Washington Capitals GM George McPhee has spoken. As he should, given the horrific 2-8-1 start. McPhee seem to cast most of the blame on two facets of the Caps' play, goaltending and penalties. We agree and disagree.
Caps' goaltending has been nothing short of dismal. Both Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby have let plenty of soft goals in and both appear to have shaken confidence right now. When you combine for a save percentage of .875 and a combined GAA of 3.73, you have a recipe for disaster. Some goals you can blame on defense, many you can blame on putting goalies in short man advantages most of the time. However, both Holtby and Neuvirth have been less than impressive and neither come to close to resembling the promise of play they provided the last two years. Not even close.
The Caps have all been guilty of careless and sloppy play. As a team, they are 12th in penalty minutes with 150 and 4th to last in the penalty kill percentage with 70.6%. The penalty killing has been awful.
From those stand points, we agree with McPhee. However, how about casting blame on the money guys, you know, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Through 11 games, Ovi has just 3 goals. Backstrom has just 1 goal. It is kind of hard to find success when Line 1 production is weak.
How about the regression of two of their young defeseman, Karl Alzner and John Carlson. Alzner has not registered a single point and is a -4. Carlson, who many thought would have a breakout year this year, has just 1 goal and 3 points overall, while recording a -3. This was suppose to be your shutdown defensive duo.
Speaking of regression, how about former first round pick Marcus Johansson? Johansson was a healthy scratch in 2 games this season. A healthy scratch! In the 9 games he has played, he has just 1 goal and ZERO assists. To top it off, he is a -7. That is pretty dismal.
What about the comments coming from the locker room? Troy Brouwer has been forthright and has said the Capitals are not mentally prepared to play. How can that be? This seems like a roster flaw to me rather than any coaching flaw. These guys are adults. They guys are pros. These guys are paid millions.
Getting mentally prepared to play is part of the job. If you are not mentally in check to play, then why are you playing the sport at all? Captain Ovechkin indicated there was absolutely no emotion in the Caps play. Again, not a coaching flaw, but a roster flaw. Remember the days when the Caps would ring up goals and they were all giddy and excited. Those days are a distant memory. This team is not having fun with one another. This team is not emotionally invested. This team is uninspiring.
How can GM George McPhee or Caps owner Ted Leonsis expect us fans to stay emotionally and financially invested when the roster has apparently checked out? Matter of fact, when the Pens scored their third goal last night, walking over to grab the remote and hit power off, never felt better.
McPhee also indicated that he will not blow this roster up. Well, the only reason why he is saying that is because he can't. Contracts are too big to deal those that need dealt to get substantial returns. Fact is, if emotions and mental preparation are a problem, then it is not just goal tending and penalties that are killing this team. It is roster construction. That falls on GM George McPhee. He is the one that crafted this emotionaless and ill prepared roster.
However, as we have seen with GM Ernie Grunfield with the Washington Wizards, expect Ted Leonsis to hold accountability where it truly belongs.