Win another Southeast Division title? Fine. A Presidents’ Trophy for the best regular-season record? Okay. But General Manager George McPhee didn’t go out this summer and add Tomas Vokoun, Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer in order to win another division title or try to advance another round in the playoffs.
“I think if people think we’re good enough to win the Stanley Cup, we should embrace that idea,” McPhee said a few minutes before Saturday night’s game. “That’s where you want to be, in that handful of teams that’s good enough to win the Cup.
“That doesn’t mean you don’t go through the process of trying to do things right the entire season. But you do that to get to the point where you can be at your best in the playoffs.”
That sounds simple and logical, and yet there seems to be a reluctance among some in the organization to accept the notion of embracing the pressure to win a title. Team owner Ted Leonsis recently told The Post’s Mike Wise that he thought expectations for the team were “over the top.” He went on to say he didn’t even want anyone to talk about the Stanley Cup right now.
“You can’t win the Cup October 15th,” he said. “If we focus on anything past [making the playoffs], I think you create a dangerous situation for the organization.”
Dangerous? As in, tanking in the playoffs? To say the Caps’ goal starting the regular season is to make the playoffs is a cop-out. The New York Islanders and the Florida Panthers should make the playoffs their goal. The Caps’ goal — their only goal — should be to win the playoffs. Period.
The Caps have underachieved badly in the postseason the last four seasons. In all four playoff losses, they had home ice advantage. In three of them, they lost a Game 7 at home. Last year, they were swept by Tampa Bay. That’s unacceptable.
McPhee has pieced together a remarkably talented team since Leonsis made the decision to go young and the Caps were fortunate enough to be bad enough to have the chance to draft a true superstar in Alex Ovechkin. Around him they have talent in Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Alexander Semin and a rising star in John Carlson, along with — now — a group of complementary veterans who should bring a maturity to the locker room that has been lacking in the past. And, finally, they have an experienced goalie (Vokoun) to go with a young, talented one (Michal Neuvirth).