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The Type Of Style We Can Expect With The Hiring Of McPhee

You already know the man, but now let’s dig into Las Vegas’s new GM George McPhee’s preferred pace of the game. Skilled and fast.

During his 17 years as Washington Capitals GM, McPhee’s teams out skated their opponents to success, especially when reaching the finals in 1998. The Capitals won the Southeast Conference seven times, and made the playoffs an impressive ten times during McPhee’s tenure.

McPhee designed one of the most exciting teams in league history in 2009-10. The Capitals scored a whopping 313 goals, and finished the season as the Presidents’ Trophy winner with 121 points. McPhee’s desire to out-skate the opposition had a major impact in Washington. Skilled players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Adam Oates, and Peter Bondra all flourished under McPhee’s direction. Each considered a speedy, offensively skilled player that attacked the net. Designed to score goals, McPhee stressed the importance of fore-checking, and neutral zone play. Creating odd-man rushes, and more offensive chances. Just listen to what he said today.

I like where the NHL right now and the way the game is being played. We’ll play a brand of hockey that people like. I’ve never enjoyed that sit-back style of hockey. I don’t like it. We’ll be a team that’s attacking all the time, pressuring pucks all over the ice. I love the way Pittsburgh played this year, and they won the Stanley Cup. -George McPhee

The Capitals were competitive for most of McPhee’s 17 years as general manager. He’s widely respected in the league, and is heralded for his success drafting players. McPhee hired six coaches, mostly offensively minded, with the exception of Dale Hunter. Hunter implemented a defensive brand of hockey, that lead the playoffs in blocked shots. Hunter was brought in after Bruce Boudreau was fired in 2011. It was with Boudreau that McPhee and his system had the most success. The Capitals won 201 games, and lost only 88 with Boudreau as coach. We can expect McPhee to bring in a Boudreau type coach. A young, offensive coach that will work well under McPhee. The Capitals job was Boudreau’s first in the NHL, getting his big break after managing several successful Junior, ECHL, and AHL teams.

What you have to understand about free agents is that it’s important to add them from time to time to fill the right holes and to make your team better. But it’s all about the Entry Draft. Perception doesn’t last in terms of free agents and making a big splash in the summer. Reality lasts. To build a winner most of it’s trough the Entry Draft. -McPhee

Now the Las Vegas GM will have to build a scouting team. We discussed last week that scouts don’t have a lot of time off. Scouting is a year round job, with some brief off time in the summer. Right now is the window to speak with potential scouting candidates. McPhee will need his team of scouts, to analyze all levels of hockey over the next year. I’m sure Las Vegas pro scouts will have a seat in every NHL city this season.

They have one season to scout the league, and prepare for the expansion draft. If McPhee’s plan is to play skilled and fast than his scouts must represent his desired style. We saw Pittsburgh win the Cup this year built of speed and talent. Mike Sullivan’s revamp created the opportunity for Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, and Geno Malkin to flourish, but it was GM Jim Rutherford that designed the Cup winning team.  Will McPhee try and bring the style of the ’09 high-flying Capitals to Las Vegas? It would be extremely exciting.

On the good teams, the elite players are their own draft picks.  I’ve been successful finding those players whether it’s at been at the top of the draft or the bottom of the first round or the fourth round we found good players and we are going to continue to do that. -McPhee

I trust him, cause the track record speaks for itself, but let’s be frank, Alex Ovechkin’s don’t grow on trees.

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2 Comments

  1. Kevin Frith

    Hi Mr. Pothier. Let me start by saying that I am excited that Las Vegas has a team and I hope it does well. I am an avid Washington Capitals fan. I have followed that team for most of the 36 years that I have been on this earth. I am not writing this to be negative but more to enlighten the Las Vegas fan base on just what they are getting in their new General Manager George McPhee.

    First, I don’t want to sound mean, but I have to correct you on a couple of things in this post. The Capitals were not a high flying team until Bruce Boudreau came aboard as coach in November of 2007. Up until then they were a team with either no identity or one that was a sit back trap team. When they went to the Cup finals in 1998, it was a David Poile constructed team. McPhee was in his first year as GM, and yes he did add some pieces in Bellows and Tikannen, but it was mostly the culmination of David Poile’s work up until he was fired in 1997. The Caps made the playoffs in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 during McPhee’s tenure. Nine out of Seventeen years in the playoffs. The 2008 – 2012 playoff years were attributed greatly to the fact that the Caps played in a relatively mediocre Southeast Division and had the fortune of drafting Alex Ovechkin in 2004 and Nicklas Backstrom in 2006.

    The most frustrating thing about being a fan of the Capitals while McPhee was the GM, was the fact that he always seemed one or two players short that could have pushed them over the top. From 1998 through 2003 the Caps could play defense and had solid goaltending in Olie Kolzig but couldn’t score enough. Then after the rebuild, the Caps could score with the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Green, but could not keep the puck out of their net. McPhee always tried to fix these problems in house. He would never go make that big trade or free agent signing that was needed. Especially when they were lighting up opponents in 2009-2011. Those were our best teams but they desperately needed defensive help. McPhee always stuck to his guns and felt the guys he drafted would do the job when in reality only one or two of our regular defenseman would stick on any other team in the league. The Caps never made it out of the second round of the playoffs and the same thing would repeat itself year after year. What is more frustrating is that he had the full backing of ownership to spend to the cap ceiling. The last most frustrating thing was that he never hired a coach with NHL experience after Ron Wilson. It is still debatable who actually hired Wilson- McPhee or ownership. The players would lose interest in the less experienced coach and that coach would run out of answers and subsequently get fired. Then that process would repeat itself. When he finally did pull of a splashy deadline day deal it turned out to be one of the worst trades in the history of the game. Filip Forsberg to Nashville for Martin Erat and Michael Latta in 2013. Forsberg is an awesome player and thriving for the Predators. Erat had 27 total points with the Caps and was asking for a trade by the fall of 2013 and was gone at the deadline in 2014. Latta was a good 4th line player but is no longer with the organization.

    Yes, McPhee has a great draft philosophy. He just lacks in making that crucial move to put a team over the top. I hope he has learned from his past mistakes and doesn’t frustrate you Las Vegas fans like he did us Caps fans for so many years. Just don’t be surprised when your team is winning division titles and having good seasons but won’t be able to get over the hump in the postseason. I know it will be a honeymoon period for a while and making the playoffs will be enough. However, there will come a day when that will wear off and you will start seeking what the rest of us hockey fans are always seeking and that is the holy grail of hockey – the Stanley Cup.

  2. Katie

    Why can’t I see the comments?

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