we get more than that. When you take into account Erats current value, his cap hit and the fact that GMGM isn’t the craftiest of general managers.

  • Jayleigh

    I really think is being overanalyzed into conspiracy theory status. I watched both interviews and didn’t see any discrepancy between what McPhee said and what Oates said. And I’m a fan of a good conspiracy theory, so I was looking for it.

    Here’s my take. If Erat made the initial request for a trade only a couple of weeks into the season, that means that the chemistry hasn’t been there between him and the other players since at least that time. Chemistry is just as important to the success of the lines as is skill level and skill compatibility.

    When taking that into account, Oates’ responses make perfect sense. Erat’s chemistry with those with whom he’d been placed wasn’t working and they were having a hard time finding a place where it did. It frustrated Erat and affected his play. Maybe not where we’d notice on the outside looking in, but where both Oates and Erat knew he could perform even better. Unable to find that place where he felt that chemistry only increased Erat’s frustration.

    As a brief interjection, everyone keeps bitching about Laich and Brouwer, and “why did Oates switch the lines up like *that* ferchristsake”, and #freeso-n-so, but the one element I never hear anyone taking into account is that Oates and the players know how the chemistry is working between them much better than anyone else does. I’m not saying they don’t make mistakes, I’m saying they know better the reasons behind what they’re doing than any journalist/fan/commentator ever born. (Unless there are dopplegangers. If there are dopplegangers then I retract that.)

    I really believe everyone is thinking too hard about how “wronged” Erat was (and, by default, looking for more reasons to fire McPhee) because he never got enough ice time. As a result everyone is failing to consider there might be valid reasons behind him not getting that time. Reasons that couldn’t be seen from the outside looking in, but maybe were more obvious within the unit as a whole.

    If you ask for a trade only 2 weeks into the season, you’re announcing that you’re not feeling the team spirit. You’re not asking for a shift in lines. You’re saying you don’t want to be here with these people anymore. Your chemistry with those from whom you want away is absolutely going to falter. It has to, no matter how professional you’re acting. That planted seed of “I don’t like it here” works its way into your mind and shoots out firm roots that extend all the way down to your skates. Doubt it? Think about your last co-worker who was job hunting because they were unhappy.

    Before anyone starts typing away in anger at me because I’m not jumping on the “blame McPhee and Oates” bandwagon, let me add that I really like Erat and I’m disappointed that he feels he has to go. I just think there’s a bunch of willy-nilly finger pointing going on, which means that people are getting poked in the eye for no good reason.

  • bskillet

    How bout this genius idea, since we won’t get much for Martin put him on the table as a package with Brooks and try for a real 2nd or even 3rd line center or even winger? just someone who will play his heart out for 18-20 mins. a game.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    whatever you do, don’t think too hard about things

  • bskillet

    Brouwer is playing with S@#T on his line. He does at least have passion and wants to win, give him 2 line mates who also care and they will produce. Troy and Eric with maybe Latta?

  • Red

    The good thing is that GMGM and Oates have an “open relationship” so, you know…jump on that.

  • dylan wheatley

    agreed. everybody looks bad. they are all ugly.

    especially oates he looks like eddie munster

  • Matt

    Erat+Laich+Erskine is about $9 million cap hit, almost as much as Ovechkin’s. No team is going to pay that.

  • Daniel Walker

    How about Neuvy, Erat & McPhee for Foresberg & Poile?

  • Bob

    matty p, in our hearts forever

  • Jayleigh

    Lol Touche :)

  • dylan wheatley

    i’m usually of the opinion that i literally dont know anything about hockey in the first place and then also im not in the room and im not privy to the information that oates and gmgm have to take into account while doing their jobs and well today is a pretty usual day.

  • Matt

    At least 4.5 million is free for another trade.

  • OlietheGoalie

    If this trade/drop goes through, what exactly did we get for Forsberg? Latta, a career NHLer.

    I know Fors is a prospect, but come on man – HIS LAST NAME IS “FORSBERG”! We have to roll the dice on that one working out.

    People are hard on GMGM. I get it – but this was freaking stupid from the minute the trade came through. And nothing has really happened to change my stance on it. McPhee really has to answer for why we are in year 7/8 of the “Five Year Plan”.

  • OlietheGoalie

    We give him the credit. But he has been around since the Cup Run year, and nothing to show for it except some early playoff exits.

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    Frustrated is an under statement. We’re ruining clutch players and their chances to be GREAT. It’s not good enough to sustain. GMGM has been at this in DC for 16 years. I think it’s fairly safe to say that all we will continue to get from him is good….not great. Quick fixes but not a dynasty. It’s nonsense that he continues to pathetically waste the time of some amazing talent. #8 and #19 are a blessing to this great game and in the midst of their most important years. I think it’s time to get some fresh management perspective.

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    I wish I could vote this up twice! #LMAO!!!

  • Thisisntreally Mike

    Please fire GMGM. That is all.

  • Jack Conness

    We have the best player in hockey and one of the best centers in hockey in their prime. We have to jump on this opportunity. GMGM is not giving us that opportunity. He needs to move on.

  • Graham Dumas

    Again, I’m not arguing that it’s not time for a change. It’s just that it’s important to recognize what GMGM has done well. Otherwise, you risk making a reactionary decision (not that it’s up to you, me, or anyone except Ted, anyway) that doesn’t correspond to reality.

    Pitchforks and torches are never the right way to make a decision. Unless you’re pro-Jacobin or something. Then it’s fine.

  • johnnymorte

    There is no credit due. These are all transient players that were in the autumn of their careers except for Ribeiro and Grabovski, the former who was chasing a big payday, and the latter whose future is uncertain here. Oates is the guy that got Grabo here. What talent has he brought to the organization that was undervalued and turned into a key for the team? All I can think of is the list of failures: Arnott, Corvo, Wideman, Hannan, Hamrlik, Erat, trading Varlamov…the list goes on. A great GM turns a good team and adds pieces that make it great. He has not fulfilled. Stan Bowman joined the Hawks in ’09, the next year they hoisted. Coincidence? No, this team needs great leadership and we need it now. The window is closing sooner than you think. Stop making excuses for the guy. He had his chance in both Vancouver and now here. We need someone who is assertive and has big giant balls that can make the right moves and understands player value. This guy has left nothing but a trail of mediocrity in his wake.

  • Spencer Z

    Do you guys think it’s realistic that the caps could get a top 4 D-man for Erat?

    IMO if that happens (and the D-man lives up to what we need) then this trade looks even better.

    My view: Forsberg might turn out to be top 6 talent but that’s at least a couple years down the road (considering his current play with nashville). Caps need to win now while Ovi and Backy are in their prime so we grab Erat and Latta for him. Erat doesn’t work out it seems and it’s also pretty clear that we have too many “top-6″ forwards and need a lot of help on defense. If the caps swap Erat for a top 4 defensemen, we do 3 helpful things. 1. We trade away a player who doesn’t want to be on our team. 2. We obtain something the caps need VERY badly, defense. 3. We clear a roster spot for Eric Fehr who I believe is a lot better than Oates gives him credit for.

    I feel it’s too early to judge this trade because none of the pieces have been fully flushed out yet. I will withhold my judgement until we see what the player GMGM brings in for Erat can do.

  • Owen Johnson

    GMGM is slowly turning into Vinny Cerrato.

  • John

    Erat for Booth.

  • Phil

    I’m not exactly happy with this either, but Erat did play on the top two lines all of last year, and had what, 1 goal (that I can remember)? I mean with his time this year and last year on the top lines he hasn’t done much.

    Meanwhile Latta is doing a great job and Forsberg was sent down to the AHL a while ago. I don’t know if he’s back up or not.

    Either way you swing it, its not a good situation but lets try and be realistic here. We’re talking about a guy that requested trades from two different teams in less than 10 months. That has to say something.

  • Shaun Phillips

    I don’t think you can compare the Hawks and Caps. Hawks were loaded with 1st rounders and all-stars having tanked for several years.

  • Jesse Morgan

    No, if he was Vinny, this team would be WAY worse.

  • Brackaphobia

    Neuvy could be a nice trade addition, but do you think we could get a decent defenseman for JUST Marty?

    I didn’t bother to look too in-depth (stat-wise) but maybe Dmitry Kulikov (FLA) or Andrej Meszaros (PHI)?

  • Red

    TL;DR. But the the punctuation and paragraph structure are beauuuutiful.

  • 28ISGREAT

    You mean jump IN on that, right?

  • jj

    Erat has also played on either the 1st or 2nd line for stretches of this season as well

  • jj

    I think it is completely fair to consider attitude as being a potential reason for his falling out with the coaching staff. Not only does poor attitude impact a players form, but it also brings down the net morale of the entire team and is not something that helps a team win.

    A common attitude with athletes is that you earn your PT through your play instead of just giving up and asking for a trade. Sure he has been given less ice time than he would like, but its not like a couple less minutes per game equals a monumental drop in production. Minus one 3 point aberration against the hapless Blue Jackets Erat has 3 points in 22 games. Its kind of hard to blame such a dramatic drop in production on a marginal drop in ice time, and an occasional demotion to lesser lines.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I don’t think you considered the possibility that he was demoted before he got an attitude. Further, his teammates said he doesn’t have one– only that he wants to play.

    You’re using a common fallacy– that ice time strictly follows performance. Often it’s the other way around: that was the circumstance that led Grabovski to DC in the first place.

    “its not like a couple less minutes per game equals a monumental drop in production”

    Yes it does, because less minutes also implies more defensive starts and inferior linemates.

    “Minus one 3 point aberration against the hapless Blue Jackets Erat has 3 points in 22 games.”

    Which is why we track possession in addition to points. Erat is the third best possession forward on the team.

  • Ralph

    The Caps had plenty of their own young players as well. I’d say the Caps were a year or two ahead of Chicago in that sense…but the Hawks also complemented their young core with game-changing veterans like Campbell and Hossa. The Caps did not.