Washington Capitals fire Adam Oates, will not bring back George McPhee

Patrick McDermott

The Capitals are going in a different direction. They fired coach Adam Oates on Saturday morning, and announced that they will not renew the contract of longtime general manager George McPhee.

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Change is finally coming for the Washington Capitals.

After 17 years at the helm, general manager George McPhee will not have his contract renewed by the Caps. They've also fired head coach Adam Oates, who McPhee hired before the 2012-13 NHL season.

Replacements have not been named. The team made the announcement Saturday morning.

"George has been a terrific, longtime executive for our franchise, and I'm grateful for his commitment to the Capitals organization for the past 17 years," said team owner Ted Leonsis. "He was a highly effective manager who is extremely well regarded within our organization and around the NHL. We have the utmost respect for him and his family and wish them nothing but the very best.

"We are also appreciative of Adam's efforts and thank him for his devotion, work ethic and contributions to the Capitals the past two seasons. He is a smart, tactical coach who improved the performance of several of our players. He is a Hall of Fame player who we believe will be a longtime coach in the NHL. We will help him in whatever way we are able and wish him well."

It's not as if McPhee didn't have success with the Capitals. In his first season as GM in 1997-98, the Caps advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, their only trip to the NHL's championship round since entering the league in 1975. They won seven division titles in McPhee's 16 years in charge, and they made the postseason in 10 of those seasons.

The 2013-14 season was the first since 2006-07 that the Capitals did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which was apparently the final straw for Leonsis.

But that first year was the only time they advanced beyond the second round, which speaks to the ultimate reason why McPhee was let go. His teams were simply unable to go deep in the playoffs, but there's always been the feeling that the high-flying, Alex Ovechkin-led Capitals teams of the late 2000's missed out on an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup.

Under Bruce Boudreau, those teams were the highest-scoring the league, perennial President's Trophy contenders and probably the most exciting to watch in the NHL. After a few tough playoff losses, though, the team shifted from that speedy offensive approach to one that put a stronger emphasis on defense, and it always felt like they were trying to force a system that didn't fit their personnel.

It eventually led to the firing of Boudreau after a slow start in 2011. Dale Hunter replaced Boudreau, and that hiring was an abject disaster. The team qualified for the playoffs and even won a round that year, but it was no secret that nobody was happy with the arrangement, and Hunter made a quiet exit following the season, returning to London, Ont. to coach his OHL's London Knights.

Under Oates, who was hired to replace Hunter, the Caps continued to struggle. As SB Nation's Ted Starkey wrote at the end of the 2013-14 season...

Oates seems to be a very long-shot to return behind the bench, as the system he implemented in Washington doesn't seem to gel with the personnel provided to him, and the player utilization seems to not be making the most of the roster he has. Players picked up over the past two seasons for him by McPhee, [Martin] Erat and [Dustin] Penner were not used heavily, and certainly Oates' lineup decisions grated on certain players.

Line and defensive combinations at times this year could only be described as strange, and regularly scratching or sitting players led to three trade demands over the course of the season, hardly an ideal situation.

All told, McPhee presided over six head coaches in 16 years. He was hired the same day as Ron Wilson back in '97, who he fired after the 2001-02 season. Oates, Boudreau, Hunter, Glen Hanlon and Bruce Cassidy all served as coach under McPhee as well.

That's a lot of turnover for 16 years, and it's safe to say McPhee had more than a fair chance from owner Ted Leonsis to bring a Stanley Cup to the Nation's Capital.

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