Monday, February 8, 2010

An Open Letter to George McPhee

photo by Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive 

Dear George,

First off, I'd like to thank you and Owner Ted Leonsis for everything you've done for this team over the past couple years.  You've taken risks with the team and they've paid off (see: Ovechkin, Alex and Boudreau, Bruce).  With the trade deadline less than a month away, I'd like to give you some advice for this important date:

Do absolutely nothing.

Yes, I said do nothing.  I can honestly say right now that this is a Stanley Cup team.  We of course have the stars, our "Young Guns," but the trades from last year's offseason and this year's mid-season have created the depth the team has been lacking in previous seasons.  

We now have Mike Knuble, "the garbage man," whose work in front of the net is undeniably valuable.  His GWG against Pittsburgh just added to his impressive stats - he has 16 points in the last 14 games.  He's also become a leader on the ice, perhaps filling a little bit of the hole that Sergei Federov left when he departed for the KHL last year.  The respect that his teammates have for him is evident; he didn't get the "A" on his sweater for nothing.

Brendan Morrison was also a great pick-up.  Another veteran, and a former member of the famed "West Coast Express" line, he's become a solid assist man for the Caps, racking up 21 assists so far this season.  While he's been having a bit of a goal slump lately, he's remained decent on faceoffs, winning just over 50% of all his draws.  He has also shown us some gorgeous moves that have rivaled Alexander Semin.

A more recent acquisition was Jason Chimera from the Columbus Blue Jackets.  It's no secret that I was never a fan of Jurcina, but I'll try to keep that bias out of this post in this case.  I'll admit I didn't know much about Chimera before he arrived in Washington.  In his first couple games, I couldn't really formulate an opinion.  But I've come up with an opinion now: He is the fastest player I have ever seen.  When there's a race to the puck, Chimera is the guy you want on the ice.  Not only that, but he also has become a bit of an enforcer, but unlike Brashear, he's an enforcer that can also produce.  He has 10 points in his first 20 games as a Capital.  He's already gotten a Gordie Howe hat trick for his play on January 13 in an eventual shootout win against the Panthers, just two weeks after joining the team.

Jose Theodore has been having his best season yet as a Capital, and looks to be the Vezina- and Hart-winning goalie he once was.  It's been wonderful seeing him finally have confidence in his ability and make those saves that someone 10 years younger than him probably couldn't make.  We also have that depth in the crease now; even with Semyon Varlamov injured, Michal Neuvirth has been providing solid goaltending in his recent starts, and continues to improve.  Neuvirth will definitely become a valuable NHL goaltender once we start needing him full-time.

I also have to address Jeff Schultz.  To be honest, I've never been a fan of his.  I thought he often was lazy and loose with the puck.  But this season, he has proved me wrong.  He has matured to an extent I didn't think possible.  He's been a shot-blocking machine lately, and his impressive +/- rating can't be denied.  Hey, I can admit when I'm wrong.

With this roster, the Capitals have their best chance yet to become Stanley Cup Champions.  We finally have that depth we've been seeking for so many years.  It's becoming more and more evident when you look at our unprecedented 14-win streak.  Let's stick with what we got, George.  Let's just let these guys win.



Shaun Heiser said...

I agree with you, add to the list that beauty of a first pass Schultzie made to head man Ovi on that breakaway yesterday. Tom Poti has stepped it up when needed to, and Jose has been absolutely awesome this year. I really do think he should keep the starting job even after Varly comes back. If GMGM can get an experienced D-man on the cheap, I'd be okay with it, but I don't see any need to part with any of the guys on the current roster, or any of our guys down in Hershey. As it is now, I think we're built to win MORE than just one Cup with this team.

vulcansmuse said...

I'll stand beside you on the Schultzy comments. I was never a fan either, until I've noticed his play as of late, so I'll join you in your admission.

Theo does looks stellar. He should stay at #1. To play devil's advocate... Who's to say that Gabby won't keep Neuvy up this year? Yes, Varly is great, and I love him, but Neuvy has been incredibly solid and has received significant playing time. Varly has been injured twice, which is regrettable, for sure. It will be interesting to see what happens. It is a good goaltender problem to have. :)

Shaun also has a good point. If we have to give up a pick for a D-man to join in, it will increase our chances. We have a ton of depth in Hershey and Carolina... just as long as we're not giving up anyone like John Carlson. ;)

Great post!!

Tobias said...

Hi Erika,
nice blog and good post. But there is one point I would like to disagree: Theodore. He is not a goalie for a SC run. As an Avalanche fan with huge interest in the Capitals I was somewhat concerned when the Caps signed him after Colorado's management had enough of his streakiness. Right now the team in front of him makes him appear so much better than he actually is. It's not too hard looking good when the team in front of you is playing out of their minds. Having watched quite a few Caps games this season and having watched him in Colorado a full 3 seasons I have to say, he is the same as ever: flashing ingenuity in times, but most of the time too small, overskating the angles, too fast on his knees.
So I really hope Varlamov is back in goal before the real fun starts because he is a much better goalie than Theo. Other than that I love watching this team and you're right, any change, apart from Theo, will actually weaken them.
Keep up the good work!