capitals come up short at trade deadline

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Remember when the Washington Redskins went into last season with Rex Grossman and John Beck as the only options at quarterbacks even though everyone knew it was a terrible idea?

And remember just how badly that experiment ended – even though management was more than happy to “stake their reputation” on Grossman and Beck?

Well, that’s pretty much what happened with the Washington Capitals on trade deadline day.

Rather than attempting to strengthen a clearly flawed roster, general manager George McPhee opted to bury his head in the sand and pretend that everything is just fine.

“We would have added something to the team if we thought it would make us better, but it had to make us better,” McPhee said. “What transpired today, really there wasn’t anything there that would have been the right thing for our club. Everyone seemed to want our players but they wanted to give us futures and prospects. I wasn’t interested in doing that.”

Okay, it’s tough to really argue with that stance. Let’s hear what else GMGM had to say.

“We have some terrific young players in our lineup right now because we didn’t make mistakes the last three or four years,” McPhee said, “And we’re going to have some terrific young players going forward because we didn’t give them away today. Just not going to make that mistake. Sometimes no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Again, if you’re on the fence about renewing your Capitals season tickets after a fifth-straight year of increased ticket prices, this is exactly the type of sentiment you’re hoping to hear from management.

Anything else you’d like to add?

“The theme of this year’s deadline was everyone wanted to add and there was no one selling,” he added.

This is where McPhee and I differ.

While McPhee is content to paint everything in black and white – saying teams were either buying or selling and that his only options were bad deals or no deals – I hope that fans are able to see through the rhetoric.

For starters, GMGM had ample time to improve his club prior to the trade deadline. He chose not to.

This team’s problem didn’t just pop up in the last week or so. The Caps have been a sinking ship since November.

And yet, the biggest move McPhee has made this season was pointing out the Capitals are 8-0 when everyone is healthy, the stars are aligned properly and every fan in attendance purchases nachos and a bobblehead.

So he’s still saddled with an underperforming roster that doesn’t mesh with the current coach unless everyone gets healthy and fans take out a second mortgage.

It should go without saying that when seemingly every player on the roster is having a down season at the same exact time that’s probably a sign that all is not well in Washington.

And with Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup for the foreseeable future as he recovers from a concussion, the Caps still lack a legitimate first- or second-line center.

Let’s not forget the Capitals also struggle with secondary scoring – meaning if the big guns are having an off night, the team has trouble lighting the lamp and whoever is in net essentially has to pitch a shutout in order for Washington to bring home a victory.

Speaking of, this team is also terrible on the road and often looks sluggish and/or disinterested during the first period, which is why the Caps often find themselves trailing 2-0 at the first intermission.*

*I guess it’s fitting that the Capitals went missing on trade deadline day. After all, they’ve no-showed plenty of other key moments throughout the 2011-12 season.

Also, while it was great to see the Capitals defeat Montreal and Toronto in the final two games before the trade deadline, it’s still troubling that it took the team 19 games to win those back-to-back games.

But McPhee swears the only deals to be made were bad ones, so Caps fans should have faith that this team is still a contender just as long as Backstrom’s brain becomes unscrambled in time for a playoff run.*

*And if Backstrom isn’t able to return to action this season, that’s okay too. McPhee has a built-in excuse and everyone can just continue to believe this team was one injury away from bringing home the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. Right?

My issue with the “no deals or bad deals” mantra is that by doing nothing, McPhee has put all of his proverbial eggs in one basket with no real way of knowing if/when Backstrom is able to play again this season.

Rather than painting everything in black and white, how about we turn our attention to the gray areas. Like, addressing some of the roster issues the franchise is going to face this offseason.

On the blue line alone, the Caps are going to have to decide whether or not to re-sign restricted free agents Mike Green and John Carlson, as well as unrestricted free agent Dennis Wideman. Forward Alexander Semin and goalie Tomas Vokoun will also need new contracts.

And there’s also Mike Knuble and Roman Hamrlik, two aging veterans who are sharing a bunk bed in coach Dale Hunter’s doghouse.

Since the team must deal with the same salary cap restrictions as the rest of the NHL, not all of these players will be back next season.

Because of McPhee’s inactivity, the Capitals will now lose some of these players without getting anything in return.

So while it’s great to hear GMGM’s stance of “no deal or bad deal,” it’s just not true. In this case, making no deal translates to a bad deal for the franchise down the road.

Call me crazy, but I’ve got to believe that trading away Knuble or Wideman – even if the best return the team gets involved picks and/or prospects – is better than watching them walk away during free agency.

Is that black and white enough for you, Mr. McPhee?

Anyone who scored tickets to Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders in hopes of seeing a new-and-improved Caps team is going to be severely disappointed.

My question is this: what happens if the Capitals are down 2-0 to the Islanders after the first period?

Will Caps fans be content to voice their displeasure with a simple booing of the home team or has the situation gotten ugly enough that they’re going to storm the press box in search of GMGM?

Moving forward, will Caps fans be able to see through the rhetoric and understand McPhee has had four months to address this team’s problems or will they be content to put all their eggs in GMGM’s basket of nonsense?

Everyone knew a team banking on Grossman and Beck was doomed from the start. Hopefully those same local fans are willing and able to see the warning signs once again.


  1. Scott
    February 28, 2012 at 9:07 am

    The more times change, the more things remain the same. this is the life of a Washington area Sports Fan.

  2. luke
    February 28, 2012 at 9:56 am

    The best written dialogue is when someone is saying something that is different from what they are actually talking about. It’s the words between the words and with that in mind…

    “Everyone seemed to want our players but they wanted to give us futures and prospects. I wasn’t interested in doing that.”

    Actually means…

    “Everyone thinks we are a team that should be selling cause clearly we aren’t making the playoffs anyway, but I still have faith”

    Gotta admire people with faith. Except for the fact they are usually among the first people against the wall when the revolution starts.

  3. blanket
    February 28, 2012 at 10:20 am

    It is always disappointing when the team doesn’t do anything on deadline day, but I’m not really bummed out that they didn’t pick anyone up yesterday. This team is flawed, but I don’t see anyone they could have picked up that would have made them much more likely to make the playoffs, much less a legitimate contender.

    As far as not selling off assets: I’m fine with them not moving Knuble and Semin. Those guys are probably worth more to the team down the stretch run trying to make the playoffs than whatever return they’d get for them. I go back and forth on Wideman. Yes, they probably could have gotten a nice return for him, maybe including a first round pick. But the team would also be worse without him. And if they trade several of those guys, I think they’d be *much* less likely to make the playoffs.

    I don’t know. As a fan, it’s kind of hard to know how much the team should value a playoff appearance. I think we’ve been a bit spoiled the last few years, when the team always seemed like one of the few real Cup contenders, and always finished with a high seed. We’ve gotten into this “Stanley Cup or GTFO” mode of thinking. But in five of the six seasons since the lockout, at least one lower-seeded team has made the conference finals. Even if everyone agrees that this isn’t the Caps’ year, and maybe there are some big questions about the overall makeup of the team, I think they *have* to assume that the window is still open. This isn’t the year to go all in, but if they’ve got a shot at the playoffs, they can’t give up on it.

  4. Eric
    February 28, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I am going to comment. Just finishing breakfast. This proverbial omelet is off the chain y’all…

  5. Eric
    February 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Sorry, that took a little longer than expected. I think those proverbial eggs went bad. Do NOT go in there! Anyways…

    I must state that I am somewhat surprised of not a single move during this trade deadline. I am sure that the position that GMGM was in was more then stressful. My only problem is, I remember a night a long time ago. This night was a sad night for many of us. I put my jersey on, and headed downtown to watch my team play the Ottawa Senators. As usual, the outcome was unknown but assumed. The Caps were up to the usual antics of their Bipolar like game play. One shift after another, we went from greatness to crap. Then, the buzzer sounds and the game ends in a strange way. A tie! What? All fans leave somewhat disappointed. It was also one of the first few times I decided to join the crew at Chophouse for some post game venting, etc. Much to our surprise, we go upstairs to the second floor to see the TV behind the bar with Peter Bondra on the screen. No sound of course, we see the dialogue stream across the screen in a delayed black and white bar at the bottom of the screen. All of us notice one problem though.

    Peter Bondra, Bonzai to the true fans, the legend of the Washington Capitals, is in tears. As he sits there wiping his eyes and trying to grab hold of whatever dignity he had remaining, he puts his mouth closer to the mic and tells us how sad he is to leave the Washington Capitals. WHAT?!?!?!? That’s right, the Caps best scorer, forward, legend, fan favorite, etc, was traded to the Ottawa Senators. What did we get in return? Some measly second round draft pick and a prospect by the name of Brooks Laich.

    “This Laich guy better be worth losing Bonzai,” I thought. Who in their right mind would ditch a player like Bonzai? #12! As the years progressed, I kept track of my beloved #12 as he moved around more and more, never really getting back into his Caps groove.

    Now I sit here after this trade deadline and think, shit, all we got for dropping Peter Bondra was a measly draft pick and some fucker named Brooks Laich? What a RIP OFF!!!! Now, through minimal research I have discovered that the 2004 year proved to be a great year for drafting for the Caps.

    First pick, Ovechkin. Good deal. But, the second round is the second half of the Bondra deal, where we picked up Chris Bourque (say his last name like Swedish Chef, its more fun) and some guy I have never heard of. So, Bonzai gone, Caps fans sad, and all we get is Chris Bourque and Brooks Laich. Not like they aided in the Hershey Bears winning the Calder Cup or anything……OH WAIT. #17 (Bourque) and #26 (Laich) were there. Too bad they aren’t on the Caps. OH WAIT!!! Bourque has come back numerous times and showed that size doesnt matter (fuck you Schultz, and Laich … well I think his abilities speak for themselves. I don’t think I am wrong in saying that when Laich took an awkward tumble earlier this year, every fan stopped breathing.

    But, I digress. Here I am looking into the past, seeing that a painful (possibly unwanted) move ended up as a good thing for the Caps. Not like Nick Schultz (Min) or Johnny Oduya (Buf) were available to be moved. Crap, never mind. They got traded.

    While you sit here reading this and probably thinking, “shit, this guy is long winded,” please remember that I had that scrumptious Proverbial Omelet this morning. Said Omelet was made from GMGMs Proverbial Eggs, that I found stacked in some basket. I guess GMGM doesn’t believe in preserving, because it appears those eggs went bad.

    Perhaps not all of them, but enough of them to put me on the Proverbial toilet. And this time, no Proverbial courtesy flush for GMGM. I want him to, “smell what the rock is cookin’,” if you will. Take a big wiff GMGM, sink it in. You’re recipe is about to be flushed down the Proverbial toilet.

    Unfortunately for us fans, that Proverbial toilet is filled with our realistic season hopes, and probable end of season without playoffs.

    Can’t wait to pay for the increased ticket prices though.

  6. ExKiwi Krol
    February 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    McPhee couldn’t decide on any of the GMs holding briefcases, so he just ran off stage after yelling, “NO DEAL!”. Howie then passed out because the balloon he had on his head wouldn’t come off.

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