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Photos by Chris Gordon

Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee appeared at Kettler Capitals Iceplex around 12:50PM on breakdown day. That’s not a surprise. However, this year, instead of addressing the media after all of the players depart like every other year, GMGM declined comment. Hmm.

According to The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera, McPhee said to the crowd gathered around him “I’ll talk in a couple days.” He then coolly sipped on a can of Diet Coke and had a conversation with 20-year-old defenseman Connor Carrick.

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Camp McPhee: The Story of Lt. Christopher Mosko

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Lt. Mosko at war. (Photo: US Navy)

Lt. Mosko at war. (Photo: US Navy)

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.”

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Photo: Carolyn Kaster

Visual approximation

Visual approximation

On June 25 2010, the Washington Capitals selected Evgeny Kuznetsov 26th overall. They saw him as one of the top players in the draft. He had only fallen so low, the Capitals thought, because some teams were uncertain when or if he would come to North America. George McPhee thought he could bring the 18-year-old Russian over within a year. One thousand three hundred fifty-two days later, Kuznetsov signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Caps.

“We’ve been working on it for four years,” McPhee told reporters before Washington’s game against Phoenix on Saturday. “It’s kind of like seeing the Loch Ness Monster when he walked in. We’ve heard of you, but we haven’t seen you. There he was and I found it hard to believe he was standing there after all this. It’s a pretty neat feeling that this kid’s in the fold and he’s a pretty darn good player.”

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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.

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Photo: Bruce Bennett

On Sunday, Joe Micheletti of NBC Sports reported a quote from George McPhee that has been making the rounds. Except it’s not really a quote actually– just hearsay. According to Micheletti, GMGM said that the Washington Capitals would have ten more standings points if only they had better goaltending this season. McPhee declined to elaborate on that little piece of apocrypha on Monday, and the team didn’t get back to us when we asked about its veracity.

Katie Carrera of the Washington Post ran a wonderful piece about it on Monday. My favorite part was this quote by Braden Holtby:

“I think if we pay any attention to comments like that it brings the team apart.”

For perspective: That is a goalie talking about his employer, whose words might tear the team apart.

So… that’s not good.

I would like to set Braden’s mind at ease. If George McPhee actually said that (and I’m not sure he did), he’d be categorically wrong.

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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.”

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Matt Moulson Named His Child After George McPhee

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Recently traded Buffalo Sabres’ winger Matt Moulson had a child on October 11th. The baby boy is named George, which is not really an uncommon name. We didn’t think twice about it until Newsday’s Mark Herrman chimed in.

Yep, Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee is the reason (or one of the reasons) why Moulson’s second child is named George.

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During the mess that was Monday’s brawl-filled Capitals-Bruins game, one play jumped out at me.

With the Caps on the powerplay, defenseman Connor Carrick got the puck. He was the lone guy on the point — with Mikhail Grabovski at his right and Troy Brouwer to his left. Bruins veteran Daniel Paille went after Carrick, thinking he could cause the youngster, playing one of the hardest positions in hockey– powerplay quarterback, to cough up the puck or surrender the blue line.

What would you expect from a 19-year-old on this play? Keeping the puck in the zone and dumping it in would be satisfactory, but that’s not what Carrick did. Instead, he faked an easy pass to Brouwer and then backhanded the puck to Grabovski. No one on the ice except Carrick seemed to expect that play. He kept the Bruins in their own end with a simple, smart pass– showing NHL-quality poise in the process.

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Attaboy. (Photo credit: Elsa)

George McPhee doesn’t tip his hand often, but during an interview with DC101’s Elliot In the Morning last week, the man some call The Undertaker revealed his softer, less-cage-matchy side when he discussed Matt Hendricks’ new four-year, $7.4-million deal with the Nashville Predators.

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Yeah, Boston isn't in the division, but the gag is funnier this way.

With the signing of Karl Alzner, the Washington Capitals are just one Johansson-shaped puzzle piece away from finalizing its roster for 2013-14. Maybe. There’s still a lot of time to make moves between now and October, but what we see now might resemble the opening-night lineup. Most of the other teams in Division D (aka the Patrick++ Division, aka the “Jagr” Division) have already set their teams, so we’ve got an interesting– if a bit premature– idea of how those general managers have allocated their salary for next season.

In short: George McPhee has pinched his pennies on defense and opened up his wallet George Jetson-style for forwards.

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