McPhee (7 of 14)

Photo: Chris Gordon

After this season, with the futures of Adam Oates and George McPhee in doubt, many wondered what the relationship was like between the two men. There was good reason to. During Oates’s administration, McPhee made two major offensive acquisitions: Dustin Penner and Martin Erat. While McPhee talked up both players as top-six powerhouses, Oates never gave them significant minutes on the top two lines. During his final press conference as the Capitals general manager, McPhee declined to talk about whether there was a row with Oates.

“I don’t want to talk about individuals because when you do that you either miss somebody that you should be praising and people get upset, and I just would rather have a happy day and duck individual talk,” McPhee said, adding later that Oates’s firing “was unfortunate for Adam because it was a short tenure.”

However, McPhee heaped praise on Bruce Boudreau, a coach he personally fired, and Dale Hunter, whose departure led to Oates’s hiring.

“I just felt like we had a real good run there for five years and certainly loved working with Bruce,” McPhee said when asked when the Caps’ Stanley Cup window started to close. “I loved working with Dale. That might have been it, when Dale didn’t come back. I thought he did a tremendous job of making this a team and sort of resetting after that, getting a new coach, I just thought we were a little thin on players coming into the system.”

“He’s an outstanding coach and a good guy,” McPhee added of Boudreau.

While McPhee wasn’t effusive when discussing Oates’s time behind the bench, he made no overt criticisms of the former Capital. Here’s what McPhee concluded when asked if the myriad of coaching changes hurt the team.

“No, I don’t think so,” McPhee said. “I don’t want to be negative here. We missed the playoffs by three points for the first time in seven years. We’re doing something really well. Systems don’t matter a whole lot. That should be 10 to 15 percent of what you’re doing. That’s your foundation. It’s about coaching and making it work and our coaches have been making it work.”

So, what do you guys think — was there a disconnect between Oates and McPhee or is this a manufactured storyline?

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  • Josh Carey

    There’s a disconnect somewhere. The biggest evidence I think is that McPhee said Erat and Penner were brought in to be top 6 guys. We all know what happens next. I’m curious as to why the disconnect was there. Perhaps Oates’ stubbornness?

  • SeanH

    On the idea of Penner’s deployment alone there was clearly disconnect. Penner was doing just fine on a line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim, he could have done just as well with Ovechkin and Marjoke. . . . At some point Mcphee should have invoked executive order and told Oates to put him in the top pairing, complete lack of leadership there.

    Oates was one of those clowns that took himself way too seriously, and when it was clearly obvious to everyone around him that his “system” was a failure, he simply refused to accept the possibility. After a while, it turned into throwing his players under the bus for a lack of executing his “system”, then it got down to individual players and Oates dropping names.

    There are some guys that lived the best days as players, just being a good player doesn’t make you a good coach.

  • j

    Did I hear somewhere that Mcphee preferred Jon Cooper over Oates? Has anyone else ever heard something similar?

  • BG19

    I read the same thing in article the other day. It said that Leonsis wanted Oates. Whether it’s true or not is another matter

  • Zach Evans

    Absolutely. The deployment of both Erat and Penner alone show that. When your GM is saying one thing and the coach is saying another, there has to be discontent. I agree with SeanH: as the GM, McPhee should have said, “Look we brought this guy in to play top minutes and you’re not doing that.” Or just some kind of conversation. You’d thought he would have learned that after the Erat debacle.

  • Puckguy

    “Two major offensive acquisitions: Dustin Penner and Martin Erat”??…that alone speaks to your hockey knowledge..(time to yell upstairs and have your mom make you another sandwich). Both Erat and Penner were well past their best before dates but if drink the Kool Aid, and can’t evaluate talent you won’t understand. Nashville was aching to get that salary off their books and finally found a buyer, and Penner cost a bag of pucks…really? Someone ought to suspend your writing priviledges for the Stanley Cup of dumbass statements. I’m embarrassed for you!

  • He didn’t say it, but everyone knows it, or we think we know it, but Huntsy didn’t come back because he pi$$ed off Ovechkin and Ovi went crying to Ted that he didn’t want Hunter to come back.
    You all can deny it, but Ovehckin and his petulant attitude and Ted’s willingness to pander to said attitude is the biggest hurdle for this team going forward. That situation *could* prevent the best possible GM and/or coach from wanting to come aboard.
    Unless Ted is willing to quit worrying about selling tickets first, and winning hockey games second, and is willing to give his executive team the autonomy to trade Ovehckin, if a good HOCKEY deal comes alone, we’ll continue to be mired in McPheediocrity.
    35 years; I have suffered enough.

  • You have to remember a number of the media in this town won’t rock Ted’s boat to save their lives. So we get what we have, media statements that Dustin Penner was a “major acquisition.”
    Don’t laugh; don’t criticize; don’t cry; just have another drink. It’s how I have been getting by as a Caps fan for 35 years.

  • Adam Oates was a MF of a player and now he’s turned out to be a MF of a coach.
    A lot of people took a lot of heat over this debacle. Leonsis has been revealed as a meddling owner. D!ck Patrick has been revealed as a do nothing president (up until he finally told Ted to can McPhee); Ovechkin has been revealed by his teammates to be a disliked captain, one who is resented because he only plays in the offensive end; McPhee has had his faults (read Katie’s article) pasted all over the internet; and Oates, worst of all, has been painted as a martinet who is obsessed with handedness and stick length and whose own abject stubbornness made him unsuitable to work with.
    I doubt anyone at this point ever hires Oates for an NHL job; you’d be an idiot to do so.

  • Word has it from insiders that McPhee wanted Cooper but Leonsis overruled with Oates. So, my criticism of McPhee must be racheted down one notch and my criticism of “Pockets” Leon$i$ must be dialed up.
    Insider info also that three major Cap players at exit interviews with Ted and Patrick said they should trade Ovechkin.
    One of those players wears the “A.”

  • You can judge me in the future on this comment alone…
    …I believe that Adam Oates is SO STUBBORN, he never again works for an NHL franchise.

  • Guest

    I’m sorry, did the author of this article personally attack you or something? Must have to warrant that kind of response…

  • McPhee should have been fired in 2001. His first four drafts produced one player who made a contribution at the NHL level – Johnny Oduya, and McPhee wouldn’t sign Oduya after drafting him so Lou L signed him and he’s had a decent career for a 7th round pick. McPhee’s first coaching hire, Bruce Cassidy, was maybe the worst NHL coach not named Glen Hanlon or Adam Oates. Finally, the Caps end up 3rd from last in 2004, and win the lottery and “luck into” Alex Ovechkin. Imagine without that blind luck, say we stay third and take Cam Barker as the Hawks did. “Rock the Red” would never have existed.
    George’s McPhee’s career was basically built around one lucky draft pick. Tell me, please, one move he ever made, that you would consider a stratagem. Go ahead, take your time…can’t think of one?…that’s because there aren’t any.
    For every two good moves he ever made, he made three bad ones.
    And that’s why, despite lucking into the Ovechkin pick, we’ve only one two playoff rounds in this millennium.
    “McPheediocrity,” I say; they call it, “McPheediocrity.”

  • Puckguy maybe went a little overboard, but so did you. C’mon, what hockey expert calls Penner and Erat “major acquisitions?”
    The bottom line is the DC media has for years pandered to leonsis. Now, finally, we have people like Sky Kerstein with the nuggets to call the emperor on his clothes. Please don’t condone the pandering.
    Thanks, tominsocal1

  • And since some criticize those who “hide behind the internet”:
    Tom Orem
    29385 Gary Drive
    Santa Clarita CA 91387
    Come and see me. Or call. I stand up to my words.

  • Here are the initials of the three players with the order rearranged:
    Anyone who wants to spend time on puzzles can figure it out.

  • Tom, we’re trying to host a community where everyone is welcome. Attacking people instead of their ideas is contrary to that goal, and it isn’t acceptable. You’re encouraged to speak your voice, but you’ve got to find a constructive way to do it or we’ll have to ask you to move on.

  • Hyusis

    My guess is that Oates was a little too sensitive about his personal relationships with players, and as a result biased his line combinations and/or player usage. I thought highly of the abilities and heart of Perrault, Erat, even Oleksy (who I took to be a better option than many of the players on the blue line this season) …and I don’t know what to think of Penner, as I didn’t see him play that much. I never saw Oates ice an optimal lineup with anything near consistency, despite having good options at most positions. I think him and McPhee had a significant disconnect.

  • Guest

    He’s used to bullying people on WaPo :

  • hyusis

    And because this is as good a place to say it as anywhere, snow showers shouldn’t be a penalty.

  • I meant “major” relatively. Those were his deadline deals. Anyway.

  • Are you kidding? Really, are you kidding? “Guest” attacked Puckguy (And I have no idea who Puckguy is) because Puckguy questioned the author. So “Guest” jumps down Puckguy’s throat. I merely stated that Puckguy had a right to his opinion, even saying he “went a little overboard.” I even put my address and phone if you want to contact me. Now…you neither question Puckguy nor say anything to “Guest.” And you have the nuggets to preach to me? I took both sides down the middle. A “constructive way to do it” or move on?
    Please tell me you are kidding. Please.
    661-414-2045. I’ve been a hockey fan since moving to Detroit in 1964. I can take whatever it is you want to dish out.

  • “Bullying?” Why don’t you put quotes.
    @Peter Hassett:disqus – see what BPThomas wrote. There’s an example of “not being constructive.”

  • RESmith

    I have to disagree. I know that I am probably in the minority with this, but I have always felt that Hunter stepped in as coach as a favor to the franchise to get them out of the bind of having the players quit on Boudreau so early into the season. He has/had a good thing going with London that provided long term stability (which most NHL coaching gigs notoriously don’t often offer) and kept him close to family, which was important to him. I don’t think he ever intended to stay beyond the end of season but McPhee was hopeful the job would grow on him. Of course that is conjecture on my part, and we will probably never know.

  • Well, you have a point, since many words in the English language, “major” being among them, are relative.
    Compared to the deals that have been consummated by the other 29 NHL teams over the past 14 months, the deals for Erat and Penner were not “major” in my own opinion.
    I hope that what I have written here is considered “constructive” by the powers that be and is not considered “attacking people” (or you) in any way, shape or form.
    I am and remain, a Caps fan of 35 long and arduous years.

  • I have to believe you are correct. HOWEVER, if Alex Ovechkin hadn’t proven to be a pain in the arse of mega-proportions, don’t you think Dale might have wanted to keep the job? After all, if he really hated leaving his beloved farm so much, and if he missed being away from his dad so much, would he ever have taken the job to begin with? No, he took the job. And he did the job well, even though he has been pretty much criticized for having “not communicating nearly enough.” Then he walked out, about one nanosecond after Game 7 vs the Rags. I believe, from the look on his face, that he had enough of Ovechkin; and that Ovi had beyotched to Ted; and that Ted put his mealticket first and foremost.
    Had Ted not buckled to Ovi back then, maybe Dale would have stayed. Does anyone know? And if that would haven happened, maybe dale never imposes the “handedness” that the obsessive Oates imposes and maybe we never dump Forsberg for Erat because Ovi is still on LW and so on. Maybe just maybe Hunter isn’t such a bad coach but maybe just maybe the biggest problem with this organization is Ted is a meddling owner and won’t allow hockey decisions to occur if they contradict with his perceived notions on how to SELL TICKETS, his favorite pastime.

  • You seem to misunderstand the proposition. I’m not dishing anything out. I’m showing you the door.

  • irockthered

    Love to know where you get your “insider” info, being in SoCal and all…

  • Trollfeeder

    Hmm, shall i feed you?
    No, sorry.
    You are way too fat already

  • capsyoungguns

    Good grief. You are free with your negative words to describe Ovi’s supposed attitude–petulant et al. Yet we didn’t hear any criticism from Ovi directly during any of the various coach’s tenure. There are no quotes only actions. And his action was always to do what the coach told him to do. You see what you want to see. But you don’t “know.”

    As for Hunter his system was roundly mocked throughout the league. It was unsustainable. When he needed a goal he threw Ovi out who got the goal. Then he had the team retreat into the shell and of course Ovi sat on the bench. And Ovi received a lot of criticism for it.

    This team’s possession has declined since Boudreau. Hunter was better than Oates. But that’s a low bar. Oates was beyond terrible. Hunter was not the answer either.

  • capsyoungguns

    I think you are getting bogged down in semantics here. Whether you agreed with the trades or not or whether the trades were of the middling variety or not, both players were top six wingers on their respective teams at the time of their trade. Yet Oates saw fit to relegate both to the fourth line. Thus he did not make good use of key additions to the team.

  • capsyoungguns

    It’s a short list of folks I trust when they say they have insider information: Friedman, Mckenzie, thinking, thinking, thinking.

  • Lawrence

    Um, so what source are you getting your information from? Because if you are going off what you saw, than me and you are watching two completely different teams. Ovechkin watched his numbers decline, his ice time decline, everything, and how did he respond? He never once said a bad thing about Hunter or the system. Despite everything he has been taught, he blocked shots, played defensively, dumped the puck in, and where did all that get him? Hunter accomplished absolutely nothing. Unless you consider barely making the playoffs and another 2nd round defeat as an improvement to president trophies, the best offense in the league, and more second round defeats. You really think Hunter hockey is the way to win? Without ovechkin-semin on that Hunter team, we don’t even make the playoffs, you do realize that right? Ovechkin still scored 38 goals to carry that team into the playoffs. How do some people forget, at the end of that season, 80 percent of caps fans were calling for hunter’s head. Oates may have sucked, but don’t forget that Hunter had a better roster than Oates had the pleasure of having. And even that considered Hunter did only slightly better than Oates did.

    Besides just raging about how tough you are, telling me your address (which btw, that could be one of the stupidest things you could have done, do yourself a favor and delete that before you see repercussions), and how long of a fan you have suffered, tell me what Hunter did so well for this team? Because all he did was hold back the best strength this team had, offense. I am not saying you couldn’t win a championship playing Hunter’s style, hell I think you would need to be lucky as hell, but the caps had next to no chance winning like that. That caps team was not meant to spend 90 percent of the game in the defensive zone grinding in the corners and then dumping pucks in.

  • Fletcher22

    Wait, so you’re banning Tom for pointing out the fact that the media in this town has catered to Ted for far too long? Is that an incorrect statement?

    Not only did Kerstein have the stones to question Ted, but he had some information regarding GM being shown the door and that creep Vogs chirped him because he got the day wrong. As if all the reporters have the access that Vogs does.

  • That is incorrect. He was banned for repeated violations of the commenting guidelines.

  • chasles22

    ya, agreed capsyoungguns… i seem to recall ovi blocking the hell of shots against the rags under huntsy. didn’t seem petulant to me…

  • Seth

    There is no substance and nothing but speculation in all of your accusations.

  • chasles22

    …and while i am in this thread, go ahead and hand wave. just what exactly would be a “good HOCKEY trade” for ovi? maybe you missed a few seasons, or this one or listen to pierre/milbury too much but ovi slings the caps on his back and scores under duress quite a bit to carry the team. every leader is different but if we had, i dunno, gotten ryan callahan and a 1st rounder from the rangers. then we’d have your typical head down, block shots, 12 goals a year captain. neat. we already had a nice shy canadian boy, clark, as captain. didnt do shizz and when going got tough he shut his mouth. what about trading him for 2 or 3 top prospects and a 1st?? then we could make brooks the captain. so he can captain from home or the press box.

    sheesh man, don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. we’re all suffering but Ovi is the caps, at least for a few more years, and there is NO trade out there that would replace what he means to the caps on the ice, or GASP, to the fans in the seats. hockey is a business and ovi is smart money. he produces AND draws, yay. put a dad-burned coach in who makes the lines EVERYONE ELSE thinks should be together and leave them the hell alone, and watch what happens. remember when oates broke up fehr/chimera/ward and then complained that chimera looked like a lost child? what a douche thing to say/do.. dude that’s your best line and you crap on them???? well, THERE’s your problem.

    trade ovechkin indeed. good day sir. I SAY GOOD DAY.

  • Ryan Odell

    My guess is blah blah blah whocares. Move on.

  • Catherine__M

    I’d like to second the request for a source confirming Ovi being a “pain in the arse of mega-proportions” and Ted buckling to Ovi. This seems to be a major talking point among the more frustrated among us but it sounds like idle gossip at best, and pure projection rooted in personal dislike at worst. But you keep repeating to each other as if it were fact. That’s not where facts come from.
    Now, I’m not saying that you’re wrong, or I that I can prove otherwise (though it’s not possible to prove a negative), and I agree that it is certainly possible and not unheard of (stars getting big headed and demanding). But…where? The 2011 (?) story about Ovi’s decline was about his work ethic, not demanding attitude (and was dubiously sourced). The calling Boudreau names incident….I’d have to watch again but I’m pretty sure that was a moment of frustration, not said to him.

  • Catherine__M

    And broke his foot doing so, leading to him “disappearing” for the remainder of the series, if I recall correctly (now I’m confused. Maybe that las last year vs the Rags under Oates? Halp! It’s like Groundhog Day at MSG).

  • Seth

    I think most people throwing that crap out there are just Redskins fans projecting.

  • Catherine__M

    If you actually have this kind of information and access (which I personally highly doubt but let’s start on that premise), you must realize that this is not exactly common knowledge among fans (or the media…?) so critizing people (bloggers, fans, journalists) for forming opinions based on information *actually available* is less than genuine, constrctive or kind.
    Mostly, though it sounds like you’re making stuff up to prove your own point.

  • Rhino40

    Tom? Tom??? Over here….
    Three words:

  • JoeA

    Ugh. Just ugh.

    Where is there any shred of proof that Ovi went crying to Leonsis, ever?

    Leonsis has been on the record repeatedly that he lets his management make the personnel decisions. Granted, Hunter was a terrible coach for a multiple time MVP.

    Oveckin and his petulant attitude. I do not think you know what petulance means, if you think Ovechkin displays such an attitude.

    Where does this Cap Insider perception that Leonsis only cares about selling tickets come from? He is a smart businessman and he knows that selling tickets is much easier when your team is WINNING. It’s winning that breeds financial success for a team. Even if Leonsis didn’t know this before, he should know this now after the last Wizards game.

    Firing Oates is the least pandering thing that Leonsis could have done for Ovechkin. Ovi loves the guy, and credits this year’s Richard and last year’s Hart to his coach.

    Ovechkin won the HART last season.

    Ovechkin won the RICHARD this season.

    He is clearly the problem and must be traded.

    Yep. That makes sense.

  • JoeA

    Backstrom was a pretty good pick.

    Green didn’t suck too much until he got hurt.

    Picking up Federov was a good move.

    Remember that guy Knuble? He contributed to the Caps success.

    Dealing Bondra that begat Laich was a good move. It isn’t GMGM’s fault that Laich destroyed his groin.

  • JoeA

    Clearly hitting the bottle.

    Erat = Top 6 player for majority of his career.

    Penner = Top line forward.

    By those definitions alone they could be considered major acquisitions.

  • JoeA

    Is there a shred of proof to any of your ramblings today?

  • I had heard that too, but I can’t recall the source. The Cooper thing. Not the other thing.

  • AngryBear

    A lot of informed people argue that the genesis of this meltdown was the Montreal series. But can anyone tell me what exactly happened at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, beyond the team “quitting” on Boudreau? Didn’t they start that season like 10-2, including butt-whoopings of prestige teams like the Red Wings along the lines of 7-2?

  • CappyTal

    So I’m glad you gave names to your BS rumor. One of the named players happened to grow up in my neck of the woods and was happy to call BS on this himself.