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Posted at 11:25 AM ET, 02/15/2011

One does not simply walk into the NHL playoffs

By Ryan Cooper

What can you say when half the Caps fanbase is ready throw itself off the roof after last night’s loss to Phoenix?

I can’t say I know what the solutions to the Caps problems are, but I do know what the solutions are not. To wit:

Firing the coach is not the answer. This seems to be the most popular response to the Caps poor play of late. From my angle, what’s going on doesn’t seem to be as much of a coaching problem as much as it is an execution problem. Bruce Boudreau isn’t going to go out there and score goals. He’s not going to set up Ovechkin for one-timers. All he can do is put the right players on the ice and have them in the matchups that favor them the best.

Firing the GM is not the answer. A General Manager is more than just a guy who makes trades. He sets your entire team’s philosophy and doctrine. You don’t just change up the way an entire organization is run in the middle of a season, especially an organization that has been the envy of most teams in the league for the last few years. Ask a Leafs fan how much they’d like to have our organization right now. Or an Islanders fan. Or a Blue Jackets fan.

Trading half the team is not the answer. Again, something very basic. This is not NHL 11. There are a million things to consider when making deals, and you don’t just click and send players to different teams. Also, the ability of GMs to reject other trades is toggled to “on”.

Stripping Ovechkin of the Captaincy isn’t the answer. Just stop it already.

What solutions then, do I have besides trust that the hockey people who run the organization know what they’re doing? I have to trust that they know what works best for this team, and I have to trust their skills in evaluating where it needs to go. And I still have that trust with this group, based on what they’ve accomplished with the talent they have and the amount of experience they have in the business. And that they have forgotten more than you or I or anyone who comments on Japers Rink or CI will ever know about the game.

The bottom line is that all the Caps have to do is make the playoffs. And they will make the playoffs, no question. What’s important to realize is that when they get there, anything can happen, and at that point, regular season losses in February simply won’t matter anymore. Last year, people complained because the team wasn’t “tough enough” and wasn’t defense-oriented. Now the team is giving up fewer goals and playing vastly better special teams, and everyone’s complaining about the offense and that the games are “boring.” This is what you wanted!

This is a very young hockey team, people. Let’s all take a deep breath and realize that it’s not the end of the world to go on a losing streak.

By Ryan Cooper  | February 15, 2011; 11:25 AM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Ryan Cooper  | Tags:  Capitals, Ryan Cooper  
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Acquiring a 2nd line center is the answer. MP and MJ are not ready to assume that role nor should they ever have been expected to. It was asking too much of them in what is essentially rookie years for both.

Posted by: hateisnotafamilyvalue | February 15, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Ahhhhhh..........a voice of reason. Even though, a good 2C would be a nice addition right now. Problem is, available 2Cs are few and far between at the moment.

Posted by: prestoj | February 15, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

If you do the same thing over and over, and expect different results...well then you're an idiot. And that's exactly what the Caps are doing.

So Ryan, you don't think they should make a coaching change, make a trade, fire the gm, or change think this owner and fan base are okay with just making the playoffs? Have you watched this team or been in the DC area the last 3 years? This piece reads like Caps fans should be happy about where the team is right now, and you could not be any more off base.

Posted by: nike12 | February 15, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I was with you until the 'bottom line' paragraph. The caps aren't going to be able to flip a switch, just cause they're in the playoffs, and start making their PP work, and their topline come out of their season long slump. That is IF they make the playoffs.

I still think the new defensive style isn't working for the Caps. They aren't a 'dump and chase' team. Management has tied a thoroughbred to a wagon, and it ain't working. It LOOKS like they are unmotivated and indecisive, and alot of that can be attributed to not buying into this new system, and not having the players suited for it. They were built for speed and attack offense, not for less then 2 goals a game.

Posted by: gs12 | February 15, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

3 things this team needs.

1. 2nd Line Center - no question

2. Gritty Vet or 2, set the tone on the ice. No one shold get within striking distance of Ovie and must dictate physical play. We've got a bunch of kids who need to start playing like men.

3. Veteran Goalie - Varly & Neuvy are not taking the job, everyone keeps hoping one will step up, well, put up or shut up. 3 playoff heartbreakers in a row, need a solid vet to pave the way.

Have faith people, this is a young team, they need the right vets to help mature them, Knuble can't do it alone.

Posted by: Toochilled | February 15, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I seem to recall Glen Hanlon got sacked for coaching the Caps in a manner and style similar to what Bruce Boudreau is coaching right now.

...just sayin'....

Posted by: afreeman3 | February 15, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

toochilled: Our goalies have some of the best stats in the league. Every goalie gives up dumb goals. Our goalies give up far less.

I think that it's inadvisable for BB to move to a different goalie when one has an off night. I think Varly has played very well and should have the opportunity to play for a good long stretch. But that's not the source of this team's woes.

Posted by: j762 | February 15, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Ryan. Especially the part:

"Last year, people complained because the team wasn’t “tough enough” and wasn’t defense-oriented. Now the team is giving up fewer goals and playing vastly better special teams, and everyone’s complaining about the offense and that the games are “boring.” This is what you wanted!"

--Never satisfied. People need something to complain about. Yeah, it's frustrating to watch them lose but they're not eliminated from contention. Just chill out.

I do think they need to make at least one trade for a vet. The same way the Pens got Guerin a couple years back...

Posted by: jtorre9 | February 15, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

This is idiocy. Let me count the ways (gs made a good start):
Sorry, but changing your identity so drastically that you put players in a position to fail -- because you're not using their strengths -- that IS coaching and management.
Yes, the GM is responsible for setting the tone. And the tone of this organization is LOSERS, pretty-boy finesse players who can't control the boards or corners, or muck it up in front of either net. We're supposed to be thrilled that we're not Toronto or Columbus? Yippee!!! Loser-talk.
No, you won't get much in trades now -- not if you don't give anything up. And GM is so in love with the players in his 'system' that he will never pull the trigger. We have ALL known for years this team needed to get tougher and better in our zone, and he did nothing (oh, wait, I'm overlooking that fabulous Corvo trade). NOW they try to do it with the same players -- which is madness. Ya' gotta' break some eggs....
If you trust this group -- players or management -- I want to get some of what you're smoking. What have you seen that justifies that?
No, wrong, nobody wanted this. We wanted the play to be tweaked, to let the young D-men develop (Carlson and Alzner have been among the few highlights this year), and the kid-goalies. I don't know anybody who asked for a mediocre, boring, ineffective style that yields 2 goals a game -- on a good night.
Finally, the myth is that this is a young team. They're not THAT young. Knuble and Poti are downright old, Laich and Chimera are well past 'young', and even the young in age are not young in experience. That excuse doesn't fly anymore.
Playoffs? You cannot be serious.

Posted by: wotansdad | February 15, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Acquiring a 2nd line center is the answer. MP and MJ are not ready to assume that role nor should they ever have been expected to. It was asking too much of them in what is essentially rookie years for both.
That is a daunting task, becuase there aren't really any out there to be had in a trade. The only ones that would fit our needs are on teams in playoff contention. Those teams are not going to give one up for draft picks or prospects. They are only going to give one up for an NHL proven player that they consider a net upgrade to the team right now and going into the playoffs. We would probbabbly have to give up Green or Varly and I doubt that is something GMGM would consider. There aren't any "Federovs" out there this year that are looking for one last shot at a Cup.

And changing a coach absolutely can solve a problem. The last three Cup winners all changed coaches mid-season the year they won. It was just the right kick in pants that pushed the team to excel to full potential.

Posted by: akmzrazor | February 15, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Talk is cheap.

The Flyers just went out and added Kris Versteeg via trade with the Leafs.

They didn't give up a single player off their current roster.

Makes them a stronger #1 in the East, Kris is only 24 years old and carries a reasonable cap number for this year and next year as well.

He could have helped the Caps with scoring from the secondary lines.

Looks like a good two-way player that could have fit in here well.

Has Stanley Cup experience with the Blackhawks too.

But I suppose that #1 pick next season that is in the 20's in the draft order is too important to consider a trade like tis.

Sorry, George. Go back to sleep.

Draft picks will take care of everything, someday.


Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 15, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"...The bottom line is that all the Caps have to do is make the playoffs. And they will make the playoffs, no question..."

Oh, OK, thanks. Did not know that.

Uh... one thing... could you notify the rest of the Eastern Conference. 'Cause I don't think they got that memo.

Posted by: noslok | February 15, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Its definately not the coaching. As much as we hate to watch it, it takes a GREAT coach to get guys to change their style of play so abruptly. For us to get THIS defensive style of play is a great credit to the coaching staff. I guess the coaches figured that great players would be able to continue their offensive ways, and now just coach them on defense. Didnt think they would forget how to score. Not totally GMGM's fault either. He BUILT this team for run and gun offense, that was what he built. Now we are changing the system, and we cant just bring in all new guys! We have to figure out if the run and gun players we brought in can be coached to do both. Its LITERALLY a transition YEAR, not a couple of games. So as frustrated as I am, I can be patient this year, and maybe next....

Posted by: padre123 | February 15, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The "young team" excuse doesn't fly anymore. That expired after the 2nd-round loss to the Penguins in 2009, if not after the 1st-round loss to the Flyers in 2008. The time to grow up was long ago.

Posted by: Zornado | February 15, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Got it, so basically we should do nothing. Thanks Ryan. Who are you anyway? Whoever your are, your so-called "analysis" would get you laughed out of any real hockey markets.

Posted by: brian1va1 | February 15, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

"One does not simply walk into the NHL playoffs"

Don't have to worry about the Caps doing that. If they're lucky, they'll crawl in.

I know, look what Philly did last year. Hate to disappoint you, this Caps team isn't even close to last year's Philly team.

Posted by: jwash4472 | February 15, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and Ryan.... the "young team" excuse is garbage. Did you happen to notice that the Black Hawks won the Cup last season? Well, yeah, they are every bit as young as the Caps, and actually had LESS playoff experience going into last season's tournament than the Caps did. You're a clown, dude.

Posted by: brian1va1 | February 15, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Simple enough solution for all these Caps fans ready to jump off the cliff - Let them. I would relish the opportunity to use the restrooms in between breaks and not have to wait in line. I wouldn't mind being able to jump to some lower seats because there isn't anyone there. I wouldn't mind if there were only 50 people at Verizon because if they were of like mind, they would be genuinely happy that our Caps won and would be solemn and not hateful if they lost. All these complaints could easily be resolved - stop watching. Stay home. Take up knitting. Go exercise. Just stop sounding like a 6 year old girl who didn't get the Barbie doll she wanted for Christmas. You're all soo annoying.

Oh, great article, btw. Someone with a rational mind. Rare in those there parts, huh?

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | February 15, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I don't really get the defensive style of play Washington has gone with this season. Before Bruce came on board they were playing really defensive and were brutal. They opened things up a bit and the team played drastically better. With the improvements to their defensive lineup I'm not really sure whey they didn't keep playing aggressive this season. They lost to Montreal because they didn't finish on the many scoring chances they had, while Montreal finished on the very few chances they got. Even with a defensive style they'll never give up less chances than they did in that series.

The personnel difference this year that could be hurting them is their lack of centres other than Backstrom. Well, that and the fact that it seems like no one's moving their feet most of the time (seriously Green, don't just slowly skate around on the PP until someone comes to strip the puck). Johansson looks like he'll be good in a couple of years and Perrault makes an alright 3rd liner or a good call-up, but compared with the guys they had last year they can't get anything going. Even if they weren't the most skilled players, BMo and Belanger won so many faceoffs and forced so many offensive zone draws, the team could just keep putting pressure on and wear down the opposition's defence. Now they might get the puck in, but teams just have to get a whistle and there's a good chance they'll be able to win the draw and just move the pick out. Not much sustained pressure and zone control this year. IMO a 2nd line centre who can make plays and win faceoffs is a huge hole in their lineup right now.

Posted by: Stu_c | February 15, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, if there were 50 like minded people at Verizon and lowers were open, that would mean the team sucks. So, you'd rather the team sucks so you can take a piss more easily. Makes sense. Good outlook, IMO.

Posted by: Zornado | February 15, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I was with you until you mentioned special teams playing well. Have you looked at power play stats over the last 20 games?

Posted by: mencik | February 15, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Do you think some miracle is going to occur and that this ship will be righted without changes being made? There are many things wrong with this team right now. The lack of accountability and those who tolerated it is one. GMGM has done some good things but also some mind boggling things. Player positions that they have needed for quite some time, such as second line center, are still needed. Yes, they do need to be more defensive but a really good coach would be able to institute a system that fits the players on hand and hold accountable those who are not trying or willing. This is the sixth season since the lockout and the five year plan is over. My patience is worn thin. The team has my money for this season but I am not willing to be patient and watch them throw away a season while there is still time to fix it. They have a boatload of prospects so if they lose a player or a prospect in a trade, so what. And if the necessary change is a coaching change so be it.

Posted by: NovaCath | February 15, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Basically it just seems that the Caps won't get anyone's approval until they win a Stanley Cup. The fans (and media of course) will say:

"They concede too many goals" - so the Caps tighten up with one of their best defensive seasons in recent decades and a very strong penalty kill, but now it's apparently too boring.

"They need to get rid of Fleischmann" - well now he's gone, and people still aren't satisfied about the 2C or the second line as a whole, not to mention that Flash played very well for the Avs before his season-ending injury.

So what now? "Fire Boudreau", then complain about poor coaching? "Fire GM", then complain about poor drafting? "Return to run-and-gun", then complain about conceding too many goals? "Trade for a veteran goalie", then complain when one of the youngsters needs to be traded and proves himself with a rival?

These cries from the fans and the media are so short-sighted that they should be ignored, and GM, Boudreau and the players should keep on doing what they do best - playing hockey. When we see how the season ends, then we can judge. Until then, how about giving the Caps a bit of support? No one wins a cup without fans rooting for them.

Posted by: ajcb | February 16, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

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