Originally posted on Turner Sports Desk  |  Last updated 3/27/12
The Washington Capitals are a hockey team in need of three things:
  • Hockey oriented front office people with a track record of Stanley Cup success that have a direction and a plan
  • Smart, tough Hockey players that don't fold like a bamboo tent during an F-5 Tornado
  • A Hockey Coach fluent in the basics of the game that is disciplined, smart and unflinching in his pursuit of excellence. 

Hockey people in the front office:
Caps General Manager, George McPhee is a great guy and he's done the best he could to assemble a team capable of earning a Stanley Cup. The bottom line is he failed. He changed players, he changed coaches and the Caps always come up short. The high point was the Caps team that lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pens in a seven game series. Unfortunately for McPhee this team has regressed each year since. 
When you look at the front office organizational structure of the Caps beyond McPhee their are no real hockey people. The Caps have an excellent business model, but they are simply not built to consistently compete for a Stanley Cup. 

Ted Leonsis is a smart guy and he is still loved by Caps fans but he has to bring in some hockey people from teams that consistently compete/win like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Vancouver etc. to set this franchise on a path of winning. The Caps organization needs an identity beyond Ovechkin. They need to be known as a smart, tough hockey organization. Right now the only identity the Caps have is Ovechkin and that is neither fair to him nor the others within the Caps organization.
The team McPhee assembled this year was selected by many so called experts to be the last team standing with a Cup. The reality is they will be lucky to back into the playoffs. If they do not make it Caps fans should not be shy in asking for change from the highest levels down to the equipment guys. Somewhere in this organization lies a serious disconnect and it is the job of the owner to find it and fix it.

Hockey players:
The Caps have talent  but they've shown they don't have hockey smarts or toughness. We can make excuses for them but hockey really boils down to two things. Are you smart enough to recognize what your opponents are doing and thwart them? Are you tough enough to execute your gameplan? The Caps have shown that in critical games they are going to find a way to fail. We've heard the excuses..."We ran into a hot goalie" or [insert guy here] is hurt. All are excuses. Championship teams find a way. Boston was a heavy underdog versus Vancouver with their hot goalie and awesome offensive prowess but they found a way. The Caps are excuse generators who will never find a way.

Failure is contagious and you have to get rid of players, coaches who are waiting for the other shoe to drop instead of making their own luck by preparing themselves both mentally and physically for victory. 
The Caps need a system that is not based on the premise of a few talented guys scoring all the goals with everyone else in support. They need a system that empowers the entire team to score opportunistic goals based on air-tight defense. 
The bottom line is the Caps need to abandon the talent only approach and find some smart, tough two way hockey players willing to sacrifice stats for team outcomes. If you have guys counting their goals while the team is losing they are a cancer and you have to get rid of them. Teams win...individuals lose.

The next Hockey Coach: 
Bruce Boudreau saw the error in his ways after the Caps lost the Montreal playoff series and he tried to shift this team away from the aggressive offense style of play. His star players revolted which filtered down to the non-stars and eventually the entire team quit on him so he got fired. Enter Dale Hunter who wasted time trying to jump start Ovechkin as if his lack of production was the cause and not a symptom...meanwhile the Caps defense has more leaks than a submarine with a screen door hatch. Hunter drank the kool-aid of believing that the Caps fate rests on Ovechkin when the Caps fate actually rests on the concept and execution of TEAM DEFENSE. If you can protect your goalie and clear your zone quickly you will win more games than you lose. If your plan to earn a cup is based on the fortunes of one player you've already lost.
The next coach of the Washington Capitals needs to be a man with a time tested (winning) system that does not favor any players. The coach will be smart enough to alter to suit the strengths/weaknesses of his players when needed but disciplined enough not to allow any players to take advantage. The next coach needs to be a stickler for the details, hockey smarts and toughness. The next coach will set in place a defensive system that  protects our goalies so they can develop confidence...(see Ken Hitchcock).  He will emphasize the art of playing without the puck. He will show this team how positioning and skating can make the job of scoring/defending easier. In short, the new Caps coach should be a hockey #101 type of guy that sets a path towards winning with sound fundamentals and not the fluff of talent.
Ovechkin is a great player but he has a limited shelf-life. If the Caps want an organizational identity that outlasts Ovechkin they better bring in front office people committed to win. Winning is the only draw that is time tested. Stars rise and fade but winning organizations keep the house packed because they plug in players to keep the machine rolling. 

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