I think it's hard to be a General Manager of any professional franchise. They are constantly second guessed, yelled at and called names, subject to whimsical owners and eventually fired if their players don't perform. All of this from people who adore the team nonetheless.
Not many times are GMs ever recognized kindly for doing nothing in an off season. Fans and critics will both jump on the guy (and or girl) for not "improving" or "loading up" their team. Standing pat sometimes means brushing off the resume. But not with the Capitals, not this time.
George McPhee (or affectionately called GMGM) didn't rock the boat too much this summer when it came to the Capitals' off season. When July 1st came around, Caps fans were hoping for some big signing that made sense and would make the Caps a lock come next April. That didn't happen. In a way, that might have been the big move GMGM could have made.
Let's face it, the free agency pool this summer was lacking. Sure there were a few names floating around that on the surface looked appetizing. But in all, the overall feel of UFAs in the NHL was a weak class.
Instead of signing a long term contract or jumping on the latest "hot" player (see Peerless for a great example of this), GMGM stuck to his guns. He resigned Nick Backstrom to a comfortable non cap-breaking contract. He shed his rental players from the last playoff run. He opened up space for talent in Hershey to gain a step hold with the big club. And he got some muscle (something I felt the Caps severely lacked last season). The draft was okay (not the best, not the worst with what he had). And GMGM kept a team that had huge success in the regular season together for another run.
GMGM freed up some space for defense phenoms John Carlson and Karl Alzner to make the team as regulars by not resigning Shaone Morrisonn. Mo was a solid player (not to mention a cool guy for spending some time with PHT) and he will do well in Buffalo. He also let Jose Theodore go, opening the door for kids Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth to get some NHL love.
He traded a prospect for DJ King (or King Kong as he is nicknamed, probably the last time you see me mention him that way). A fighter with some skating skills that will fight for fourth line duties on the team. I always felt that GMGM made a mistake not signing an enforcer last season after he let Donald Brashear go (who is now a Thrasher). McPhee soothed my feelings by getting a guy that won't back down from a fight and may get under the skin of the opposing team. Something the team lacked last year, I think.
All in all, not a bad summer's work for the Capitals. They are allowing their youth movement to start to take over the reigns of the team. But time is short. The Caps need to show they can do it not just in the regular season, but in the post season as well.