While the Washington Capitals awaited tonight's game in Los Angeles and their final opportunity to win one in November, team president Peter O'Mally was at home deflecting shots at both coach Tom McVie and the Capitals' spending policies.
The erratic play of defenseman Robert Picard and demoted right wing Mark Lofthouse has spawned some criticism of McVie for not being a better teacher of young players. O'Malley declared his complete statisfaction with his coach in that area.
"Tom was asked to come here because of his success in Dayton developing young players," O'Malley said. "He has an added burden because the Capitals' young players don't have time to spend at the developmental leve. Bill Riley, Tom Rowe, Gordie Lane and Rich Green all began their pro careers under Tom McVie and all have developed very well. Tom is patient, thorough and works hard on basics.
"Tom McVie is the best coach possible for the Washington Capitals. He's better today than when he got here. We have a particular asset in Tom McVie and it would make no good sense to even consider removing one of our assets when they are in such short supply. If you have a cold epidemic, you don't fire the doctor."
Those who aren't blaming McVie for the team's troubles point to the loss of goalie Ron Low and right wing Hartland Monahan, and the failure to obtain help during the present slump, as evidence that the Capitals are too cheap to pay the price of success.
"The Capitals have not failed to acquire the services of any players who they thought would be of any help, due to lack of spending," O'Malley said. "Hockey is different from other sports in that the availability of dominant players who can turn a club around simply isn't there.
"The key to success in hockey is development. Our goal is long term, and that may be difficult for the present fan to accept. Our goal is to win the first round. The most emphasis is on the development of players under contract.
"The Capitals have a greater number of players under contract than most teams in the league. We are paying 45 players. Pittsburgh and Atlanta have only 27.
"Abe Pollin probably invested more out-of-pocket dollars than any other owner in the sport. He had the biggest franchise fee and he spared no expense in trying to improve the team. The philosophy of improvement, building on young players, requires some patience."
O'Malley got down to specifics regarding Low, Monahan and, since his name has been mentioned as a possible Capital reinforcement, recently released New York Ranger Rod Gilbert.
"I can cite the unanswered letter I sent Ronnie (Low) a week before he signed with Detroit," O'Malley said, "asking for a personal meeting with Ronnie, his agent, Max McNab and myself. The only thing we ever heard in exchange was when the agent called to say he (Low) had signed with Detroit.
"In Hartland's case, we felt there was an opportunity to garner a very valuable draft choice (No. 1 in 1979) either for young talent or to trade. Hartland's demands were not unreasonable, but we felt that with Eddy Godin, Mark Lofthouse, Doug Patcy and Tom Rowe developing for the future, and with Bobby Sirois capable of moving over, right wing was developing as a strong position on our team.
"We talked about Rod Gilbert. Our decision was unrelated to economics. If there were a player available out there who would help this club, we'd have him."