Leonsis To Start With Clean Slate Following Dismissals Of GM McPhee, Coach Adam Oates
Capitals VP & GM George McPhee on Saturday morning was told by Owner Ted Leonsis and President & COO Dick Patrick that his contract "would not be renewed after 17 years," while coach Adam Oates was "fired with one year remaining" on his deal, according to Katie Carrera of the WASHINGTON POST. Leonsis and Patrick "made the shake-up after undergoing a nearly two-week examination of the team," a time in which they "met with people from all corners of the organization -- players, scouts, medical and front office staff -- for feedback on the entire operation." Leonsis said, "The last two seasons showed us that we need to improve. That’s what it came down to, where Dick and I said, ‘We have to make that gut check. Do we have to change? And where do you start?’ You start with the coach and the general manager.” Patrick said that the search for a new GM and coach will "begin immediately." McPhee was the "third-longest-tenured" GM in the NHL and helped the Capitals reach the playoffs in 10 of 16 seasons. Leonsis now must "take a step he’s never had to make since buying the Capitals in 1999: Hire the man responsible for delivering his ultimate objective" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/28). In DC, Brian McNally notes Leonsis and Patrick "offered immunity to everyone interviewed -- players, front-office members, coaches etc. -- in return for information about the state of the franchise." Leonsis said it was a way to make a final call while still not “emotionally wounded.” Patrick insisted employees like Assistant GM & Dir of Legal Affairs Don Fishman and Assistant GM/Player Personnel Brian MacLellan "will remain." Meanwhile, Patrick "wouldn’t rule out hiring a coach" before hiring a GM (WASHINGTON TIMES, 4/28).
CAPITAL GAINS: The WASHINGTON POST's Carrera writes the decision to fire McPhee and Oates "was the simple half of the equation" that Patrick and Leonsis "must solve this offseason." Now that they have what Leonsis called a “clean slate,” they "must fill the two key vacancies." Whomever they choose will "set the tone for the franchise on and off the ice, dictating its trajectory for years to come and determining whether the Capitals’ absence from the postseason this spring was a one-year blip or indicative of symptoms that take longer to shake." Leonsis said, “This is a great situation for an executive coming into. ... I’m sure we’re going to be able to find an individual who has a plan and can work with the organization to get us to where we want to be.” While Patrick said that they have "already compiled an initial list" of GM candidates, this "isn’t going to be a quick search." Even though the Capitals would "like to have someone in place" by the '14 NHL draft on June 27, Patrick said that he "doesn’t view that as a strict deadline." By keeping the scouting and hockey operations staff "intact for the time being," the Capitals are "equipped to proceed through the draft without a general manager if necessary" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/28). Meanwhile, the WASHINGTON POST's Carrera lists possible candidates for the GM position.
TED'S TAKE: In DC, Sally Jenkins writes Leonsis is "finally doing something besides blog," as he has "been more blustering than active" in his time as owner. Leonsis has "put himself squarely on the spot -- in an interesting way." His decision to fire McPhee and Oates is "counterintuitive, and equally intriguing for the timing and messaging." Although Leonsis has been a franchise owner since '99, it is "hard to pronounce him particularly good or bad at it, because he’s made no big moves." Leonsis said that he had a "sense of leveling-off, if not a downward trend." Leonsis: "This is about hockey. We sold all the tickets we can sell; we sold all the jerseys we can sell. We were a continuously improving hockey team, until we weren’t." Jenkins writes Leonsis is "testing himself in a way he hasn’t up to this point: He’s opened himself up to examination" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/28).