Neither George McPhee nor Adam Oates will return to the Washington Capitals next season, owner Ted Leonsis announced Saturday two weeks after the team failed to reach the postseason for the first time in seven years.
After 17 years at the helm in Washington, McPhee, 55, was the third longest-tenured general manager in the NHL behind New Jersey’s Lou Lamoriello (27 years) and Carolina’s Jim Rutherford (20 years) but unlike those two his teams have never won a Stanley Cup.
The Capitals reached the playoffs 10 of the 16 seasons with McPhee calling the shots but advanced beyond the second round only once, in his first year as general manager. He had also hired five different first-time NHL head coaches during his tenure, including a carousel of three from November 2011-June 2012, with none able to produce a successful postseason team.
McPhee’s contract was set to expire this summer and after Washington snapped a streak of six consecutive playoff appearances this spring, the decision was made to not renew it.
Reached Saturday morning by text message, McPhee declined to comment until Monday but his son Graham, who will play for the U.S. national team development program in Ann Arbor, Mich., next year tweeted a reaction to the news.
Very proud of the 17 years my dad spent in Washington. Hard leaving the team you grew up with but excited to see where he ends up next.
— Graham McPhee (@g_mcphee21) April 26, 2014
“George has been a terrific, longtime executive for our franchise, and I’m grateful for his commitment to the Capitals organization for the past 17 years,” Leonsis said in a news release “He was a highly effective manager who is extremely well regarded within our organization and around the NHL. We have the utmost respect for him and his family and wish them nothing but the very best.”
Oates, 51, took over the team he spent parts of six seasons with as a player in June 2012 and struggled to draw consistency from the Capitals as a whole. In his two years behind the bench, Washington posted a 65-48-17 record in 130 regular season games.
The Hall of Fame center but first time head coach helped re-ignite Alex Ovechkin’s offensive game – the star forward won his third Hart Trophy in 2012-13 and his third and fourth Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy after Oates moved him from left to right wing. But while Ovechkin and others made individual strides, the group as a whole appeared to regress this season.
In 2013-14, Oates’s squad was unable to address persistent issues like the inability to win low-scoring games, prevent quick goals after scoring themselves, relinquishing two goal leads and insufficient play at even strength. They scored 135 goals but allowed 153 against five on five and had a staggering -276 shot differential.
With Oates’s departure, whoever the replacement is will mark Washington’s fourth coach in four years. The assistant coaches were informed of the move to fire Oates and not renew McPhee Saturday morning but have not received any indication about their futures with the organization.
Leonsis’s decision to part ways with both McPhee and Oates follows an organizational autopsy that commenced after the conclusion of the Capitals’ regular season on April 13.
Sources with knowledge of the process say ownership met with all facets of the organization from players and scouts to medical staff and various front office members, seeking information on every corner of the operation along with input on how both McPhee and Oates handled their respective duties. Both McPhee and Oates had lengthy, separate meetings with Leonsis on Thursday.
Now comes arguably the greatest test of Leonsis’s tenure as owner of a professional sports team as this will mark the first time he’s hired a general manager for either his NHL or NBA franchise, which he bought in 1999 and 2010 respectively.
“This is an important time for our organization,” Leonsis said in a news release, “And I feel a change is needed in order to get us back to being a top echelon team that competes for the Stanley Cup.”
Leonsis and president Dick Patrick are scheduled to meet with reporters at 4 p.m.