The last opportunity for there to be fundamental change in the 2011-12 Washington Capitals has come and gone.
The dust has cleared on Monday’s relatively quiet trading deadline, with several teams tinkering in a flurry of last-minute deals. Going into the final day of transactions, it seems the Caps were poised to make a deal, either conceding the final twenty games of the season to fate and building for tomorrow, or refusing to back out of a tight race for the back door of the NHL playoffs and adding temporary reinforcements.
Days ago, vice president and general manager George McPhee seemed open to strategies, depending on where the Capitals, now in 9th place in the Eastern Conference, stood at the trading deadline. Ultimately, he adopted neither. As McPhee explained the lack of deals, “there wasn’t anything there that would’ve been the right thing for our club.” McPhee went on to elaborate that there were only a few sellers league-wide, and a few were in the Capitals’ division, making player movement a difficult task in an already tough market.
Given the context of the current roster and the season it has underwent, McPhee was right in not forcing movement. If an ideal trading parter wasn’t available, then the Capitals were faced with the possibility of taking a loss on whatever deal they made. Mortgaging the team’s future for a temporary boost over the final 20 games would’ve been the fan-friendly move, but ultimately would’ve hurt a future version of the franchise that has a healthy first line center for 82 games and a more varied scoring attack. Writing off 2011-12 as a loss, with so many possible points left on the table, in order to stockpile young players and draft picks, would’ve proved just as detrimental. You can’t win a Stanley Cup if you don’t make the playoffs, and even when you come in as an also-ran, you cannot throw away a perfectly achievable invitation to the 16-team tournament because the circumstances aren’t ideal.