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EJ Hradek on George McPhee’s Future: ‘I Think It’s Time for a Change’

by Chris Lingebach
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Capitals vice president and general manager George McPhee (left) and team owner Ted Leonsis (right). (Photo: Patrick McDermott/ SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Capitals vice president and general manager George McPhee (left) and team owner Ted Leonsis (right). (Photo: Patrick McDermott/ SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - The Washington Capitals have a decision to make about their future, with specific regard to its involvement with vice president and general manager George McPhee, suddenly working on an expiring contract after 16 seasons with the organization.

McPhee has insisted he will speak with media this week, albeit not acknowledging whether he’ll discuss his future with the Capitals, and now, many have taken the position of speculating about his future, until that question about his fate is ultimately answered.

After failing to make the playoffs — the first occurrence of such a shortcoming since the 2006-07 NHL season — change could very well be on the horizon for the Capitals. “Maybe that’s what it takes,” said former Capitals forward Mike Knuble last week.

“I think it’s time for a change there,” said senior reporter for NHL.com EJ Hradek to 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Tuesday. “I think George has been there a long time. He’s done some good things; he’s done some things that haven’t worked out.”

Hradek outlined the problems that have plagued the Capitals in their repeated failure to advance past either the first or second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with its current core of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Brooks Laich, emphasizing that, at some point, tough decisions have to be made.

“I look at this team and there’s fundamentally something wrong. There’s something missing,” he said. “When I look at teams, the spine, the core of a team is your top couple of centers, your four defencemen and your goaltender. You build everything around that, and I’m always suspect of teams that are really built on the outside.

“And when you have a guy like Alex Ovechkin, who was a terrific goal-scorer and one of the dynamic players of his era, the end of the day, when you’re building teams on the outside of that core, usually you’re not structurally a team that’s going to win a Stanley Cup or be there to get all the way through.”

“When you’re drafting high in the draft, your team is struggling, it’s easy to go up to the podium and pick first, or second or third, and start to draft high-end players up there,” Hradek said. “The hard part is, when you get a team that’s pretty good, and starts to be competitive, what are the pieces that you need? Can you fill in those blanks?

“And that is really hard work, so this is no commentary on George, really. It’s just a matter of, it’s not easy to fill those blanks in, and to have the chemistry and mesh everything together.

“For me, George has been there a long time. He hasn’t been able to solve that puzzle over the last several years, since this team really got going under Bruce Boudreau. I look at that and I say maybe it’s time for a new voice, somebody to look at this team and take it in a different direction.

But Hradek was careful not to lump the entirety of blame on McPhee, pointing to, perhaps, one mystery which may be a bit more unsolvable.

“And I would even go a step further in defense of George, to some degree, because I think, when you look at teams, I think ownership plays into it,” he said. “And I think in Washington, the owner there seems to have a big personality, and seems to want to have a lot to do with things, and I think sometimes that makes it difficult for a manager, or for an organization to move forward as well.”

Listen to the full audio in the clip above.

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