Browsing all articles tagged with Olaf Kolzig
Sep
1

George McPhee Owns the NHL: Washington Capitals 2011 Offseason

George McPhee has sent a message to the NHL and to Caps fans – the time to win is now.

It’s been an exciting offseason for the Capitals. After another playoff disappointment, a lot of fans were looking for the team to make major changes. Most were hoping the changes would start with head coach Bruce Boudreau. I was not of those fans. I’m glad to see coach Boudreau get another year. But I also know this is his last shot to take this team deep into the playoffs.

General Manager George McPhee went out this offseason and used free agency to help get Boudreau and the Caps get over the hump. McPhee’s nickname is the Undertaker but after this offseason should it be changed it to Yoda? The guy pulled off the biggest Jedi mind trick in history.

It was pretty obvious that goalie Semyon Varlamov was not going to be re-signing with the Capitals. His agent was making it clear that Varly would rather play in the KHL then backup Michael Neuvirth. So McPhee got on the phone and somehow convinced the Colorado Avalanche to give the Capitals a first and second round draft pick in 2012. If the Avalanche fail to make the playoffs that first pick has potential to be a lottery pick. The Caps received these picks for an unproven goalie that hasn’t played a full season in his short, injury-riddled career. As details of the trade made their way around the hockey community, Twitter exploded with comments on how McPhee had hoodwinked the Avalanche into a terrible trade.

The beauty about the Varlamov trade is that it took away the market for Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun to the Capitals had been rumored for nearly two years and when he finally became a free agent, the Capitals were there to sign him. Trading Varly to the Avalanche eliminated all other teams in need of a goaltender. The Capitals were then able to sign Vokoun to a meager one year deal worth only 1.5 millions dollars. Vokoun is an obvious and instant upgrade at goalie and gives the Capitals one of a top five NHL goaltenders.

The additions of defenseman Roman Hamrlik and right winger Troy Brouwer bring Stanley Cup experience to the team. But the Capitals didn’t need to completely overhaul their line-up. They’re still the winningest team in the regular season over the last 3 years. They resigned center Brooks Laich to a six year deal. The offensive core of winger Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom, and Laich will be around for a while. Consistency is key if you want to be a cup contender for years to come. The team also signed former captain center Jeff Halpern to a one year deal. Long time Caps fans loved that signing but nearly as much as the team bringing back former goalie Olaf Kolzig as an associate goalie coach.

This offseason the Caps kept their core roster intact while adding Stanley Cup experienced players and upgrading the goalie position. George McPhee improved what was already one of the best teams in the NHL. Will it translate into a Stanley Cup Championship? I hope so.

May
7

R.I.P. Washington Capitals 2010-2011

Another year, another playoff disappointment for the Washington Capitals. But should we really be surprised? The Caps weren’t the favorite to make it out of the Eastern Conference going into the playoffs, despite finishing first overall in the Eastern Conference. It wasn’t until after game one against the New York Rangers that people started to call the Capitals the best team in the East. But after a quick series win in round one fans wanted more. Just when it seemed like this team had turned the corner, they fell flat.

The biggest question now that the season is over is whether or not head coach Bruce Boudreau should get fired. In my opinion, no. The playoff failure is hard to overlook, especially after being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning. His playoff record is 17-19, and he has only won two of six playoff series. Not good. But I’m going to argue that this was Boudreau’s best season as a head coach. After an eight game losing streak (all caught on tape during HBO’s 24/7), most people had written this year’s team off. The Caps weren’t going anywhere and Boudreau’s head was being called for. Still, General Manager George McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis had faith in the coach and didn’t fire him.

After being destroyed 6-0 by the New York Rangers in February, Boudreau changed the team’s style of play. The once offensive juggernaut became a defense oriented team. The Caps were blocking shots and getting back to stifle odd man rushes from the opposing teams. In a month the Washington Capitals went from fifth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Southeast division to first. Boudreau should have been nominated for the Jack Adams award. To change the team’s style of play midseason and bounce back to take first place in the second half of the season is impressive.

If you believe McPhee and Leonsis when they say the team is still ahead of schedule then there should be no questions about Boudreau’s job security. Despite the playoff loss, the Capitals had a great season. They were able to overcome a tough losing streak midseason, hang another Southeast Division banner in the Verizon Center rafters, and finish first overall in Eastern Conference. And the future is bright for Caps.

For the first time since trading goalie Olaf Kolzig the Capitals are finally stable in net. Goaltender Michael Neuvirth has proven himself worthy to be the Caps number one goalie. Neuvirth had a great regular season followed by an incredible series against the Rangers. While Neuvirth didn’t help the Caps win any games against the Lightning, he was able to come up with big save after big save to keep the Caps in games. Goalies Semyon Varlamov and Braden Holtby are both quality backups and have proven they can start and win games for the Caps. Goaltending is not an issue this offseason.

The Capitals young players will have more experience next year. Defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner were the Caps best defensive pairing all year and were in their first full season together. Carlson did struggle in the playoffs but next year we will see a continuation of improved play. Center Marcus Johansson’s play improved all season. The Caps will look for him to step up into that second line center role next season.

Players who were brought in at the trade deadline like center Jason Arnott and left winger Marco Sturm will most likely not be back with the team next year. Defenseman Scott Hannan is a question. He played well but with Dennis Wideman under contract for next year, Hannan might not be brought back. It would be nice to have these players back, but they may not be needed with the younger talent stepping up.

The Capitals will have to stick top Boudreau’s new defensive minded scheme next season to be successful in the playoffs. But they also need to find their heart. Yes the power play was woeful. Yes, their stellar penalty kill let them down in the playoffs. Yes, center Nick Backstrom was a nonfactor in the playoffs. But this team just didn’t have the drive to win a championship this year. It’s not just in the playoffs. Too many times this season the Capitals didn’t even show up to play until the third period. By the time the team turned it on and played hard, it was too late. The Caps didn’t come close to being a good as they could’ve been because they just don’t try hard all the time.

It was a fun hockey season and a frustrating one. And for another year, it ends in disappointment for Caps fans. But I want to say thank you the Washington Capitals for another year of hockey. It was a season of highs and lows and while it ended on a low note, it was still a great season.

I can’t wait for the 2011-2012 season to start.