George McPhee has had a tough year. Two months ago, his Washington Capitals were just about dead last in the league and looking hopeless. Fast-forward to April 23rd: The Capitals are going to the playoffs. The Capitals have won their division. The Capitals’ captain is the league’s best scorer.
There comes a time in a teenager’s life where the dream of becoming a star athlete dims and must be replaced. At the age of sixteen, that’s what happened to Toronto native Peter Wilson.
“I really fell in love with writing when I was in grade 11,” Wilson, who played hockey competitively as a kid, explained. “I had a really great literature teacher who took me under her wing and showed me some really cool books. I found writing to be really fun and therapeutic.”
In college, Wilson continued to explore literature and challenge himself, just like he did on the ice with hockey. When his passion shifted away from the ice, Wilson dropped gloves with a new opponent: the competitive field of writing.
The Washington Capitals think they have a shot at the Stanley Cup. This season began with a pitiful start under new head coach Adam Oates, but the team is better now. They’re used to his system, they’re healthier, and they’re picking up pieces to help them in the short-term.
“We weren’t going to be sellers,” said George McPhee yesterday. “You never know once you get in. Let’s see what happens.”
“We have a good thing going here,” said Mike Ribeiro. “We know how good we can be.”
“I have complete confidence in the guys in this room,” said Troy Brouwer. “We have the ability in here to make a splash in the playoffs.”
“I want to play for the Stanley Cup,” said Martin Erat. “Washington is one of the places where you have a chance.”
On Thursday, the Caps moved into playoff spot for the first time this season.
Many people, including us, think that is a bad idea. Erat, while a top-six forward, is aging and well compensated. The Caps are now on the hook for his $4.5 million yearly salary for the next two seasons, with a salary cap that is going down by six million next year. He’s scored just four goals this year.
Washington, it seems, wants to win now. If they don’t — and remember it’s a toss-up and whether they’ll even make the playoffs — this trade will have been a bad idea. George McPhee, therefore, has some explaining to do. He did that Wednesday evening.
“I wasn’t going to sell,” McPhee told Monumental Network. “I wasn’t going to attempt to sell anything. We would add if we could and I think we added a real good piece.”
Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee spoke twice today– first to Mike Vogel and later to the general press corps. He covered pretty much everything in those chats: injuries, the trade deadline, incoming prospects (including his desire for Forsberg to come over). While he was non-committal about his plans for the deadline (“There may be a lot happening. There may be nothing happening. I don’t know.”), McPhee did chalk up his team’s difficulties this season to injuries. Just like he did last year.
Washington Capitals General Manager George McPheespoke with Mike Vogel on Thursday to discuss a variety of issues. He covered his plans for the upcoming trade deadline (more on that later) and his vision for the club in the future. That vision certainly includes first-round pick Filip Forsberg, atalented winger who was recently named the HockeyAllsvenskan’s best under-20 player and was a World Junior Championships All-Star. McPhee announced today that he’d like Filip Forsberg to join the Hershey Bears when his season concludes on April 5th.
Mike Ribeiro is a hot topic surrounding the Washington Capitals lately — not just because he’s been the team’s best player. Instead, Ribs is looking for a five-year deal in a market where free-agent forwards get big money, even with the salary cap decreasing by $6 million next year (from $70.2 million to $64.4 million).
Ribeiro is 33-years-old and is on the last year of a five-year, $25 million dollar deal. His next contract will certainly be the last big one of his career, and he wants his family to have a good, stable home. We shouldn’t expect his production (11 goals, 35 points in 33 games this season) to stay this way as his enters the latter part of career. On the other hand, however, the Caps haven’t a quality second-line center in years.
Within the next few games, the Caps may figure out if they want to– or even are able to– re-sign Ribeiro for a price that’s reasonable. Ribeiro told me he would have discussions with the team about a new contract before the trade deadline on April 3. Presumably, if his demands are too high for Washington, they may trade him.
“If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen,” Ribeiro said of a possible extension in Washington. “We’ll talk, obviously, before trade deadline and see where they’re at, where I’m at. We’ll go from there.”
Here we stand. The Washington Capitals have 29 points in the standings, good for 10th place in the East. They are three points out of 8th place, although the teams tied at 32 have played one less game. Winnipeg still leads the Southeast Division, although they’ve played two more games than Carolina, who are just two points behind.
The Caps have 17 games left this season — just 5 games until the April 3rd trade deadline. Before then, they’ve got to figure out if they are a playoff team or not. The stakes are high.
The Washington Capitals have the third worst record in the National Hockey League. They’re lacking in top-six talent and defensive depth. It struck me, then, that their last two transactions have not gone towards solving their problems, but rather have compounded them — at least in my mind.
In the past week the Caps claimed Aaron Volpatti (who had 28 penalty minutes in 16 games with the Vancouver Canucks) off waivers and signed Hershey Bears D-man Steve Oleksy (with 151 PIMs to his name in 55 games) to a three year contract. I’m not suggesting the Caps should try to fix all their woes with a call-up or waiver pick up — they can’t. I would, however, prefer if they didn’t exacerbate the team’s issues. The Caps don’t have a problem with toughness, they have a problem with talent.