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McPhee disagrees with Ovechkin suspension

The aftermath. (By Gerry Broome - AP)

When Bruce Boudreau was asked this week about Alex Ovechkin's two-game suspension for that knee-to-knee hit on Tim Gleason, he sort of punted. Apparently the whole "reckless" thing had already given Boudreau enough headlines for the week.

"He made a play that I thought, you could compare it to an awful lot of plays in the NHL so far this year," Boudreau said. "As [General Manager George McPhee] told me, 'It was a good hockey play that went wrong.' That's, to me, where it should have stayed. But I'm not the boss."

The man who represented the Caps' point of view to the league office went further. McPhee was on DC101's Elliot in the Morning on Thursday, and while he was polite and respectful to the league's decision-makers, he left no doubt where he stands on the issue.

"In my mind the player was trying to make a hit and it went wrong," McPhee said. "And that's ok. When you're trying to hurt someone, if you're trying to do something where a player is vulnerable or he doesn't see you coming--you hit him from behind, you hit him from the blindside--I want those hits punished. But in this instance, it was an open-ice check, and it was a good attempt at a hit that went wrong, and sometimes they're gonna go wrong.

"You have a player in Ovechkin who is one of the league leaders in hits, and they're not all gonna go right. But if it's an attempt at a legal hit and it goes wrong, it doesn't mean it's suspend-able. And in my mind, when there's no intent to injure, and there is no injury, you can't suspend the guy. And the league's concern is that Ovi's really been physical lately and he's going to hurt someone. I said, 'Well, if he hurts someone, suspend him.' But you can't suspend someone for something that might happen."

(It occurs to me: are all local GM-types this persuasive, and reasonable, and articulate in their radio appearances? Not for me to judge. Ah, hell, I'll judge: no, they're not.)

McPhee was then asked about his relationship with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, and he said nothing but good things.

"I have a lot of respect for him," McPhee said. "We have great discussions. I really like the way that he handles these things. The process is very comprehensive. And we had a lot of discussion about this. And he called me when he reached his decision, and we talked about it for a long time. He got off the phone, he went back and consulted his staff again and then came back and talked to me again. That's a very difficult job, he's not wrong very often, and we have a difference of opinion on this one, but down the road we might look back and this and say he was absolutely right.

"Right now I don't completely agree with him but I'm not sitting where he is. He's sort of trying to look at the welfare of all the players in the league, and I understand his concerns, but in this case, I though that the referee made the right call on the ice. It was a five-minute major, we had to kill off a five-minute penalty, and we lost the best player in the game for the rest of the game. We only had him for three minutes of ice time, and I thought that was enough, that it should have been left there. And to tack on two more games I thought was excessive."

Which, finally, leads to the larger question: Should Ovechkin change the way he plays. Many have argued yes in recent days: for his long-term welfare, for his team's well-being, to protect Ted Leonsis's investment, and to win games, Ovechkin should dial things back. McPhee here echoed what Boudreau said on Wednesday: "I don't want him to change the way he plays at all."

"Time will tell on all of this obviously, but we searched the world over for talented players who play with passion, play with intensity," McPhee said. "And we've got one here. He is the most unique, and he is, in our minds, the best player in this league right now, maybe one of the best ever, for what he can do on the ice in terms of goal scoring and physical play. And then you add the great character, the respect that he has for everyone in the organization. We've got one of the best. And if you get one of those players that play with that kind of intensity, and then try to start pulling back on that, it's a difficult thing to do.

"And we've always felt that he'll learn how to do all of this just with his experience in the league. And what we've always said is, go out and play the game--to all of our players--go out and play the game, play the game hard. If a hit's there, take it, but don't go out of your way to try to throw hits, because one of two things happens: it takes you out of position, or you might wind up taking a penalty. And so if the hit's there, take it, if not, play the game, play the puck. You want puck possession....

"I'm glad he's not pulling back. He'll learn to pick his spots a little bit, but I'm glad in a lot of ways that he's defiant in saying this is the way I play, and who is anybody to tell me that I shouldn't be playing this way? So I'm glad he's defiant and wants to keep playing the way he's going to play. And he doesn't want to hurt anybody, but every once in a while, with all the hits that he delivers, you know, some will go off-track."

Earlier in the segment, McPhee also addressed the earlier Ovechkin hit on Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, which had also earned him a game misconduct. This seems to be a considerably more absurd situation, with McPhee asking the league to rescind the penalty, and the league explaining that Ovechkin got the five-minute major because Kaleta was cut, regardless of what did the cutting.

"We believe it was the player's own shield that cut him, and it was, and the league's position was well that's a moot point, he was hurt," McPhee explained. "And I said, well that doesn't make sense. If it was a legal check, who cares if he's hurt or not? If it's legal, then that's gonna happen from time to time. It's a physical sport. If it's a clean check, if he gets hurt, we're a contact game and players assume the risk that that might happen from time to time. So I did disagree that he should be kicked out because he was cut, because the player's own shield cut his face from Ovi's shoulder. It wasn't Ovi's arm, it wasn't an elbow, it was a shoulder check....The problem was it's a 237-pound guy hitting a 195-pound guy. And that's basically what happened."

(And no, you couldn't pay me enough to transcribe McPhee's thoughts on Michael Nylander's future. Put it this way: He said words that won't impact your life in any way.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 3, 2009; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Thank you for this post. GMGM was coming on Elliot too late for me to listen, so I appreciate your reporting what he had to say. He makes many valid points.

I'll be wearing my #8 jersey tonight to represent.

I don't understand, however, your decision not to include whatever GMGM had to say about Nylander. The team so rarely comments on this situation and it would be nice to know.

Posted by: CapsChick | December 3, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I just meant because it's so overdone. But fine, you asked for it.

GMGM: "We're still working on some things over in Europe, and we've been close in the last week or so. Some things get in the way, but we're just trying to work that out, and hopefully it can be worked out soon."

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | December 3, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

GMGM is a thoughtful professional and he raises an important point. There is a world of difference between Ovechkin trying to legally knock a guy off the puck - and the check going awry - and the play 2 weeks ago at MSG when Sean Avery intentionally punched Varlamov in the head. Ovechkin got a 2 gm suspension and the league did nothing about Avery (a fellow with frequent flier miles in Colin Campbell's office).

If the league seriously wants to get the nonsense out of the game, it should target the cheap shots taken by a guy like Avery (or, for that matter, Ward's butt-end to Ovechkin's gut the other night). Those acts aren't even close to being "hockey moves." And discouraging that kind of nonsense - whether it's the refs on ice or the league office afterward - would have a profound impact on the game.

Posted by: Hattrick56 | December 3, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Great post, but...

Please do reconsider about the Nylander remarks. Some of us are *very* curious about the situation...

Posted by: sldyer1 | December 3, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Post pays you to report the news. So why stop at the Nylander situation. There are many fans who are interested in hearing what GMGM has to say about it.

In fact, there are 4,000,000 reasons why this should be reported.

Posted by: puckman | December 3, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

GMGM is awesome. Clear, intelligent, respectful, AND he has OV's back. We're lucky to have him.

Posted by: Chad8 | December 3, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I thoroughly enjoyed this read Dan, thanks. This just in, nothing to report with Nylander.... I guess that should be posted every day to appease the masses? Otherwise, our reporters aren't doing their jobs right?

Posted by: Chad8 | December 3, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

hey puckman, why don't you read the whole page before you go and criticize Steinberg. He gives McPhee's thoughts on Nylander in the comments section.

Posted by: JMSinCHeights | December 3, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

God, the GMGM love is nauseating.

The guy has won 1 playoff series in 10 seasons. Of course he has OV's back, without Ovechkin--McPhail has no job. Period.

He only looks good in comparison because we have the Vinny/Danny Circus and the train-wreck that is the Nationals.

Posted by: CapsandRavens | December 3, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Chad, that is correct - at least not to an elite level. The Nyls situation is a big issue for the team, particularly as it gets near playoff time, when extra cap room will likely be needed to make a deal to try to push the team over the top. It is clear that GMGM doesn't want to talk about the matter. But, Chad, good reporters don't simply ask GMGM and "check the box" when he says there is no news and accept that their job is done. Good reporters work to establish numerous sources and they are creative in finding information. They will often p**s off people in their effort to get the story. But they don't make popularity their primary goal.

Posted by: zmega | December 3, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Jeez, Dan, you went from "you can't pay me enough" to "since you asked" fairly quickly. I hope the Post doesn't pay you in requests.

But, with no other sports rag in town, I guess they could start...

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 3, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

He only throws shoes in the opposing team's locker room.


"(It occurs to me: are all local GM-types this persuasive, and reasonable, and articulate in their radio appearances? Not for me to judge. Ah, hell, I'll judge: no, they're not.)"

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 3, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Anyone hear GMGM on Mike Wise? He told a story about OV getting a skate to the groin in 2007. 40 stitches groin - knee. They expected him to be out at least a week. Ov said he was good to go the next night in Ottawa. He scored 4 goals.

Posted by: ovisgod | December 3, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

actually capsandravens, GMGM was GM when they went to the cup finals, but clearly that was poile's team.

go back and look at the trades he's made from the time they decided to blow it up until now. tell me how bad he is after that. you can start w/ lang for flash and green, witt for varly, etc. he's not perfect, but i'd say the team looks pretty good right now. much more ozzie newsome than vinny the tool.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 3, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The GMGM couldn't have said it better.

Posted by: capsfan01 | December 3, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Do I have to explain to everyone that the penalty for the hit on Kaleta was a good call? Ovechkin left his feet to hit Kaleta from behind, a classic example of boarding. It was plain as day. It's immaterial how he was cut, the fact remains that he wouldn't have been injured if Ovechkin had stayed on his feet. But heaven forbid the refs call anything on the Caps' god, #8. I guess he can do whatever he want because he's a STAR!

Posted by: puckina1979 | December 3, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

puckina, wow we are blessed by your presence. but go look at the video again ovie never left his feet to deliver that hit. it was also on the shoulder. perhaps boarding was warranted, but mcphee's point is the guy was cut by his own visor. why should ovie be subject to a 5 min major and gamer cause the guys is wearing a visor that cut his nose.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 3, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

lol....puckina. Guessing you work for the post since you're obviously just trying to incite more comments. But I do love how the Ovi-hateres love to grasp on Cindy's "He jumps" comments. Sure Cindy. At least he doesn't "jump" unsuspecting guys off of face offs or nut punch them from behind while they're already engaged with another fighter. Hit from behind? Last time I checked shoulder to shoulder is text book. Kaleta aw him coming and tried to get out of the way and Ovi still got him shoulder to shoulder. Not Ovi's fault the Kaleta isn't as big or strong and was cut by his own visor....which was smushed to his face with a shoulder. I wonder how many people actually watch the hits objectively. I was at the Kaleta game and the ref didn't see the hit. He saw Kaleta go flying and called the penalty based on that. Then when there was blood Ovi got booted. Horrendous call and Ovechkin deserved an apology from the league on that one. Kudos to GMGM and Ted for having their player's back.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | December 3, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

the best part of reading this post was knowing what GMGM said without actually having to hear elliot in the morning. good work cheeseboy!

Posted by: goskins1982 | December 3, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I remember when Ovy got a skate to the groin. It was the skate of Kris Letang against Pittsburgh, and the Caps complained because the Penguins wouldn't give the Capitals' training staff full access to their medical facilities at the arena to treat it so that Ovechkin couldn't get back out of the ice.

Posted by: FlyersSuck | December 3, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Пойдем шапки! Лорд Стэнли ждет Вас!

Posted by: hessone | December 3, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Great reporting and a GREAT G.M. I only wish The Deadskins had someone like him.

Thank God nobody in the Caps organization wants Ovi to change his style of play---I thought I was going to have to turn in my season ticket.

Posted by: duckyjimpond | December 4, 2009 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Back in the 90's Mcphee punch another GM in the face after a scrimmage because the rules of the scrimmage were not followed by the other team . The league smack him for a 2week vacation. Anyone else remember this ?


Posted by: terryreece | December 4, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

No one will ever convince me that the NHL doesn't favor North American players over European players, including Russians. This bias against Ovi is just part of it.

Posted by: poguesmahone | December 4, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

By the way, when is Cindy Crosby going to get suspended for punching that guy from behind in the family jewels? Still waiting.

Posted by: poguesmahone | December 4, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Maybe Dan can close each DC Sports Bog a-la Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon? "And apologies to Michael Nylander, we've run out of time to complete/discuss his trade."

Posted by: Kdarienzo | December 4, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

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