Saturday in the RinkPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Good to be back in a chilly ice rink full-time, even if it's a beautiful day outside here in the District. Three groups of 20-some players took to the ice as the Caps officially opened their 2010-11 training camp today. Hope springs eternal in September when all the canvasses are white and the possibilities are promising. Three weeks of camp and half a dozen pre-season games will be needed to settle the roster, then 82 regular season tilts will be required to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Here we go. Despite three straight heartbreaking playoff ousters, Caps GM George McPhee has opted to tweak rather than tear apart. He shared some of his philosophy with me in that regard: “It’s really hard to build a good team," says McPhee. "We’ve done that, and this team earned 121 points last year. They had a remarkable season. They really performed well right from the first day of the season right through the first week of the playoffs. They were up 3-1 in the series, and in a matter of five days, things didn’t go right and all of a sudden you’re out. “We have to look at the totality of the experience. They were a really good team. They didn’t play well enough in Game 5 to put the series away, and now you’re in a hornet’s nest going back to Montreal [for Game 6]. Now their goalie stands on his head for two games and it’s over. We’ve often said that the deciding moments of a series don’t always come in the deciding game." McPhee also stated that he didn't believe the Caps' championship window would necessarily close with the upcoming season. “You read that in different places, that you can only keep a team together for so long in this salary cap era," he says. "I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. I guess we’ll find out and it might be a better question to ask and be answered in a couple of years. "We think we’ve managed the [salary] cap real well and we think this team can be a good team for a long time. Every team you come to camp with a club of this caliber, you hope that this is the year that you do it all and you win a Cup. But it doesn’t mean that if it doesn’t happen we’re not going to be a good team this year or the following year and the year after that. "We’ve drafted well enough and our team is young enough that we think we can keep it together for a while if we keep doing the right things on the cap. And we’ll keep the players we want to keep. We’ve done that so far and we’ll try to do that as well.” McPhee's show of confidence in his players may make it tough for members of the two-time Calder Cup champion Hershey bears to break through to the next level. But having good young players who are ready to step up also enabled the Caps to steer clear of the summer free agent market. “I think it shows the players that we believe in them," says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, "and they should believe in themselves. We didn’t go out and make wholesale changes because we know that the players we have are good. We know that the players coming up from Hershey that are pushing are real good because they’ve won two Calder Cups in a row. We’ve got NHL players knocking at the door to beat out our guys." One group of players will the hit the ice for practice on Sunday at 10 a.m. The other two groups will engage in a scrimmage at noon, the first of three camp scrimmages in as many days to determine the winner of the 2010 Duchesne Cup. ******** From the cutting room floor: McPhee on having less depth and experience on the blueline: “I like having some more depth there, but there were complaints from the defensemen and our coaches that carrying eight is too hard to work with. Sitting two guys out every night isn’t much fun. So we’re going to go with seven this year and hope they stay healthy." Boudreau on the tone he is trying to set at camp this fall: “The tone is we’re not complacent with what we accomplished or didn’t accomplish last year. We’ve got a little bit of anger still over what went on and how we lost I am hoping we carry that chip on our shoulder over the course of the year."
Duchesne Cup play began on Sunday at Caps training camp, and Team C emerged with a convincing 5-0 victory. The second of three scrimmages to determine the Cup winner will take place at noon on Monday when Team C faces the Alex Ovechkin-led Team A. With Team B’s Boyd Kane off for hooking, Team C