Caps GM George McPhee sat down with ESPN 980’s Sports Reporters on Tuesday evening, leading to at least three exchanges that interested me.
Dale Hunter’s Future
“Has he expressed what he’s going to do one way or the other?” Andy Pollin asked McPhee of his coach.
“We haven’t talked about it at all,” the GM answered.
“But you’re under the assumption that he would want to continue coaching next year?” Pollin asked.
“Yes,” McPhee said.
“Would you want him back next year?” Steve Czaban asked.
“Yes,” McPhee answered immediately.
“I haven’t said he’s on a one-year deal,” he later said. “Other people have. Nobody’s ever known what our coach’s deals were, because I’ve always been changing them mid-stream. But I like what Dale does because he keeps people accountable. If you want to play, you better play hard, you better play honest, and if you’re out of the lineup, it’s gonna be hard to get back in.
“And I think a great example was with Jeff Schultz. Dale didn’t like the way he was playing when he got here, he sat him out for 20 games, then he put him in, and he’s playing as well as he’s ever played. I think this is the best he’s ever played.”
Alex Ovechkin’s weight
Late in the interview, McPhee said Ovechkin is close to “being a 50-goal guy again. You know what, every athlete has a stretch in their career where the year isn’t as good as the other years. You can’t have a great year every year, and not many do. He was off a little bit last year. I like the way he’s going right now.”
“His commitment to the game, you have no questions about?” Czaban asked.
“Um, well, it’s a lot better than it was,” McPhee answered. “He’s in terrific shape right now. And guys do different things in the summer. Ovi’s usually gotten by by just being a great athlete. Show up and play. And we’ve talked to him, that doesn’t happen in this league. At some point it has to kick in, you have to train, and he’s at 224 right now. And he hasn’t been at 224 in a few years.”
So McPhee was then asked about Ovechkin’s previous weight.
“I think the progression in his weights, he came in 218, 224, 232, 237, 242,” McPhee said, which doesn’t exactly reflect the team’s prior reports. “He played at 242 once, and he got suspended for hitting a few people. And he was crushing guys, and he loved crushing guys, and we said you know what, Bruce always thought he was a better player at about 227. And you can see it when he’s moving out there, he’s flying.”
The Future of the Caps
Finally, McPhee was asked if there would be big changes should the Caps miss the playoffs.
“I wouldn’t make big changes,” he answered. “You know, if we didn’t have these injuries to two really important players, then I’d say boy this team isn’t good enough. But our goal-tending going forward is gonna be good with the young guys we have, and we need these guys — the Greens, the Backstroms, the Ovechkins — these guys have to be healthy. I mean, if any team in this league loses guys like that for most of the year, you’re gonna be scratching and clawing, and that’s where we are.”