Monday morning, George McPhee said goodbye to an organization he’s known for 17 years.
He was charming, not bitter, during his 34-minute press conference at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Canned on Saturday, McPhee deflected blame toward himself, refusing to discuss individual performances.
“Should I start by saying fire away or is that the wrong terminology?” McPhee joked as he walked up to the podium. “I felt it was coming, but in this job, you’re 24 hours away from being fired almost any time.”
Adam Oates is a smart man. After going undrafted out of college, he turned into a Hall of Fame player. It wasn’t his skill that made him an NHL success, but his elite ability to notice things other people didn’t. Oates had a coaching mind in a player’s body.
“If Adam notices something in a game, he adjusts right away,” Ron Wilson, then the Caps coach, told SI in 2001. “Even if it’s only how somebody is holding his stick. He takes the information, processes it, and puts it to use. The thing about Adam is that he assimilates a lot of stuff at once. Most guys might see one or two things, and the rest is a blur.”
However, years later, when Oates became head coach of the Capitals, that obsession with improving individual players would undermine the team as a whole.
This post isn’t about hockey. Instead of writing depressing things about the Caps, I’m gonna post some pictures of pretty flowers. K?
With the Caps out of the playoffs, it’s time to find some new springtime passions. If you’re not watching hockey, going outside is always a good bet. Sunday, I decided to brave the tourists and take a look at the this year’s cherry blossoms. If you go 7 in the morning you can actually avoid most of the dreaded People From Other States.
After walking around the tidal basin for four hours, I came to a shocking conclusion: DC’s not so bad. Here are my photos.
NHL plus-minus spokesman and hair model Alex Ovechkin speaks for the final time this year. (Photos by Chris Gordon)
Monday was an odd day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. We entered the day expecting to Adam Oates and George McPhee shed some light of their respective fates — or at least try to defend their time here.
Instead, we got an awkward stand-off with reporters. Within minutes of a spokesman announcing that McPhee would not be meeting the media, the general manager walked out to an area clearly visible to reporters. He chose to hold court with Connor Carrick in front of the entire Capitals press corps before reiterating that he would not speak today.
McPhee’s job — if he doesn’t leave of his own volition — is now in the hands Caps owner Ted Leonsis, who has never fired a general manager.
There were, however, other things that happened at Kettler on Monday: Jay Beagle got asked what he thought of Jay Beagle centering Alex Ovechkin, Dustin Penner ignored reporters to play with his phone, and Brooks Laich said that he really, really, really believes he’s healthy again.
Below, take a look at some of my photos from the day.
Lt. Mosko and his wife Amanda in Hawaii in 2010. (Photo via NY Times)
On April 26, 2012, Lt. Christopher E. Mosko, a Naval explosive ordnance disposal technician, was killed along with two fellow servicemen when they hit a roadside bomb heading into a village. He was 28-years-old.
Lt. Mosko was stationed at a remote 30-man outpost in Zabul province called Camp McPhee. He had been in the military since 2007, joining after getting a degree in finance and engineering at Drexel. He left behind a wife, Amanda. The couple married in 2009 after meeting in R.O.T.C. They both ended up in the Navy. After his death, Lt. Mosko was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Two years later, Americans have left Camp McPhee. Our involvement in Afghanistan is coming to a close, and Afghans are in the process of electing a new president. While there will likely be an American presence in the country after this year to train Afghan forces, the majority of the troops have already come home. Twelve years after special operations troops chased Osama Bin Laden through the mountains of Tora Bora, the war is winding down with uncertainty and 2,316 American fatalities, including Lt. Mosko.
A few days ago, on a sunny Friday afternoon, I met one of Lt. Mosko’s friends. They grew up together, attending the same high school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Years later, coincidentally, they found themselves in the same dusty collection of buildings in Central Asia.
“It’s kinda like the Wild West where we were,” the friend said. “It was just on an island out there. Us versus them.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov takes off his pads after Sunday’s game. (Photos by Chris Gordon)
By tomorrow morning, big changes may have already struck the Washington Capitals. After the Caps’ final game, a 1-0 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the players were somber, but not angry. They’ve been dealing with postmortem questions since Thursday. Four days later, those questions haven’t got any easier to answer, even if the team’s flaws are clear.
I brought my camera into the locker room as the players took off their skates for the final time this year and faced probing reporters Sunday evening. They’ll have to face the latter again tomorrow morning.
Jay Beagle may not own a smartphone, but he’s a nice dude. After Sunday’s 1-0 shootout loss to Tampa, the Caps held the ritual Jerseys Off Our Backs ceremony. When a man was presented with Beagle’s game-worn sweater, team photographers were swarming all around. However, the guy had more important business: Taking a selfie with Jay Beagle.
Later in the ceremony, someone else got the same idea. After pulling number 92, a gentleman tried to take a selfie with Evgeny Kuznetsov. His arm, however, was too short. Not to fear. Kuznetsov, an active user of social media, took control, asking for the phone and taking the series of photos himself. It wasn’t Kuznetsov’s first time doing that either.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years, most Caps players were resigned when they spoke to the media after the game. However, the team’s annual Jerseys Off Our Backs ceremony added a little levity to an otherwise despondent day.
In particular, one member of the Capitals staff was skating around the ice wearing Google Glass, presumably filming the proceedings on them. Karl Alzner, though, wanted a try. As other players were giving away their sweaty garb, Karl tried on the gizmo wiz-bang for himself.
We’ll add the video to this post when it’s published, but for now take a look at some of my photos.
With 42 seconds left in the Capitals’ 4-0 win over Chicago, Jay Beagle skated to the bench looking for a change. He had been on the ice for three shifts in the last four minutes. His teammates, however, were adamant that he stay on the ice. But finally, after Beagle crawled over the bench wall, Eric Fehr stepped on for the final shift.
“I felt bad for him because I knew how tired he was,” Fehr told me. “I could see it in his eyes. He doesn’t get that look very often. He was begging to come off. I took a second and evaluated it and figured I better go.”
Said Beagle of his reaction: “I said “’I’m not! I’m not staying on. I can’t even move my legs anymore!”
Tuesday’s Caps game was ugly. The days that followed didn’t get much better. Adam Oates kinda sorta maybe called out Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday for being Alex Ovechkin. The national hockey media devoured it like it was some delicious Chipotle guac. Ovi wasn’t made available to reporters on Thursday to respond.
With six games left, everyone started to realize it would take divine intervention for the Capitals to make the playoffs. If they did make it, they didn’t deserve to be there — and the Capitals knew that.
The scoring got started tonight with an even-strength Alex Ovechkin tally, the first since we still cared about the Winter Olympics. Playing on a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovi took a feed from Grabo in the near circle before flipping the puck past Cory Schneider.
During a second period in which the Devs dominated play, New Jersey tied the game up. Twelve minutes into the frame, Tuomo Ruutu tipped home a shot from D-man Eric Gelinas to make it one-one.
The Caps headed into the third with a man-advantage, needing their power play to once again save them from disaster. It didn’t happen.
Ryan Carter scored a late goal for New Jersey. Devils beat Caps 2-1.