Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis apparently intends to take some time before deciding what changes — if any — he will make to a team that missed the postseason for the first time in seven years.
General Manager George McPhee, in the final year of his contract, met with Leonsis and team president Dick Patrick on Monday and will do so again within the next two weeks. Until that second conference, the team announced, McPhee won’t speak with reporters.
McPhee, whose 17 years in Washington make him the third-longest tenured GM in the NHL, said he would “talk in a couple of days.”
Coach Adam Oates said he didn’t know when or if he will meet with Leonsis and that he’s been given no indication about his future. While he conducted a few exit interviews Monday with players, Oates said he hasn’t yet met with the team as a group.
“Some of the decisions are above me that have to be told, and I haven’t been told either way,” said Oates, who has one year remaining on his contract and said he’d like to remain with the Capitals.
“I would say that me and my staff, we really enjoy coaching here, love coaching the guys. I feel that we’ve started a little process in terms of what we want from them in terms of how they’ve got to improve. We’ve got to improve,” Oates said. “Of course I want to coach the guys. But whatever happens, whatever’s best for the organization. That’s fine.”
Oates, 51, has posted a 65-48-17 record in his first two seasons as a head coach, including a 38-30-14 mark this season as the Capitals wound up three points back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Oates reiterated his mantra of continual improvement, stating that he expects the coaching staff and each player to work to get better.
Oates also said communication between McPhee and him was not an issue this season, specifically citing trade-deadline moves involving Martin Erat and Dustin Penner.
Erat “asked to be traded publicly, and that put George in a tough position. That had nothing to do with me and George. Nothing,” Oates said, adding that he believed Penner was negatively affected by being traded from the Western Conference champions to a fringe playoff team in the East. “I have no problem in my relationship with George.”
The players sought to deflect blame from the coaching staff, faulting themselves for Washington’s postseason absence.
Alex Ovechkin was particularly critical, saying the players need to accept responsibility as a group for not following through on the ice rather than singling out the system, coaching staff or individual players.
While he captured his fourth Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer with 51, Ovechkin finished with a minus-35 plus-minus rating and said missing the playoffs needs to jolt the entire team.
“It’s wake-up call for everybody. I’m [angry] because somebody says it’s bad system. I’m [angry] about it’s bad situation when we didn’t play well,” Ovechkin said. “Why was we in the playoffs last year? Because nobody point fingers on somebody. Everybody was in same position and everybody played for each other.”
Ovechkin expressed confidence in the roster that the Capitals have assembled and said he believes they can win if they’re all working together and “on the same page,” but also acknowledged that he doesn’t control what alterations will or won’t be made to the lineup or the front office.
That’s the rub for the players, goaltender Braden Holtby said. They’re aware of all the upheaval that could come this summer, and while they have no control over it, their performance made it a possibility.
“As players we have nothing to do with that, really, other than the fact that we might have had a hand in getting those rumors started or whatever because of our play. And that’s something we’re not proud of,” Holtby said. “As players we take a big responsibility in those rumors or whatnot because we want to be better for them.”
Notes: Mike Green revealed that he missed the last four games of the season with a fractured rib. . . . Marcus Johansson has a fractured left forearm. . . . Defensemen Jack Hillen and Patrick Wey both suffered concussions that caused them to miss the final nine and seven games, respectively. . . . Defenseman Julien Brouillette and center Peter LeBlanc were reassigned to AHL Hershey on Monday. Defenseman Tyson Strachan was placed on waivers and will report to the Bears if he clears at noon Tuesday.