The Caps lost again tonight, 5-1, to the Atlanta Thrashers to fall to 6-14-1 overall so they are now 3-14-1 since their 3-0 start. Many Caps fans will want Glen Hanlon fired with the hope that the team turns it around with a new coach, much like Atlanta has done this year. The Thrashers have gone 11-5 since firing Coach Bob Hartley, but let’s be honest, Atlanta has way more talent on their team than the Caps do. After Alex Ovechkin the Caps don’t have much going for them. Michal Nylander only scores over a point a game when he is playing with Jaromir Jagr. Alex Semin is the next best offensive player and he has a bad ankle so he is not in game shape yet. Chris Clark is a hard worker and a great team guy but he is a 3rd line player on many other teams. On the Caps he is playing on the 1st line and had 6:03 worth of power play time tonight. Nicklas Backstrom should be pretty good some day but right now he is being asked to do a lot as a rookie and to expect him to score lots of points does not fit his profile. In his pre-NHL career he only averaged over a point a game ONCE in a season so you can expect him to be a 2nd line player in the NHL when he eventually matures. The next best two forwards on the Caps based on power play time is Viktor Kozlov and Thomas Fleischmann. Kozlov, a former #1 draft pick by San Jose, has been a bust everywhere he has gone and is a third line player, at best. Fleischmann should be in the AHL.
Where am I going with all of this? Well you can fire Hanlon but it isn’t going to change a whole lot. Semin and Clark had CAREER years last season and the Caps didn’t even come within a sniff of the playoffs. With a new coach maybe the team gets a few more wins and plays harder but the blame for this disaster falls squarely on the heads of owner Ted Leonsis and GM George McPhee. Leonsis ordered the fire sale several years ago and McPhee essentially got nothing for the guys he traded away. When defensemen Shaone Morrison is the best you got for Steve Konowalchuk, Peter Bondra, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Gonchar, Robert Lang, Danius Zubrus, Brendan Witt, and Mike Grier that tells you how good your hockey department is at making trades and evaluating talent. Combine that fire sale debacle with several previous years of bad drafts by McPhee’s staff and you end up with the mess they are in now. The Caps do not know how to draft and develop players under McPhee’s regime. They typically rush them to the NHL too quickly along with high expectations and this philosophy has ended up in disaster (see Steve Eminger, Kris Beech, Brian Sutherby, Boyd Gordon, and Eric Fehr). One can only hope that Backstrom and defensemen Jeff Schultz don’t become the next young guys to be ruined by the Caps development (or should I say lack of development) process.
Bottom Line: It is WAY PAST TIME to dump GM George McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis needs to hire a good hockey person, get out of the limelight so the new GM can do his job, and provide him with a reasonable budget to turn things around. If this does not happen soon then don’t be surprised if Ovechkin splits town next summer when he is a restricted free agent and hockey gets even closer to dying down in DC.