General Manager George McPhee met with reporters for roughly 20 minutes Friday morning to answer questions about the state of the league-worst, 2-8-1 Capitals. Given the length of his comments, this is only a portion of what McPhee discussed, but there will be plenty more on the way in tomorrow’s paper and online.
Asked to assess the team at this stage, McPhee issued his support for the coaching staff and the style of play the Capitals are trying to implement, making it clear that he isn’t about to hit a panic button. He believes a main problem for the team is the number of penalties it continues to take. He also singled out goaltenders, stating that both Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth can perform better than they have through the first 11 games.
“I think the only – the two areas we must get better is keeping pucks out of our net and it starts by not taking penalties and protecting the goalies more. And they’ve got to be better,” McPhee said. “We think we’ve done a real good job of developing them. They’ve had their time in Hershey. There is upside there with these goaltenders. But they can both play better and they know it. And it’s time for them to play.”
McPhee said the penalties weren’t symptomatic of the system, but that “it’s undisciplined, lack of focus, selfish in some ways” and it’s putting too much stress on the goaltenders and the entire team in general. Frequent penalties are certainly one of the problems; Washington leads the league in power-play goals allowed (15) and has been whistled for the seventh-most minors (55) in the NHL.
Despite the Capitals’ record, last-place standing and general unhappiness with how the season has started, McPhee said he does not intend to make any rash changes when it comes to the lineup.
“Had some real good discussions with ownership over the last couple of days. They’re obviously not very happy. But they’ve been supportive. At times like this ownership can pile on and make things worse. Or ownership can say ‘How can we help and what we can do to make it better?’ And it’s been the latter,” McPhee said. “It’s been ‘How can we help, what can we do to make it better?’ And I provided some options and they provided some real fair direction, which was great. So that being said, if there’s something I can do to help the club out I will. But I’m not gonna do anything stupid.”
During an appearance on WMAL Friday morning, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said “we’re not satisfied with anyone’s performance” in regard to the 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh Thursday. Later Friday, Leonsis blogged about the loss. “Obviously, our goaltending is struggling, as is our offense,” Leonsis wrote. “It appeared that when we were down by two goals, we couldn’t muster up enough confidence and pressure to mount a comeback.”
When asked how he balances his own opinion of the team’s performance with outside pressure for the team to improve, McPhee said that he and the rest of the Capitals’ front office brass are in sync.
“Well, the opinions that matter are the coaching staff and our pro scouts and ownership. We’re all on the same page,” McPhee said. “We’re disappointed with the way things have started. It’s not over. Nothing that a couple of wins won’t really help. But we’re gonna make good decisions. We’re not gonna do anything short term. We’re not gonna blow anything up. We like the people here. Just got to be smart about how we do it.”