This season, the Washington Capitals failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. This comes after a year where they lost in the first round, and this for a team that has had loftier goals than that. As such, perhaps it is not surprising that they've fired their head coach for those two seasons, Adam Oates. Oates' tenure came after a less than stellar Dale Hunter stint. Things have really gone downhill since the firing of Bruce Boudreau, and so, perhaps due to that, General Manager George McPhee has been fired as well.
So there are big changes afoot in Washington. While Oates had only been around for two years, and this was his first job, McPhee had been in Washington forever. His first year as a GM, in 1998, the Capitals went to the Stanley Cup Final. He could never recapture that. There were some good moves, sure, but drafting guys like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom isn't exactly tough to figure out, particularly Ovechkin, who went first overall.
However, in recent years, the talent pipeline seems to have tapped out. Their defense has not been good for a few years, they don't really have forward depth, and goaltending has been a problem. They've shuffled through netminder after netminder, and none of them have really clicked. Meanwhile, Semyon Varlamov is excelling in Colorado this year, but, to be fair, when the deal was made, a lot of people said the Capitals got a steal.
This team has talent still, but work definitely needs to be done. Ovechkin is still a great player, his plus/minus aside, but the advanced stats on him were actually not that good this year, despite the 51 goals. Sure, a guy who can score that much is still a great player, but maybe we're talking top 20 now instead of top five. On the other hand, maybe he just needs a new head coach to get the best of him, or some new personnel around him. Most importantly, the new GM need to solidify the defense and the situation in net. I wouldn't give up on guys like Braden Holtby completely, but I wouldn't want to rely on them either. Not when a deep playoff run is probably still the expectation.
As for the men who now find themselves seeking employment, I'm not sure either McPhee or Oates will find another position as lofty. Oates may get another chance, but he may have to spend a couple years as an assistant, or head down to the AHL. With guys like Barry Trotz out there, Oates is going to be down the list. As for McPhee, 17 years is a long run. It may be the one chance he gets.
Change has come to the Capitals. If the right moves aren't made, they could find themselves heading in the wrong direction. Or, rather, further in the wrong direction.