WASHINGTON — What would be the wildest reaction you could imagine should the Capitals be eliminated yet again by the Penguins in the second round?
Firing Barry Trotz? Fans calling for Ted Leonsis to sell the team?
How about… trading three-time Hart Trophy recipient Alex Ovechkin?
“I’m gonna say something here that’s probably going to get Caps fans screaming that I know nothing about hockey, the way they like to do,” John Feinstein prefaced to The Sports Junkies on Friday.
“If they lose this series, and I still think it’s an ‘if’… let’s say they do lose this series,” he said. “I think they should trade Ovechkin.”
“I know that sounds insane, but he’s tradable because he’s only 31,” he continued. “He’s still a hell of a player. You could get a lot in return for him. At some point — you know, I don’t want to hear any stats — the best player has to take responsibility. And, by the way, he did the other night. I mean, he called himself out.
“I think he’s a good guy, but at some point you have to stop. You know, the old definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It’s in their heads. The only way to get it out of your head, obviously, is to beat the Penguins and go and and win the Stanley Cup. That doesn’t appear likely right now.”
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“If they don’t beat the Penguins,” he said. “A couple guys are going to leave. I think they have to re-sign [T.J.] Oshi, I don’t care what he costs. If they lose this series and they come back next year, and they’ve got the best record in hockey or the second-best record, whatever it might be, it’s going to be the same thing.
“And the notion that you’re saying, ‘No, no, it’s not in our heads,’ it’s like saying don’t think about elephants for the next 10 minutes — you’re going to think about it, it’s going to be in their heads.”
“The only way to change that is to change the leadership of the team,” Feinstein said. “And I’m not saying Trotz necessarily. I mean, he’s coached them to two straight Presidents’ Trophies.
“But the time comes when you have to do something radical, not just tweak it. I think [GM Brian MacLellan’s] done a hell of a job tweaking this team to make it better, bringing in Oshi and Williams, and I guess it was George [McPhee] who brought in the defensemen from Pittsburgh.”
“Either way, MacLellan’s done a hell of a job, but it’s been tweaks,” he said. “And it may be time that you have to do something that some people say ‘that’s crazy.’ But I think maybe, if they lose this series, that time has come, because you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and over again.”
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Feinstein went on to say Evgeny Kuznetsov has been a solid addition for the past four seasons, but “he hasn’t been the one who got them over the hump.”
“They’ve got to find somebody who gets them over the hump,” he added. “They’ve got to find somebody who is great in the playoffs and they haven’t found that guy yet.”