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Capitals Weighing Options in Search For New Coach (Post, May 12, 2002)
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The Washington Capitals
With George McPhee
Washington Capitals General Manager

Tuesday, May 14, 2001; 3 p.m. EDT

Washington Capitals Coach Ron Wilson was fired on Friday, one month after majority owner Ted Leonsis said Wilson's job was secure. General Manager George McPhee stated that an analysis of the situation led him to push for the coaching change.

McPhee was online to take questions and comments about the firing of coach Wilson, the search for a replacement and the team.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Silver Spring, Md.: There is an expression "one usually doesn't change because one sees the light, but because one feels the heat." Are you feeling the heat to win now, especially given that your contract is up next year?

George McPhee: I feel the heat every year. I simply thought it was in the best interest of the team irrespective of my relationship with Ron to make the change.

Caps Fan: There's been some question as to how much fan opinion went into the Wilson decision last week. Some had a theory that there was a strong statement of support a month ago but then, after fan outcry, Wilson was released.

How much, if any, did the opinions of the fans go into the decision?

George McPhee: We made our decision based on a lot of factors and the most important in this case was that we felt the players needed a new face.

McLean, Va.: Have the board of directors influenced any of your decisions with respect to the future direction of the Caps?

George McPhee: There's a lot of communication between ownership and the manager but when it comes to pure hockey decisions ownership defers to the manager.

Alexandria, Va.: How is the team approaching this summer's free agent marketplace? Do you see opportunities to acquire additional star talent or will you be focusing on filling in the gaps among the role players?

George McPhee: We're going to explore everything.

Burke, Va.: Are you looking for a new coach that will continue with "Capitals-style" hockey? Or someone who will run a more open playing style that suits players like Jagr and Bondra?

George McPhee: We want a coach that is going to bring the best out of everyone.

Alexandria, Va.: Based on the 2002 Olympic experience, what rule changes do you think the NHL should make?

George McPhee: Hurry up faceoffs.

Dulles, Va.: Tony Kornheiser pointed out that for the biggest personnel move of his tenure, it seemed a glaring omission for Ted Leonsis to not be on the podium with you. Why was Mr. Leonsis not involved in Friday's press conference?

washingtonpost.com: The End of Old Yeller; He Had to Go (Washington Post, May 11, 2002)

George McPhee: Ted had prior obligations and I made the decision to want to tell Ron on Friday.

Alexandria, Va.: What do you see as the advantages/disadvantages of selecting a new coach with no NHL-level head coaching experience (Hanlon/Trottier) vs. a coach with a proven record at this level (Hitchcock/Nolan)?

George McPhee: This is a very good question but I don't want to tip my hand. I hope you understand.

Washington, D.C.: George,

In selecting the new coach (and player personnel generally), are you focused solely on winning, or do you also give consideration to the entertainment quality of the team? While I recognize the need to be solid defensively, I think the Caps would be more appealing if they played a more wide-open, attacking style that takes advantage of Jagr, Gonchar, Bondra and team speed. Even if it didn't produce the maximum number of wins, I'd be a happier season ticket holder.

George McPhee: It's always about winning but we would like to be entertaining as well. I think we owe it to the game and the fans to win and entertain. Hockey should not be boring.

Reston, Va.: George,

What do you consider your biggest success and biggest failure in your tenure with the Caps?

George McPhee: An interesting question but I have to be mindful of a player's reaction and sensitivity to my response. It's probably better to pass.

Rockville, Md.: 1. Mr. McPhee, yet another article has appeared -- this one in USA Today -- that accuses Jaromir Jagr of being a "coach killer." Can you please dispel, once and for all (if it is the truth) the myth that Jagr was responsible for Ron Wilson's firing?

2. Will all the goalies in the Caps' system be vying for the back-up job behind Olie Kolzig during training camp (i.e., Billington, Charpentier, Stana AND Ouellet?)

3. Will there be any special ceremony to honor Peter Bondra for his World Championship over the summer or next season?

4. Do you have any plans to "trade up" in the draft to get a higher pick? (i.e., Boumeester)

George McPhee: 1. Jagr had nothing to do with the coaching change. In fact, they worked well together. It is really unfair to the player and the coach to have that perception out there.

2. There will be lots of competition for the back-up job.

3. We're working on something for Peter.

4. We're willing to do anything at the draft.

Lexington Park MD: Mr. McPhee,

Was there any sentiment within the organization to give Wilson at least one more season to see what he could do with a healthy group of players and a more well adjusted Jagr?

George McPhee: We had comprehensive discussions about the change and in the end obviously decided for the change.

Centerville, Va.: If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the team today, what would it be?

George McPhee: Better overall speed.

Washington, D.C.: Some are saying the Mr. Leonsis left you "out to dry" by not appearing at the news conference announcing the decision. Do you feel this way, and does Mr. Leonsis support your decision?

George McPhee: I don't feel this way at all. It's not true. Ted told me he would support me 100% whatever I decided.

George McPhee: Regarding that previous question about what I would change about the team if I could snap my fingers...

I'd like a 7-foot center who can score 60 goals and fight with both hands.

Perry Hall, Md.: Mr. McPhee,

After reading Ron Wilson's comments in The Washington Post I see there is no bitterness. I know you were close and had a long relationship with him. He essentially said his time was up here and he knew it. I do have one problem and that was the post-season comments that were made by Mr. Leonsis and you. In the future it is probably better to say nothing at all. I think Ron Wilson is a class act as are you Mr. McPhee. GO CAPS!

washingtonpost.com: For Wilson, No Ill Will After Firing (Washington Post, May 14, 2002)

George McPhee: You captured this very well. Thanks.

Washington, D.C.: George,

With the Caps coming so close to making the playoffs, any regrets that you didn't trade for a defenseman sooner in the season? Are you surprised to see Carolina still in it?

George McPhee: No, I just wish Fortin and Yonkman were ready 20 games earlier. No I'm not surprised with Carolina's success. They are a well-balanced team and play with discipline.

Washington, D.C.: Do you have a Stanley Cup pick?

George McPhee: This year or next?

Winchester, Va.: Much has been mentioned about how having a new coach on board prior to the draft is not overly important, since most players in the draft are a few to several years away from NHL competition. However, what are your thoughts about having a new bench boss in place by the first date of free agency (traditionally, I believe this is July 1st) in terms of decision making to add to the team on the ice next year?

George McPhee: It's a good question and I believe we'll have a coach prior to free agency.

Herndon, Va.: How is the rehab on Halpern progressing?

George McPhee: Last week the doctor told us he was doing very well.

Washington, D.C.: Re: Stanley Cup pick -- This year and next year.

George McPhee: Not sure this year. Washington next year.

Washington, D.C.: I know you'd much rather be in Carolina's position today, but are you happy to see a Southeast division team make it to the Conference Finals? Maybe people will start taking the SE division seriously now.

George McPhee: Yes.

Silver Spring, Md.: You seem to be playing things very close to the vest -- no big surprise there -- but are there players on the team that you think will benefit from Ron's departure? (Klee leaps to mind.)

George McPhee: I would expect that all the players would be more attentive at training camp next year and as a result, I expect the team to play well.

Silver Spring, Md.: Does the organization regret trading Adam Oates?

George McPhee: All trades are difficult but we got a fair return and the team played better.

Alexandria, Va.: Have other NHL teams yet approached you with offers of NHL players or higher picks for multiple Caps picks in this year's draft? Without naming names (of course), any serious offers?

George McPhee: Not at this point.

Rockville, Md.: Have you talked to Ron lately?

George McPhee: I talked to him for an hour last night.

Arlington, Va.: Will the Caps be keeping the same assistant coaches and how much say will the new coach have in that decision?

George McPhee: The assistant coaches are still with us and decisions will be made when a new coach is in place.

Alexandria, Va.: As a season ticket-holder, I am glad to see the commitment to winning being shown by the Caps management. What type of qualities will you be looking for in a new coach, and did the players have suggestions on qualities that they would like to see in a new coach.

George McPhee: We haven't discussed the new coach with the players.

George McPhee: Thanks for the questions. We're very appreciative of your support and look forward to a big year next year.

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