It was obvious there was going to be some change in the Washington Capitals organization after a ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference and a playoff-less spring for the first time since 2007.
On Saturday morning, the team made it official by cleaning house and firing head coach Adam Oates and announcing they would not be renewing the contract of general manager George McPhee.
“George has been a terrific, longtime executive for our franchise, and I’m grateful for his commitment to the Capitals organization for the past 17 years,” said Leonsis. “Under his leadership the Capitals won seven division titles, twice were the top team in the Eastern Conference, earned a Presidents’ Trophy and competed in the playoffs 10 times. He was a highly effective manager who is extremely well regarded within our organization and around the NHL. We have the utmost respect for him and his family and wish them nothing but the very best.
“We are also appreciative of Adam’s efforts and thank him for his devotion, work ethic and contributions to the Capitals the past two seasons. He is a smart, tactical coach who improved the performance of several of our players. He is a Hall of Fame player who we believe will be a longtime coach in the NHL. We will help him in whatever way we are able and wish him well.
This is an important time for our organization, and I feel a change is needed in order to get us back to being a top echelon team that competes for the Stanley Cup.”
In 17 years under McPhee, the team made the playoffs 10 times. But for all of the squads he built, only the one from his rookie season as a GM, 1997-98, advanced out of the second round.
McPhee gave Oates his first NHL head coaching job beginning with the lockout-shortened 2013 season. The team lost in the first round in seven games to the New York Rangers, but this season would be his undoing.
After helping Alex Ovechkin's game last season, things fell apart for Oates in 2013-14.
As the Capitals slowly faded from the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the team saw trade requests from Martin Erat, Michal Neuvirth and Dmitry Orlov. In April, Oates told the media that he thought Ovechkin quit on a play against the Dallas Stars. A week later, he doubled down and for some reason revealed that Jaroslav Halak had asked out of a start against his old team, the St. Louis Blues. It just wasn't working in Washington.
Ted Leonsis' next general manager will have a fresh voice and fresh vision. Having McPhee in the GM chair had grown stale and this past season showed just how bad change was needed.
How desperate were the Capitals for a shake up? Here's a handy chart showing the organizational decline:
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