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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

George McPhee's impression of the Winter Classic and completed '24/7' series

By Katie Carrera

Now that the Winter Classic is over and HBO's "24/7" series has aired in its entirety, Capitals General Manager George McPhee shared his perspective at KCI on Thursday on both the event and documentary-style show chronicling it.

As he has said since news broke that Washington and Pittsburgh would allow cameras to follow their daily activity, McPhee reminded the media that he has long been in favor of the show and it wasn't a difficult decision for him to allow HBO access. Though he did admit that owner Ted Leonsis and the rest of the group was worried about how McPhee would react to the show at first.

"The most important thing here was getting exposure for this game, and I think HBO loved it," McPhee said. "I think they got turned on to something really neat with these hockey players and the sport and I think a lot of people around this country and a lot of other countries, if they didn't already like hockey would certainly have a better understanding and appreciation for it."

None of the Capitals particularly enjoyed watching their eight-game losing streak replayed as a part of the "24/7" series, but McPhee said that for what he and the team was experiencing at the time it was an accurate portrayal and that the clips of him in Boston during Washington's 3-2 loss displayed his emotions at the time.

"They did a pretty good job of that. When we agreed to do this, we agreed to let them see everything and experience everything," McPhee said. "I personally was having a hell of a time during that thing [the losing streak] and they caught it pretty well. That was exactly how I was feeling. It's not an easy thing to go through, but I guess it makes for good television."

As for the Winter Classic itself, McPhee, like many of the players, noted the Washington support at Heinz Field and in the city of Pittsburgh. He discussed the game with the Capitals individually and cited John Erskine's surprise at the yelling of "Red!" and "Oh!" during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner along with rookie Marcus Johansson describing the game as a "dream".

For McPhee, the Winter Classic was a moment and atmosphere unlike anything he has experienced during the regular season.

"On a personal standpoint, it may be the most fun I've ever had as a manager and maybe the most fun I've ever had in my hockey life," McPhee said. "It was just a fabulous experience, it was sort of a 'Field of Dreams' thing: Build it and they will come. Because you show up at this massive stadium and there's 70,000 people there, 30,000 are from Washington and that was extraordinary. Even the ride home...on Sunday I drove my family back, there were Caps fans on the way back at the gas stations, at the toll booths at the restaurants. It was pretty remarkable."

By Katie Carrera  | January 6, 2011; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  George McPhee, HBO 24/7, Winter Classic  
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Next: Capitals' prospects impress at World Junior Championships

Comments

I was one of the people requesting a WP article on the World Juniors and the Caps' kids. What I would like to read about:
1. GMGM's impressions of how the 3 played;
2. The chances for each of them to play for the Bears at the end of their Junior/KHL seasons; and
3. Prospects for each of them making the big club for all or part of next year.

Posted by: zmega | January 6, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

So win us a damn Cup already..............

Posted by: poguesmahone | January 6, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

For me, the story of the Winter Classic is this:

On November 21, 2007, the Caps played the Atlanta Thrashers at the Verizon Center. The attendance was 11,669 people. (That's right, 11,669 at a home game. I was there, you could hear the players yelling at Hanlon.)

Glen Hanlon was fired the next day and Boudreau hired that day.

On January 1, 2011, the Caps played in the largest regular season game of the season. They played the game in Pittsburgh before 68,111 people. Of those people, approximately 30,000 were from Washington wearing Caps' red and screaming at the top of their lungs for the team.

On Monday, November 3 ,2009, the Redskins hosted the Steelers. The story of that game was how FedEx Field was filled with Steeler fans.

On January 1, 2011, one of the biggest stories of the Penguins' home game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh was how the stadium was filled with Cap fans.

I think the Winter Classic was the event where DC announced their love for the Caps... and the Caps players, Penguins players, and everyone watching noticed.

Posted by: Matt23185 | January 6, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Zmega... slim chances any of the prospects play for Washington full time next year. Eakin probably has the best shot. He'll be in hershey when this season ends and thats why he has a leg up on the others.

I'm praying Orlov and Kuznetsov come over and play in Hershey, but a clearer picture of that won't happen for many months. The fact that Kugryshev is playing in the NA system may make it easier for them to integrate.

Posted by: GFisher1 | January 6, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

How does "Eakin have the best shot" - the other two are waaay ahead of him at this point!

In fact, as some very astute poster wrote yesterday:

My response to an earlier thread, pushing for an immediate recall of Cody Eakin:

Eakin's not ready. In fact I am willing to bet we see two Caps prospects playing tonight who are well ahead of Eakin at this stage in their development:

Orlov, who has impressed everyone with his D, put up a ton of pts and looks to be a lock to make the all-tournament team, &
Kuznetzov, who almost single-handedly revived Russia from a lackluster death vs. Finland, put the team on his back and put them into the gold medal game.

Kuz impressed me when I saw him at Kettler this summer, and it appears playing against pros in the very good KHL has only improved his game - dude is nasty!

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 5, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, that was me - do I know my puck, or - do I know my puck?

No way Russia wins the tourney - hell, or even gets by Finland and thereby the dreaded relegation round - without Kuznetzov in the lineup. Dude's a stud!

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Question: does anybody who saw the game, seriously believe Eakin is ahead of Kuznetzov?!

And I do mean actually watched the game, not just listen to the TSN idiots [yeah Pierre, looking right at ya buddy].

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

@GFisher

I think Eakin will definitely be with Hershey next year. I think Kuznetsov has the best shot at making the Caps next year.

Part of that reasoning might be to just make sure he is in the U.S. and has full access to all of the Caps training facilities and trainig staff throughout the year as he needs to get some more muscle and I'm sure the Caps have a training regime they want him to follow.

I have no idea about Orlov, but you would think he might soon be making the jump to Hershey.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 6, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Agreed with sgm3, Kuznetsov has a good shot to make the Caps next year, but I think it'll probably be best for his development (and Johansson and MP up in DC) to play in Hershey.

Eakin is not as good as Kuznetsov BUT do keep in mind, Eakin had a hand injury for from what was reported, most of the tournament.

Loved the comment by the Canadian announcer saying Kuznetsov reminded him of Datsyuk and Orlov of Zubov but with a harder slapshot.

Posted by: FrankM73 | January 6, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Kuznetzov - and Orlov, I believe - is playing in the KHL. There is simply no comparison - zero, nada, none - between playing against grown men in probably the 2nd-best pro [as in pro-fess-ional] league in the world, and playing juniors.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Kuzzie looked VERY talented. And like a hard worker.

But, no one commented about Bgordo being out with a "foot infection."

Gordo has now had every injury and sickness known to mankind and some known only to aliens! If they remake that toy, "Operation," we played as kids, Gordo could be the model!

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 6, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Timbo - did you watch the game. If you think semin makes mistakes, you should watch more of kuznetsov. He might have the talent to get away with what he does against u20 players, but trying to split the D on 1 on 4s aint gonna cut it in the NHL. He needs to learn how to play on a smaller sheet of ice. If semin is not in washington, kuznetsov has a shot, otherwise he will be in russia next year. I think eakin will have a legitimate shot at a 3/4 line position next year. I was impressed how strong of a skater he is and how his engine is running full speed all the time. I think the jury is still out on Orlov - he was out of position a lot in the game last night. He might be in Hershey next year and get a call up or two when green goes down.

Posted by: chatton | January 6, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

@Frank

there is less than 1% chance MP is with this organization next year. And I'd put it at around 50% chance that hes not even here in 6 weeks.

But other than that Kuz I think will be in DC next year, assuming he can get out of his KHL contract that runs to 2012. just not sure if they start him off playing C or W.

Posted by: ThePat | January 6, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Look, I like Eakin - saw him at Kettler this summer, and was impressed [as I posted more than once this summer] - but he's simply not in the class of Kuznetzov. Not a knock on Eakin - if anybody, it's on the TSN idiots and the likes of Pierre Maguire who spew their nonsense.

Kuznetzov's a stud, is all I'm sayin'. Kuz is also only 18, if I'm not mistaken.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

stats for tournament:
http://stats.iihf.com/Hydra/236/IHM236000_85B_10_0.pdf

Kuznetsov, 7GP. 4G, 7A, 11Pts, 4PIM, +7
Orlov, 7GP, 1G, 8A, 9Pts, 6PIM, +10 (tied for tournament high)

-Kuznetsov was 2nd in points!
-Orlov was 9th in points, 2nd highest scoring Defenseman!

Other Caps prospects:
Cody Eakin finished the tournament with 7GP, 1G, 2A, 3Pts, 2PIM, +3
Philipp Grubauer finished with .888Save%age, 4.44GAA

Posted by: FrankM73 | January 6, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

@ThePat

I think Kuz has an out clause in his KHL contract that allows him to come to the NHL after this season.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 6, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

If he does thats good. Hopefully you are right.

Posted by: ThePat | January 6, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

@ThePat

I think Kuz has an out clause in his KHL contract that allows him to come to the NHL after this season.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 6, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

@Frank

there is less than 1% chance MP is with this organization next year. And I'd put it at around 50% chance that hes not even here in 6 weeks.
----
@ThePat

I think MP has a better chance then 1%, that's pretty grim... but what makes you think he's not gonna survive the year? or are you just hoping he's traded with another asset to bring a real 3rd line Center in?

Posted by: FrankM73 | January 6, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

@Frank -

"Loved the comment by the Canadian announcer saying Kuznetsov reminded him of Datsyuk and Orlov of Zubov but with a harder slapshot."

that was pierre mcguire. Take what he says wit a grain of salt. The guy consistently provides some of the worst analysis around and is a key component to the nbc idiot machine

Posted by: chatton | January 6, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

@chatton - yes I watched the game. Semin?! [Whom I do like, ftr, but does exasperate me, upon occasion]. Ok the guy is very talented, and speaks [I presume] good Russian. And therein the similarities end - that guy put Russia on his back against Finland, they were literally on their deathbed! He makes his linemates better - let me promise you, that is not a common thing, no matter where your from.

And certainly not playing against a team with 15 first-rounders in a high-stakes game, for your country against your #1 rival.

Look, if Pierre Maguire et al are complimentary of: not just a non-Canadian, or even an American, or even a Scandinavian, or a Finn, or Czech, or Slovak, etc. - but a Russian! - you can rest pretty easy that, said dude is one hell of a good hockey player.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

@chatton

I agree that McGuire is an idiot and provides horrible analysis most of the time.

But figuring that he is usually anti-Russian, it was nice to hear him compliment the two Caps Russian prospects. Especially considering they were the only two he complimented.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 6, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

@Frank

He will be traded at some point.

Posted by: ThePat | January 6, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

that was pierre mcguire. Take what he says wit a grain of salt. The guy consistently provides some of the worst analysis around and is a key component to the nbc idiot machine
------------

See chatton, I knew you and I could come to agreement on something! haha - that was funny dude, I tip my hat.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Timbo - I'm not arguing that kuznetsov is one heck of a talent. I think he will be a force in washington. I just don't see him being ready next year. A lot of the stuff he pulled in this tournament would not fly in the NHL. On the other hand the spin around pass he made leading to the 2nd or 3rd goal was beautiful and I think he can really create space for himself. Something the caps have been lacking with backstom kind of having an off year. I might be rushing a bit - a lot of what happens will have to do with how he develops in the next six months and how big he is come next year. I don't think there is much questioning that he is a 1st/2nd line player. I just don't see him playing on a checking line and it may be better for him to take another year to get bigger before he comes in as the 2 line center.

Posted by: chatton | January 6, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

More on Maguire - he actually pissed me off even more last night, he kept hammering Canada. Fair enough, they lost - but they lost to a great, freaking hockey team, that absolutely caught fire at the right time, and who had the guy playing the best hockey of the tournament.

Canada's team was tough, talented and played very hard, Maguire's commentary notwithstanding - they just happened to run into another tough, equally talented team, that played great hockey at the right time.

Why can't he just be classy, and acknowledge Russia - why did he have to hammer Canada's guys so bad? They're freaking 18, 19 year old kids - they will play in plenty more big hockey games.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The CBA expires in March, yet the NFL already is set for broadcasting rights with ESPN, even without an extension that could bring the cable outlet’s payments closer to $2 billion a year
------------------------------------

$2B for just 16 MNF games/year from one cable network... gee I can't wait for my cable bill to go up.

I think Versus is paying the NHL about $70M/year in the current deal due to expire at the end of this year.

I think it's safe to say they won't get $2B/year from espn.

Posted by: joek443 | January 6, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

More on the overall talent level at that tourney, it was really high - a puck and golfing buddy played jrs for Djurgarden, and he texted me that everyone was saying "back home" how excited they were about Team Sweden, they thought "it was the best they'd fielded in years."

And much as it pains me to admit, Canada beat Team USA pretty soundly, coulda been worse without Campbell back there. They deserved to be in the final, fair and square. Maguire's just an asshat, I guess. Some things never change.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

No wonder there's not more outrage on these boards, everyone's too busy watching junior international hockey. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with that, but I think it's confusing people who incorrectly associate that style of play with NHL hockey. Boys dominating boys doesn't guarantee success against MEN.

But since we are an organization that likes to make final decisions on players before they've had a chance to prove their worth, I'm sure the prospects who played well this year will have their spots and ice-time on the team guaranteed at some point next season.

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 6, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

@chatton - fair enough, he could probably stand to add a few lbs of muscle, especially upper-body [which stands to reason, most of the focus for hockey players in Sweden and I'm guessing E. Europe seems to be on the core and lower-body, esp. the glutes and quads, etc.]

But he is only 18 IIRC, I'd imagine he'll fill out naturally in a year or two anyway.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Timbo - I agree he'll fill out. I don't think its a huge deal if he doesn't make it to us for two years. Malkin spent the first two years after his draft Russia and I think their style of play is very similar. They both get that wide base and just hold opponents off them. When he's able to hold the NHL defenders off him, he'll be a star and that all depends on how fast he fills out.

On another point, vermont, I know you love a team full of tough guys so I suggest you join the Toronto bandwagon AND as a bonus you will have many other people complaining with you. -- You need skill and grit to win in this league. Kuznetsov showed he was a steal where we picked him up at 26.

Posted by: chatton | January 6, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

@vermontcaps - don't worry dude, nobody I know would advocate any of those guys taking your boy's spot, completely different roles.

Actually come to think of it though, that is a pairing [#4 - Orlov] I wouldn't mind seeing down the road. Leetchie played some of his best hockey paired with Beukeboom, and later Ulfie.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I'd add also, playing against a team stacked with 15 1st-rounders, on a huge stage, for your country and against their #1 rival on the world stage, is probably an indicator of something. And in a hostile arena, no less, when your team had been left for roadkill three games earlier.

And he's playing against pros, right now, in the 2nd-best league in the world. As an 18 yr-old.

No guarantees in life obviously, but the track record of the very top players in that tournament [and I mean top, as in, the best 1 or maybe 2] having later success at the highest level is pretty damn good.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

For me, the story of the Winter Classic is this:

On November 21, 2007, the Caps played the Atlanta Thrashers at the Verizon Center. The attendance was 11,669 people. (That's right, 11,669 at a home game. I was there, you could hear the players yelling at Hanlon.)

Glen Hanlon was fired the next day and Boudreau hired that day.
-----------

Great point Matt, I couldn't agree more! I think I listened to that game on the radio, it was pretty rough. And not long prior to that I'd run into a buddy from Buff at a Caps-Sabes game, and he - not usually the sympathetic type, mind you - just kept trying to console me.

I may not agree with BB's every move, but the VC was often a morgue prior to his arrival, Ovie's utmost efforts notwithstanding.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Matt23185 - I think the fact that 30,000 in attendance were Caps fans speaks volumes to the Pittsburgh management. They didn't try to block phone lines from DC/NOVA when the time came. They set aside blocks of tickets for Caps season ticket holders, which was not necessary. They wanted to see a big game with a large crowd.

The fact that the Steelers fans outnumber home fans at any road game is a testament to their history.

Posted by: djstough | January 6, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Did Pitt mgmt really do that, set aside blocks for Caps season tix holders? That's pretty cool if so, maybe I'll have to revisit my opinion of that team. Well, for everybody but Crosby, anyway.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

@Timbo

No Pitt mgmt didnt do that at all. The NHL promised Leonsis a winter classic last season when they replaced us with the Flyers. Then they came to Leonsis and said we want to put you in but have you play in Pitt this year and you'll get yours in another 2 years. Leonsis said thats fine if you give our team a certain allottment of the tickets. So it had nothing to do with Pitt, it was Leonsis negotiating with the NHL offices.

Posted by: ThePat | January 6, 2011 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Timbo - I was under the impression that the league controlled the ticket sales and divided the % sold between the Pens, then the Caps, and the remaining to the rest of the league. I think it was supposed to be something like 50/30/20. My opinion of Pitt management stays the same...

Posted by: gonchpup | January 6, 2011 9:22 PM | Report abuse

@gonchup - haha, yeah ThePat corrected my misunderstanding.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 6, 2011 9:39 PM | Report abuse

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