Big changes are coming to the Washington Capitals.
For the first time in Ted Leonsis' tenure as a professional sports owner, he is making a change at general manager. After 17 years as the Caps GM, George McPhee will not have his contract renewed.
"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. "Under his leadership the Capitals won seven division titles, twice were the top team in the Eastern Conference, earned a Presidents' Trophy and competed in the playoffs 10 times. 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."
Whenever a new GM is named, he will be just the third GM in the last 32 years for the Capitals as McPhee followed a long run by David Poile in DC.
Head coach Adam Oates is also out, but his run was nowhere near as long as McPhee's. Oates is done after only two seasons, fired after the Capitals missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
"We are also appreciative of Adam's efforts and thank him for his devotion, work ethic and contributions to the Capitals the past two seasons," Leonsis said. "He is a smart, tactical coach who improved the performance of several of our players. He is a Hall of Fame player who we believe will be a longtime coach in the NHL. We will help him in whatever way we are able and wish him well."
With Oates gone it tells a different story for the Capitals at coaching stability. The next coach will be the fourth coach in four years for the Caps following Bruce Boudreau, Dale Hunter and Oates.
Oates certainly had a rocky season as the Caps careened toward a playoff-less ending. He almost seemed to be running a "how not to" seminar on dealing with players by telling the media Alex Ovechkin had quit on a play and saying Jaroslav Halak didn't want to play vs. his old teammates in St. Louis.
Still, players mostly seemed to like Oates, particularly Ovechkin. Oates moved Ovi to the right wing last season, a move that helped reinvigorate his game and he won the Hart Trophy once again. Oates also had the Capitals playing exceptionally well on special teams, especially the power play. But when playing 5 on 5 they struggled big time and holding leads was a particular issue.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ted Leonsis, Dick Patrick, George McPhee, our coaching staff, the players and everyone involved with the Washington Capitals organization," Oates said in a statement. "It was a tremendous honor to coach the Capitals these past two seasons. It is a great franchise with a wonderful fan base that will always be close to my heart. I'm grateful for the opportunity they provided me and wish them nothing but the best in the future."
Now the question is how much is going to change in Washington. This is a nucleus that has been together for years now with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Brooks Laich the big mainstays. There is an obvious need on defense behind John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Green, something that you figure must be a priority for a new GM. How big they want to go on the rest of the roster, though, is the big question.