All The Right MovesPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Three years ago on deadline day, Caps general manager George McPhee made three deals, bringing in forwards Sergei Fedorov and Matt Cooke and goaltender Cristobal Huet. The Caps went 15-4-1 the rest of the way, and squeaked into the top spot in the Southeast Division on the final weekend of the regular season. But they fell in the first round of the playoffs in a seven-game set with the Philadelphia Flyers. Two years ago, McPhee stood pat at the deadline. He had veteran defenseman Brian Pothier and veteran winger Chris Clark set to come off IR and viewed them as late season acquisitions. The Caps were 10-4-3 after the deadline that season. Washington won a second straight division title, rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to win its first-round series with the New York Rangers, and jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Penguins in the second round. The Caps lost Game 7 of that Pittsburgh series on home ice, missing a chance to go to the conference final for the first time since 1998. Last year, McPhee was again very active. He made four trades to bring in forwards Scott Walker and Eric Belanger and defensemen Joe Corvo and Milan Jurcina. The Caps went 13-2-5 the rest of the way. Washington forged a 3-1 first-round lead over Montreal only to lose the series when it could not manage more than one goal in any of the last three games. Getting the chemistry part of the deadline day activity is tough, because you need to make the right additions to your team. You’ve also got to avoid doing too much or doing too little. Obviously, the reason the Caps lost in the first round last year was because they couldn’t score and because their power play was hibernating. But in hindsight, they might have had too many bodies around for the stretch drive and the playoffs. Once Walker, Corvo and Belanger (Jurcina was hurt) were added to a team that would finish with 121 points, there were too many bodies and good, healthy players were sitting out every night. That’s not an ideal situation. “It’s hard to say,” says Caps right wing Mike Knuble when asked if the Caps had too many bodies after the deadline last year. “You can look back and say there were a lot of extra bodies around. I remember Bruce shuffling guys in and out. It got a little bit awkward, even for pro hockey and guys who are used to being on the edge and things changing quickly. At the same time, you’ve been here with the team and you’re kind of settled into your role and all of a sudden there are a bunch of bodies around. He’s artificially juggling and guys are playing well and still going out [of the lineup]. So that was frustrating for guys to just be shuffled around like that. “Not that anybody’s feelings are hurt, it’s just frustrating. Guys are trying to play well, trying to build momentum toward the playoffs and you’re kind of stopping and starting. I doubt they’ll do something like that this year. I feel like overall it wasn’t a great situation.” While there may have been too many additions made to a team that would finish with 121 points and a Presidents’ Trophy in 2009-10, this year’s model is on pace for just 99 points. Regardless of where a team stands in relation to playoff positioning, the most important thing on deadline day is making all the right moves and none of the wrong ones, even if the right one is doing nothing. Quality, not quantity. Tweaks, not overhauls.
I spoke with Caps' GM George McPhee last Thursday heading into the NHL trade deadline, and he told me that the Caps would not be dealing any of their young goalies or top prospects or first-round draft choices. Now that the dust has settled, we see that GMGM was true to his word on all counts. He