In his own exit interview with reporters on Monday, deposed Capitals general manager George McPhee had a lot to say. Over the next few posts, we’ll break down his closing remarks on his 17-year career in Washington into bite-sized pieces for your consumption.
Here’s Part Four of McPhee’s farewell news conference:
On what kind of style the Caps should play in the future:
Well, I think what sells tickets is entertaining hockey and we’ve always tried to play that way, play an exciting brand of hockey, because I don’t think hockey should ever be boring. Since we’ve come out of the last lockout it hasn’t been. It’s been eight years since we really changed things and hockey’s been really good since then. We had this fabulous young team that came out of nowhere and I think we can keep playing that style. What you just have to be mindful of is, you’ve got to look after your goalie and look after your own end and we didn’t do that quite good enough this year, but that’s how you win. It’s kind of neat, in going back, we rebuilt this team quickly. Eight years ago we had that first work stoppage and right before that we met with ownership. We made the playoffs [in 2003] and after the playoffs we thought, maybe we should tear this team down and get ready, because it was an older team and big contracts. Maybe we should tear it down and get ready for the new world under the new CBA [in 2005-06]. We did that and basically rebuilt the team and we were a playoff team in three years and we were an exciting team, a good team, a team that had a chance to win. If you look at some other clubs in that time, Chicago missed the playoffs nine out of 10 years, and L.A. and Pittsburgh missed the playoffs a lot of years. We did it a little quicker than everybody else and didn’t quite have the foundation I would have liked to have had, but we did a good job. Those teams were fun to watch and we spent a lot of assets to put them over the top, but that’s past. This is really a long-winded way of answering your question, but we want teams that are fun to watch and we were. You can’t teach people to score or anything else. You can teach them how to defend. Just a little more emphasis on protecting their end of the ice and it’s going to be a really good team.
On what the Capitals need moving forward:
I’m going to give you a broad-based answer. It’s really not for me to decide anymore. That’s for the next guy. They’ll take a look at it. I talked to ownership. We had a gret conversation last Thursday and told them where we were and what the team might need, but it’s not a lot. This team right now, if nothing’s done, just with the kids we have and the veterans, it’s a playoff team. If a couple things are done, it’s a Cup team. There isn’t much to fix. It’s a pretty easy fix.
On if he has regrets and if he’d do things differently given another opportunity:
Of course I have regrets and would I do things differently? If I get another opportunity I would probably manage the same way I managed here. There’s lots to reflect on and I think we did a really good job. So, no, I don’t think I’d change a lot.
On the fact that many former players have come back to work for the Capitals:
Well, it always comes down to, in any business, treating people right. I hope it wasn’t easy for ownership to make a decision on me. And I’ve had to make those decisions to make changes in the organization and those aren’t easy and I don’t think I was ever really good at it. It was hard to do. There were nights -- I remember vividly with a couple of people being at my dinner table with my family, worrying about the guy I just had to make a change with sitting at dinner with his family. Those were tough nights. So, I know what it feels like. But you have to make them. The organization comes first and the individual is a close second. But I think we did it the right way. It means a lot to me that a guy like [athletic trainer] Stan Wong, who was here 15, 16 years ago, I made a decision there. When I see the guy he gives me a big hug. There’s no hate in his heart and he’s a real quality guy. I’ve tried to treat people right and if you can’t do that you shouldn’t be in the business.”
On his working relationship with Adam Oates:
Again, I don’t want to talk about individuals because when you do that you either miss somebody that you should be praising and people get upset and I just would rather have a happy day and duck individual talk.
On if he was surprised Oates was not more successful in two seasons behind the bench:
We won a division title last year and played really well and went to a Game 7 and it didn’t work out for us. We got 90 points this year in a year where I thought we were a little thin. I’m not going to pin anything on anyone. I’m the manager and I was supposed to get it done and it didn’t happen this year.
On why Alex Ovechkin was a -35 while leading the NHL with 51 goals:
Of course I have opinions, but those issues are for the next guy.
On if it was perplexing to see those numbers:
Yeah, and maybe… Again, it shouldn’t be pinned on anyone. The guy scored 51 goals, so I’m not going to say anything negative about anyone here. No thanks.
On the tone of his conversations with Ted Leonsis and Dick Patrick:
Well, I thought they were really good. I was really grateful for the opportunity to sit down and talk things through. I thought Dick Patrick was really good and then Ted wanted to do the exit interviews [with players] this year and I thought it was a good year to do it. And so, to be able to sit down and talk for two-and-a-half hours as we did the other day, I thought was really healthy. What I didn’t want was, our last game was on Sunday and get whacked on Sunday night or Monday morning. I wanted a chance to just breathe a little and talk about it and I thought it worked really well.
On when he found out he was being relieved of his duties:
Dick called me. I was out of town. Dick called me on Saturday morning and when I saw that it was from the office at 10 o’clock on Saturday morning I said, ‘Well, this isn’t going to be good news.’ And it was Dick and he said, ‘I don’t have good news.’ And I said, ‘Dick, it’s OK, it’s OK. I don’t want you to feel bad about me. Everything’s OK.’ And he was great. He was great. And then Ted called about an hour later.
On if his April 24 meeting with Leonsis and Patrick was his only meeting with them:
No, it wasn’t. I met with Dick a little bit and that’s when he said ‘We’re going to take our time, talk to everyone.’ So the longest meeting was [April 24].
On if those closed-door, get-everything-out-in-the-open sessions can have a healthy impact on an organization:
I’m not sure whether that works for everybody. But I think doing it here, this time around, ownership got a real good sense of what was going on.