Yo, I need to draw your attention to this quote from George McPhee, reported by Katie Carrera on Wednesday night.

“We play a system where teams get probably more shots the way we play but most of them are from the outside, we’ll allow those. In some ways that might be better for this particular goaltender.”

This is not the sort of thing a professional hockey person outside of Toronto should say. This is not a thing that any grownup with even a passing acquaintance with the concept of probability should say.

Allowing more shots is never good. Every shot carries with it a discrete chance that it could go in the net. More shots: more goals.

And the Caps don’t possess some newly discovered, sui generis ability to limit their opponents’ shot quality with reliability. If they did, we’d see it in the stats. So George McPhee should not be saying the equivalent of “We let the other guy take a crazy ton of shots because we’re the first team in hockey history that is actually magical.”

Nope, nope, nope. And Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia is evidence of the cosmic wrongness.

Overall the Caps allow 32.7 shots on goal per game. That’s the fourth worst in the league. This is not a good thing. Spinning it any other way is futile. Moar shots by the other guy = moar bad. Put it on a t-shirt.

And the whole thing about keeping the shots to the outside is malarkey. No one actually does that with any consistency, and the Caps are not even a little good at it. Just look at Wednesday’s circus in Philadelphia.

Goal 1: Claude Giroux


Jack Hillen loses a board battle bad at the blue line. Claude Giroux takes the puck in all alone for a breakaway to beat Holtby. Alex Ovechkin plays defense with his hands and stick. 17 feet.

Goal 2: Jakub Voracek, PPG


Karl Alzner fails to clear the puck out of the zone. Instead, he knocks it right to a Flyers defender. The Caps chase the puck and get caught out of position, particularly Brooks Laich. Voracek receives the puck at the point, wide open, pushed to the top of the circles — right in the middle of the ice — and scores a clean goal on the short side.

Goal 3: Claude Giroux, again


Mike Green coughs up the puck behind the goal line, gets cross-checked from behind and removed from the play. Giroux scores from a couple feet out. Then he kicks Green in the head. 24 feet.

Goal 4: Adam Hall


Braden Holtby chucks it around the glass. Four Caps cannot settle the puck. Turnover…


Then Adam Hall sets up in Holtby’s grill, thoroughly unguarded. As Michael Raffl winds up at the point, you’ll notice every Capital is above the face-off dot. Hall deflects it past a helpless Holtby. 11 feet.

Goal 5: Jakub Voracek, again


The third line is on the ice. Eric Fehr fumbles a pass at center ice. Playing out of position as a center (Adam Oates’ experiment), Fehr loses his man and lets Jakub Voracek to walk in alone on a semi-breakaway. 32 feet.

That’s five goals, all from the inside.

The Caps aren’t limiting their opponents’ shots. The Caps aren’t good at keeping shots to the outside. The Caps aren’t hockey unicorns impervious to the laws of probability.


“We play a system where teams get probably more shots the way we play but most of them are from the outside, we’ll allow those. In some ways that might be better for this particular goaltender.”

That’s in print now. People are actually gonna read that. Yeesh.

This article has been a Peter Hassett/Ian Oland jam session.

Tagged with:
  • Cthulu’s Alarm Clock

    Wonder if Gretzky’s gonna return to watch a Caps game as Teddy’s ‘guest’…

  • Christoffer Salo Salomonsson

    but.. everyone but goal 4 is shots that a hot goalie can take..

  • Barrett

    Good write up!

    I was a little annoyed with Eddie O on his analysis of the third goal. He put all the blame on Mike Green for not knowing where all five Flyers players were on the ice in the half second before he took that puck behind the net. How about his teammates communicate? He may have thought he had time, but a nice “hard around” yell from a teammate could have been useful.

  • Diller M

    This is the EXACT thing Waddell and Anderson used to say with the Trashers when they were giving up 40 shots a game. How many times did they make the playoffs?

  • Ken Young

    He said the same thing 17 years ago when we went to the finals behind Kolzig’s standout play

  • Amykins

    I sure hope so.

  • Whitey Wheeler

    “We play a system” ?

  • cmdonohue

    Yesterday was kind of a tipping point because of the Halak trade and then those asinine comments from McPhee. This organization will find it hard to progress with that kind of thinking. And that’s to say nothing of the offensive, defensive and penalty kill systems Oates seems to prefer.

  • GuestZ

    Time for McSuck to be sent packing.

    Teddy, you’ve been watching hockey long enough. Ticket sales or not, does this seem like the kind of guy you want building your team any longer? He’s run out of excuses and other one liners, and this bs is what he’s trying to sell now? Give us a break.

    And Oates, get over your handedness crap. Erskine only deserved a sweater last night for exactly what he did. Which didn’t help at all. Sooooo can we play Cap’s hockey, or do we no longer have an identity?

  • Justin Siegel

    Well obviously things are going to look bad when you don’t even MENTION the goal scored from 133 feet. Way to keep them to the outside, Caps!

  • Brouwer Rangers

    I appreciate where you’re going with this, but aren’t broader stats more relevant than specific cases of defensive breakdowns? The anecdotal evidence that you selected from last night’s game supports your point, but what about the stats? Particularly:

    At a very basic level, what does the win/loss record look like in games where the Caps get outshot vs. the games where they outshoot the opponent?

    Aren’t there heat maps showing where shots are coming from that would speak to the validity of McPhee’s claim that “most of [the shots they give up] are from the outside”?

    Also, give McPhee a white long-haired cat to pet while wearing that getup and he’s a shoe-in for next Bond villain.

  • Brouwer Rangers

    Oh looks like Neil is on the case re: heat map

  • Ben Reed

    When Boudreau was coach, he also said “we’re going to give up some goals the way we play.”

    Now this.

    McPhee lacks either the interest, or the understand, or both, in employing people WHO CAN FUCKING PLAY DEFENSE.

  • Not an idiot

    no, they’re really not.

  • Well, there’s two things going on here, and I think we address both.

    1. On average, the Caps allows more shots than they should (32.7, 27th in the league), and that’s NOT a good thing. The snapshot belabors this point every week.

    2. Despite what GMGM says, the Caps are NOT good at keeping those shots to the outside. If they were, Holtby would win the Vezina.

  • Brouwer Rangers

    Right but aside from the average shots allowed, I’m curious if over the long term there a correlation between shot differential and winning/losing for this particular team.

    McPhee seems to be arguing that at the very least there isn’t a correlation – that they would have at least as good a winning percentage in games where they’re outshot vs. games where they outshoot (because they’re hypothetically better at limiting their opponents to a ton of low-quality shots, which as we know is BS).

    I would suspect he’s wrong, but couldn’t easily locate data to back that up and was hoping you would do the legwork on it, haha.

  • “I’m curious if over the long term there a correlation between shot differential and winning/losing for this particular team.”

    Yeah, definitely. This is one of the cornerstones of analytics.

  • Barrett

    You can view the percentage in the team stats page. The Capitals win 42.9% of their games when getting out shot by their opponents (23rd in the league) and they win 50% of their games when out shooting their opponents (17th in the league).

  • Brouwer Rangers

    Yes, the analytics expect that getting outshot will mean a team loses more. That’s the theory. My question is whether the stats bear that out in real life in this case (“for this particular team” in my earlier question meaning the Oates-system Caps).

    What I’d really like to see is:

    When the Oates Caps are outshot (or out-shot-attempted or whatever), they have a win percentage of ___.

    When the Oates Caps outshoot (or out-attempt-to-shoot), they have a win percentage of ___.

    That would seem to get directly (rather than theoretically or anecdotally) at GMGM’s defense of a system that is apparently okay with giving up more shots than you take.

  • Brouwer Rangers

    Exactly what I was looking for, thanks!

  • Brouwer Rangers

    Ok nm it looks like @cbarrett3:disqus found what I couldn’t.

  • Those theoretical analyses are based on regression analysis of thousands of games for all 30 teams over many years, so I would recommend trusting those.

    There are a bunch of cases of teams who say they can win reliably despite being outshot. I can’t think of an example where they are right.

  • Brouwer Rangers

    I’m not suggesting that the theories are untrustworthy. Quite the opposite actually. I’d just like to see the theories translated into real life and put into the context of this team right now.

    I think it gets to one of the reasons normals have a hard time appreciating or embracing fancy stats. Stats are much more accessible to us commoners when they feel more real.

    A regression analysis of thousands of games for all 30 teams might be a statistically reliable predictor, but it’s easy for a doofus (or highly paid general manager who should know better) to say “yeah but that’s everyone, not my team” or “yeah, that’s a prediction, not a reality.” I’m not saying those are valid criticisms of fancy stats – but they exist and seem like things that are easily countered by saying, “okay, here’s how it has actually played out for this team in this time period.”

    Seeing the analytical concepts applied to real life may risk giving too much credit to outliers or anomalies, I guess, but it also helps bring the concepts into focus/context for those us who struggle to see the bigger picture.

  • “it’s easy for a doofus (or highly paid general manager who should know better) to say “yeah but that’s everyone, not my team” or “yeah, that’s a prediction, not a reality.””

    Yeah, it’s easy, but it’s plainly incorrect. Those regression analyses exist partially to prove statements like that wrong. I know you’re saying “here’s all this data, but what about my GUTS?” I’m saying I see it the other way: “I have my gut feeling, but what does the data say?”

    By picking a single team or a single group of games, we introduce more randomness into it, which some people will interpret to mean whatever they want.

  • Bondraovie412

    It’s not up to McPhee on which system they play. That’s on Oates. I’m not sure what you expect him to say?

  • JenniferH

    Pretty sure that was sarcasm. 😉

  • Robert

    Even if that were true, it’s not a tenable solution. No team can have a hot goalie all the time. The defense’s job is to make it easier for their goalie to win even when he isn’t playing lights out. The caps’ defenders definitely do not do that.

  • Brouwer Rangers

    I know it’s plainly incorrect, but it’s easier to understand why and how they’re wrong by seeing the theories and concepts in action. “No you’re wrong” might be true but it isn’t going to win hearts and minds. (It’s a huge part of why proponents of fancy stats are viewed as smug and dismissive – because often they are.)

    If someone doesn’t understand a regression analysis or how it applies to their specific case, saying “well it’s science so stop complaining” isn’t going to help them learn. Taking the time to educate people by bringing it down to their level is harder, and yes probably leaves room for misinterpretation of randomness, but I think in long run serves the fancy stats community better by making more accessible to normals.

    To be clear, you guys are better than a lot of people at understanding the audience and being patient rather than dismissive. This seemed like another great opportunity to do that. McPhee makes a statement about the Caps’ ability to win despite being routinely outshot. This statement is clearly wrong to people who get fancy stats and at least highly suspicious to people who don’t. It’s one thing to say, in essence, “teams that get outshot tend to lose ∴ McPhee is a dodo.” It’s another thing to illustrate McPhee’s dodoness in high definition by pointing to the actual Caps’s actual record when they get outshot or do the outshooting.

    When you get fancy stats that seems like “well, duh, of course the actual record should bear that out.” But I know at least in my case–as someone who likes the idea of fancy stats but sometimes struggles to really comprehend them–it’s helpful to see them dumbed down.

  • Jonathan Kenny

    As evidence to support this idea McPhee sighted last nights game w/ Philly, in which the Caps were outshot 23-8 after two periods and, oh wait, they were losing 4-1. Hmm. But in the 3rd they out shot Philly 17-7 and scored 3G to Philly’s 2.

  • Barrett

    What’s really disturbing is Boudreau’s Ducks win 75% of the games they are out shot and 70% of the games in which they outshoot the opposition. Ooops?

  • Barrett

    Yeah, but if Halak (or Ryan Miller) was playing goal the Capitals would have won 4-0.

  • Brouwer Rangers


    Though really that serves the anti-McPhee side. Sure, it can be done in very rare cases, but the Caps certainly aren’t doing that.

    (I would also suspect that there’s an element of Ducks games being out of reach for the opponent so they end up putting a lot of shots on net at the end of losing effort … but would be nice to see that illustrated in an understandable way haha)

  • Jimmie

    Is it possible, guys, that GMGM is still haunted by the 2010 playoff loss to Montreal? In that series, the Caps had almost 100 more total shots than the Canadiens and outshot them in 6 of 7 games, including 2 where they were +32 and +26.

    It seems to me you can come to a guy with tons of fancystats, but still have that guy stubbornly hold on to one outsized event that “proves” how the fancystats didn’t work. Perhaps that’s the root of what’s gone on this season (and maybe others as well).

  • Barrett

    It could also mean that the number of games they are actually out shot is so small that it doesn’t matter. There propably were not many games the Capitals were out shot when Boudreau was in DC.

  • Oh, I dunno. He’s Oates’ boss. When Boudreau changed the system in late 2010, that was reportedly due to pressure from above.

  • Great great point. The emotional pull of those anecdotes is super strong. I’m still traumatized by MTL 2010.

  • I did those angry screenshots (they are sufficiently angry right?) while figure out how to record Skype conversations with Chris last night. #technology

  • A_Shoe

    So, what you’re saying is, GMGM isn’t just wrong, he’s the wrongest.

  • Yeah, BB’s Ducks won’t be able to sustain that for long. They’re first in shooting percentage and eighth in saving.

    BB’s 2010 Caps were similarly good, but they fell HARD the next season– just cause those bounces can’t last forever.

  • A_Shoe

    I know this is blasphemy, but at this point, I’m almost rooting for the guys to miss the playoffs. The way the other tenant of the Verizon Center is being run, GMGM is back even if we squeak into the playoffs only to get curb-stomped in the first round by Pittsburgh. We need change from the top because our roster is HORRIBLE, and I think missing the playoffs is the only way to get Uncle Ted to do anything.

  • Rob W.

    When i read that quote last night, i gave myself a concussion from facepalming so hard

  • Owen Johnson

    “We play a system where teams get probably more shots the way we play. Our system is called ‘not playing defense.”

    Good luck with all of this, Jaro.

  • riggorules

    What is the Caps system? Seriously.

  • CM

    I barely think you need fancy stats to show what he’s saying is dumb.

    Our goalies are approximately average in SV%. This is over shots from the inside, outside, upside, downside. We play teams with, on average, average goaltending (duh). No matter where the shots come from, our goalies don’t have the SV% to win games where we get outshot by significant margins.

    This is not a critique of our goaltending. Just a statement that if two average goalies (in terms of SV%) face each other the team that faces fewer shots wins.

  • Diller M


  • Diller M

    I’m sorry, but you’ve gotta do better than McSuck. That’s just lazy.

  • Myan

    The system does not work. GMGM is delusional.

  • Owen Johnson

    I think that’s why we traded for Halak to be honest. The old saying “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Or in this case, have him join us.

  • JakeDubber

    Ok forget all this crap because its apparently not going to change this year. We’ve got to focus and pray to god Halak can HALAK’d our next 19 games so Holtby can take over in the Playoffs.

    Peter, we’re currently 10/9th in our conference, correct? Tied for 1 spot out of the playoffs with Detroit (68 pts), behind Columbus (69 Points)

    Out of the next 19 games, how many do we need to win outright, how many can we lose and still make the playoffs, and how lucky do we have to be to make it?

    Pls respond.

  • JakeDubber

    Mr. McFeeble?
    Doc McFreak?

    I’m too angry

  • JakeDubber

    Goodness… Do we have any heat maps from the Ducks or Blackhawks?

  • Patrick Neimeyer

    Poor GMGM. I think that turtleneck is honestly cutting off the circulation of rational thoughts to his brain. We all know what happens to guys with turtlenecks, take Dieter for example…

  • WJH

    Speaking from a purely non statistical view point (although I am aware of the stats) I have a few comments….over the past several years we have changed coaches, peripheral players, and goalies, etc….. in every sport when all these options have been exhausted and the team still fails to meet even substandard expectations the head comes off…it is now time for that I believe.
    Now if I may rant a minute….I feel as though every other team in the league’s scouting report on us is this…. “Hit them hard and continuous and they turn to jello”
    It is the exception moreso than the rule when we lay the wood to a player (legally) for dumping and chasing into the corner or screening our goalie. I also have grown weary of seeing one or two of our players watch a puck glide to the boards as an opponent busts his ass to get the puck in our own zone. Horrible work ethic. From a personal perspective I love Oates but I wonder…… During the Olympics when our #74 blew his defensive assignment leading to a score Blysma benched his ass. I don’t know if Oates has that in him yet. If he did I think there would be games #52 doesn’t get a jersey…he and #74 are brilliant skaters but,hell, I would not be afraid to go in the corner knowing they are on the ice.
    OK…rant over…I am obviously no hockey coach but I think there are so many things wrong on so many different levels…unfortunately I think the whole personality of the team has to change which brings me back to my original point.

  • Joey Doukmetzian

    Not sure if sarcasm or not

  • Adam Schwager

    Should we beg Dale Hunter to come back?

  • Graham Dumas

    I cannot tolerate this level of talk from GMGM. I’m sorry, but this is moronic. The man’s made some really good trades in the past, along with some pretty awful ones; but his comments are absurd, particularly in light of the facts this season. I respect him, mostly, as a mover of assets, but the man clearly has limited vision for strategy; to the extent he’s responsible for Calle J sticking around, I find that very, very problematic.

  • Graham Dumas
  • Adam Schwager

    GMGM is so stupid but he needs to stay because he is one of the greatest drafters and evaluator of young talent in the NHL. He drafted Kuyza, Ovi (Cant miss), Nicky, Green, Semin, Carlson, MoJo, Fehr, & Orlov and some late round steals in Holtby & Carrick, traded for a young Laich, and signed a dynamic duo in Chimera and Ward.

  • Jonathan Kenny

    Here’s what I think of McPhee’s logic: Remember back on Nov 1st when the Caps demolished the pathetically bad Flyers 7-0. Y’know, the game where Ray Emery was given the 2nd Star in spite of his 70-something% save pct. The Flyers stunk back then and I don’t believe anybody thought they would reach 70+ points before the Caps this season. But it has happened. There is no excuse for the Caps being as mediocre as they are. Period.

  • Lawrence

    Yup, the only difference back then was that our offense was actually good.

  • I think the Caps will need 93 points to make the playoffs.

  • Barrett

    Sarcasm. Poking fun at GMGM’s comments about goal tending costing the Capitals 10 points in the standings. Basically not having Ryan Miller has caused the Capitals to be the 9th or 10th best team in the standings instead of 3rd. Defense is for losers!!

  • JakeDubber

    Ok so we’re at 68… which means we need to win 12 games in regulation and 1 in overtime to make up the point difference (or some combination thereof to make 25 points).


  • Barrett

    Do just enough for me to keep my job the past 17 years. – George McPhee

  • Barrett

    That’s the difference between Oates and Dale Hunter, as both coaches and players.

  • Ben

    He had a pretty good day before he spoke…

  • johnnymorte

    GMGM is just too complacent in his language. We have a generational talent and he is going to let this opportunity slip away. Oates just doesn’t have the horses. It just amazes me that Ted with all his success in business can’t figure this one out. We’ve been fighting to get into the playoffs three straight years now. I almost want us not to make it, because I don’t want to sit through another early exit This is not a SC roster. We can’t expect Ovi to save us by having some miracle playoff run.

  • Barrett

    That means the organization has great scouts, not that GMGM is great. He’s obviously good at listening to the scouting reports.

  • Steve

    Great write-up. GMGM’s public stances are disturbing. On another note – the way he’s doubling down publicly on the Erat trade as something he’d do again is the wrong message…it’s okay to fail on trades, but show how the organization can progress by learning from them OR noting why specifically they aren’t failures (Having Forsberg at trade deadline THIS year could have gotten us a D-Man IMO).

    With the assumption the Capitals don’t make it to the Stanley Cup this season and with the trade deadline expired, I’d love to see an RMNB staff write up on the top 3 to 5 priorities/fixes (as realistic/practical as possible) that help to solve the top problems facing the Caps. I know you can’t fix “stupid” – so the GMGM quotes just simply have to “burn” out on their own and hope the embers aren’t contagious.

    For example — a) Replace the GMGM with (GM who is/does X differently?) b) Replace Oates with _____? c) Replace Calle Johanson with _____? d) Change the defensive system to _____ e) Change the offensive system to _____ f) Tweak the offensive lines or D-pairings to be _____ g) Spend the extra cap $ on better personnel or trades like ____ h) Don’t change anything and make small tweaks in the off-season, grow/call up AHLers, etc.

  • Chris Cerullo

    That’s exactly what I thought of when he said this

  • Eric Schulz

    The first time I saw that hit on Green, I *also* thought it was a cross-check. On second viewing however, I realized it wasn’t. He put both of his hands together, lacrosse-style, so that his stick did not hit Green. Legal hit.

  • Eric Schulz

    Having Forsberg last year SHOULD’VE resulted in us having a d-man… or keeping him. That’s the biggest reason (out of 7) that that trade was so monumentally stupid; we needed a legit top-4 defenseman, we had a trade piece of great value… we didn’t address our need… we even addressed the area of *least* need by getting a redundant, overpriced winger. I’m still livid about that fucking stupid trade.

  • Eric Schulz

    Who else would’ve had the intelligence to draft Ovechkin? Oh, everybody? Drafting Semin, Kuznetsov… that’s because he acquired a lot of picks and we were willing to take “risks” on Russian players (they are soo enigmatic, as we all know)… really, late round steals in Carrick and Holtby? ALL great goalies are late round steals, because everybody knows not to draft a goalie in the early rounds… sorry, save Milbury, but he also thinks Ovechkin sucks… and Carrick wasn’t a steal, he’s overwhelmed at the NHL level.
    GMGM has made some good picks.. and some good trades… and some good free agent signings.. the problem is, HE’S HAD 17 YEARS! Of course he’s made some good moves, unfortunately, 70% of his moves are atrocious.

  • Eric Schulz

    I’m thinking much the same… I hope Ovie gets 1-1–2 every game, and we lose.

  • Alex

    So wouldn’t it have made sense to get a defender to block some of those shots like Andy Macdonald? I really hope McPhee is gone after this season. Gretzky for GM! hahahaha

  • No. MacDonald. No.

  • dylan wheatley

    ok i take back everything good i ever said about gmgm

  • Diller M

    The top 6 need was real, however he just got the wrong guy for the coach and system. I don’t mind the motivation or trading Forsberg, just the return in this situation. Regardless I think it’s time to move on.

  • Björn Jessen

    Heeeeeeell no!

  • Eric Schulz

    Trading Forsberg for anything outside of a top-2 defenseman would’ve been a bad return.

  • Jonah

    that was the rational behind the jagr trade…

  • Clips

    Erat is a top 6 player… as noted above many times we have a coaching issue and a GM issue.

  • kyle boyd

    the argument supporting the statement here is every playoff series we’ve had against new york in the past 5 years. i find the statement disturbing, but not in and of itself. It’s perfectly viable to give up perimeter shots, and as a forward playing on a checking line i was taught as much.

    the issue is like you said, we’re not doing what he’s claiming we’re doing. we give up odd man rushes, we’re soft in the slot, and we aren’t aggressive enough in keeping them to the outside.