Top 10 Reasons McPhee Should Be Fired
10. Trading Richard Zednik, Jan Bulis and a 1st round pick to Montreal for Trevor Linden, Dainius Zubrus and a 2nd round pick in March 2001. A long forgotten trade, but perhaps one of the worst. On paper, not bad. In the locker room, a disaster. Zednik was extremely popular, and his high energy on the ice was infectious. The Caps had lost only 2 of their previous 19 games (15-2-2) before the trade. The game before the trade was a stunning 4-goal, 3rd period comeback against Ottawa to win 6-5. The Caps were flying, and McPhee even stated that he was not going to be active at the trade deadline.
The result. The Caps lost their next 5 games (and 8 out of 10) and were bounced by Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs. The Caps, including playoffs, were 6-11-2 after the trade.
9. Treating Eric Bolanger like dirt. McPhee has a reputation as not a nice person, and his dealings with Eric Bolanger exemplify that fact. The best part of an ill-conceived stockpiling of players in March 2010 (see #6 in this list), Bolanger was in contract negotiations with the Capitals and was told that he would be resigned. That was logical as the Caps were short on experienced centers. McPhee committed to Bolanger to the extent that Bolanger MOVED HIS FAMILY TO DC. His children started school in DC. McPhee backed out at the last minute, and Bolanger was picked up by Phoenix on September 14, 2010.
Having a reputation as a bad guy is no way to entice free agents to sign with the Caps for anything but top dollar. Free agents should have been dying to help us win a Cup from 2010-2012. Boston, Pittsburgh and Chicago have players taking less money to win a Cup. Yet no player, particularly a rugged defenseman, stepped up to play for the Capitals. Nobody wants to play for McPhee.
8. The Game Day experience at Verizon Center has deteriorated. This poor experience is much more than the outrageous concession prices. It does have something to do with scoring 2 goals per game instead of 4 (Only 1 Free Wings at Glory Days since New Year’s Day). Mostly, however, the deteriorating atmosphere has to do with the "entertainment". Music blares at you at every stoppage and all through intermission, and is so loud one can’t even speak to one’s neighbor. When they "Unleash the Fury", the announcer yells so loudly for the fans to cheer that everyone stops cheering because they can’t be heard over the public address announcer’s shrieks. Even spontaneous fan cheers are now orchestrated, with the camera focusing on Goat before his "Let’s Go Caps" cheer.
Put a good product on the ice and fans will get loud. Play entertaining, fast-paced hockey and the fans will get loud. Verizon Center rocked in 2010. Let’s not try to reach those same decibel levels through the loudspeakers.
7. Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. Sometimes you have to judge a trade on the results, and this one is a clear clunker. Erat scored 2 goals for the Caps in 2013-14. One was for Winnipeg, and the other was an empty net. On paper, he may have looked like the answer to the Caps problems at wing, but he clearly was not. And while some may blame Adam Oates for not playing Erat on the top 2 lines, how can a GM trade a top prospect for a player that the coach doesn’t like?
Trading a 19 year-old, most valuable player in the Junior World Championships prospect is rarely a good idea, and getting almost nothing in return is a disaster.
6. Overloading the roster at the trade deadline in March 2010. The Caps were playing great hockey, had the President’s Trophy locked up by Christmas, and were averaging almost 4 goals per game. Everybody knew their roles and responsibilities. Instantly, that changed. Regulars were benched to give the new players some ice-time, and the clubhouse become more competitive than collaborative. The team went 6-6 over its next 12 games (worst 12-game stretch of the season) before Boudreau finally picked a roster and stuck with it for the last 6 games of the year. While Halak was the reason the Capitals lost the playoff series to Montreal, the sputtering in March and the changed locker room atmosphere after the trade did not help.
5, Not getting Johnny Oduya to play for the Capitals. The Capitals drafted Johnny Oduya in 2001. McPhee tried for 5 years to get him to sign with the Caps. In 2006, he finally traded the rights to Oduya to the New Jersey Devils, whereupon he signed immediately. How could McPhee have botched those negotiations that badly? I’m sure at least one sticking point was McPhee’s desire to have everyone play at Hershey before joining the Caps. But the Capitals were terrible from 2004 through 2007, so taking up a roster spot would not have cost the team a playoff berth. In fact, New Jersey made the 2nd round of the playoffs in 2006 with Oduya playing in 76 games.
The inability to sign Oduya, now a winner of a Stanley Cup in Chicago, is just another example of a player/agent not wanting to deal with McPhee. Having such an adversarial relationship between players and management is not healthy for any organization. Having one so toxic that players leave rather than sign/resign makes it impossible to sustain a winning tradition.
4, Firing Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau was a coach that took over a defensive-oriented team and developed it into an offensive juggernaut. When the roster changed with the addition of Scott Hannan and other slower players, he instituted a defensive scheme that allowed the Capitals to allow the 4th fewest goals per game in the 2010-2011 season. The next year, he was asked to reign in Alex Ovechkin. And he was doing so when he got fired. What more did McPhee want?
The Capitals actually had a winning record when Boudreau was fired (12-9-1). He was the best thing going, and while his relationship with OV was not going smoothly, siding with the player over the coach is a terrible precedent to set. Boudreau knows hockey, and has proven that again in Anaheim. Zero chance the Caps miss the playoffs this year with Boudreau at the helm.
(As an aside, not having the cameras at Verizon Center focus on Boudreau during Anaheim’s visit to DC this year so the fans could give him a standing ovation was criminal. If McPhee had anything to do with that decision, he should be fired instantly for that alone.)
3. Not resigning Jeff Halpern in 2006. Halpern is a Washington native, and was living his dream of playing for the Capitals, the team for which he grew up rooting. He was a dream for Caps fans as well. A hard-working 2-way center, he was made captain. He, Ulf Dahlen, and Steve Konowalchuk made up one of the best checking lines in the league. Not only did they shut down the opponent’s top line, they averaged two goals every 3 games.
I do not know whether Halpern expected to be compensated for taking a low salary for the first four years of his career or whether the Capitals wanted Halpern to take a lower salary because they gave him a chance to play in the NHL after Princeton. Regardless, McPhee had to close that deal, and the $2 million per year for 4 years that Dallas negotiated seems like a small price for a stand-up, hometown, solid 3rd-line center. As referenced repeatedly in these Top 10, McPhee’s reputation as a jerk is well earned.
2. Trading Thomas Fleischmann for Scott Hannan. That trade sparked an 8-game losing streak from which the Capitals have yet to recover. The Caps were a fast, puck-moving team. Insert Scott Hannan, a slow, stay-at-home defenseman. All of a sudden, huge gaps started to appear in the Caps defense as the defensemen were too far apart to play as a pair. Teams quickly took advantage, sparking an 8-game losing streak. Craig Laughlin, who is paid by the Caps, even let it slip on the air how poorly Hannan fit with the Capitals. Boudreau had to reconfigure the team to a defensive system just to stem the tide, and the Capitals have never been the same.
The Capitals were 18-6-2 before the trade, winning 69% of their games, and on their way to another President’s Trophy. After the trade, the Capitals were 30-17-9, winning 53% of their games. And that doesn’t even count Hannan’s disastrous line change in overtime of Game 1 against Tampa Bay that resulted in the winning goal on a 2-on-1 break. The trade that changed the Caps back to an average hockey team.
And the #1 reason McPhee should be fired . .
1. Signing John Erskine to a 2-year extension in 2013 for $2 million/year through 2014-15. Really??!