Following the Capitals’ first-round playoff elimination by the New York Rangers, general manager George McPhee met with reporters to share his thoughts on the 2013 season, head coach Adam Oates and what it might take for the Caps to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
In the fourth and final part of the interview, McPhee discusses moving to a new division next season, his thoughts on the Capitals’ goaltending situation and what system of play is most conducive to winning a championship.
On potential roster changes before moving into a new division with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Rangers, Islanders, New Jersey, Columbus and Carolina:
I never really put a lot of emphasis on what we have to do to match up against this team or that team. It’s always about our own team. The focus is on how good can we make our team. I remember when I first came here [in 1997] we talked about [Eric] Lindros in Philadelphia and how we’d have to get someone to match up with him because if we’d meet in the playoffs it would be an advantage for them if we didn’t have someone. Well, we never met in the playoffs for 10 years. So why bother? I just try to focus on our club and what we need to really be a complete team and a good team.
On if he believes the Capitals benefitted from playing in the Southeast Division:
You know, that argument is always cut both ways. You can look at other teams that have been through the same thing. Vancouver won a couple Presidents’ Trophies and won a division when other teams in their division weren’t making the playoffs. But when you’re not making the playoffs because Vancouver beat them five out of six, that’s a lot of points. Maybe they are making the playoffs if Vancouver isn’t there. So the argument can go both ways. We would have made the playoffs [this season] whether we won our division or not. We had enough points. People can make that argument but there are lots of ways to refute that argument.
On whether the new division for the Capitals will make it more difficult to make the playoffs:
No because it’s always difficult. It’s as difficult as it can be to make the playoffs. As I said before it’s no small feat to make the playoffs in this league anymore. It’s a real good league and the [salary] cap levels the playing field. The real difference now in making the playoffs is managing your coaching and getting the right players. You could this year, but this is the last year you can outspend teams. Some teams were at $70 to $75 million this year. We were $60 million. Going forward it’s level.
On if he sees a competition between goaltenders Braden Holtby, 23, and Michal Neuvirth, 25, next season:
I don’t view it as a competition and I don’t know that we have a hierarchy. I think both of our goaltenders are outstanding. There’s no reason they can’t be the bet goalies in the league. Both are really young goalies and they’ll only get better with experience. The guy we played against [Henrik Lundqvist] is an experienced goaltender now but our guy was just as good as he was all the way around and seven or eight years younger. I know I mentioned this before, but Michal Neuvirth is a heck of a goalie and there’s no reason he can’t be one of the best in this league. He’s as talented as anybody. And Holtby has really come a long way. He’s a really talented kid, too. So I have a lot of faith in both of them.
On whether it is a dilemma with two young goalies and one net:
No. Isn’t that what you want, honestly? You don’t want one good goalie and a pylon. You want two good goalies and we do and they’re young and there’s so much upside for these kids.
On who he’s picking to win the Stanley Cup:
I don’t know. I’m probably not going to watch much of it for a little while. Maybe I’ll read a novel or something. I don’t know. Anybody can win. As we saw last year, L.A. was an eighth seed. Any of the teams can win. It’ a really good league; really good teams.
On what playing style works best in the playoffs:
There are different ways to get there. There are different systems to play. The most important thing is the buy-in. Can the players do it? Do they understand it? Do they like it? Does it work? Some systems are designed for certain personnel. I thought we played a system this year that worked really well for our group. They all really had good years. That system can win in the playoffs and other systems can win in the playoffs. This system works well for us.