Friday, March 02, 2007

Not A Good Sign

When a guy like George McPhee feels the need to release an open letter to the fans explaining what he's doing, it cannot be considered a good sign.

First of all, could somebody please show me just what in that letter is different or new compared to what has been circulating in the media? I can't find much of anything other that what should be bleedingly obvious to people.

Of course, this doesn't mean that what George McPhee is doing right now is patently wrong. He has to explain himself because of places like Darwin's Waiting Room and certain sectors of the ticket holders are still yelling and screaming about the trade of St. Dainius Zubrus. Even over on the Super-Secret Season Ticket Holders board (where I have finally been able to infiltrate), there is wailing and gnashing of teeth and threats to cancel season tickets over the trade of St. Dainius.

Where this becomes a problem though is that if the fans turn enough on McPhee and do take my advice, then Ted Leonsis and Dick Patrick will have no choice but to fire McPhee no matter how all these draft picks and prospects turn out. Personally, I think that would be a shame because McPhee has finally been given a direction follow for more than two seasons.

When McPhee was first hired, Dishonest Abe still owned the team and making the playoffs was the primary goal. After two seasons, Dishonest Abe sold the team to Ted. Ted (like all new owners) wanted to win the Cup as soon as possible. However, despite two division titles Ted was faced with a quick first round playoff exits in his first two years of ownership. Ted made it clear that the team was going to look to rebuild an aging roster through the draft while trying to keep the team competitive and in the playoffs.

Then Jaromir Jagr became available and the Caps didn't have to give up an NHL player. The Caps shifted from trying to rebuild on the fly through smart drafting and went into buy it all mode. They bought Robert Lang and added other veteran players and little youth made its way into Washington. The first year was a complete bust. The second year yielded another first round playoff exit and when year three became hopeless, the firesale was on.

It was not because of just how badly the Jagr years failed but the way that the Jagr years came to an end as well that has created a lot of the ill-will and dissatisfaction towards the management of the team. It was in the aftermath of the Jagr failute that it was decided that a true rebuilding would be undertaken, warts and all.

Folks, we are now in year 2 of that rebuild. Sorry, this isn't year 3 because the lockout and/or the 2003-2004 season doesn't count. Try and wish as much as we like but a guy like A.O. won't carve much time off a rebuild. Guys like Brian Sutherby and Matt "Princess" Pettinger are finally getting the icetime at the NHL level that they couldn't get before because they were buried in the system. How many of our other draft picks flamed out because they couldn't get a chance to move up because of the way the team was heading before the firesale?

The serial McPhee bashers point out that while he was the GM when the team went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, he did it largely with David "Bud" Poile's players. There is a large amount of truth in that statement. However should McPhee be fired at the end of this season or next, his successor is likely going to be the one to reap the fruits of the labor that McPhee has put in. Personally, I believe that we owe it to McPhee to give him a chance to guide this team in one stated direction for more than just two years. It is the only decent thing to do.

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