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The Summer of George (McPhee)
“So Var, I won’t tell you what I’ll do next, but I will say I’ll keep you guessing.” Photo by Caps Outsider
To paraphrase Roddy Piper, just when I think I know George McPhee’s answers, he changes the question. A week ago, I was have a pretty foreboding feeling about this coming season, because of the team’s glaring lack of a really skilled second line center, and enough depth in the top two defensive pairings. I couldn’t see much beyond mediocrity, which in modern times, is absolute death.
But with the addition of Mikhail Grabovski, whom the Leafs punted unceremoniously because they seem to be determined to turn their squad into the 1975 Philadelphia Flyers, most of that feeling is now gone. Not only is he younger and cheaper than the departed Mike Ribeiro, he’s also much, much better, particularly as a possession player, which was never Ribeiro’s strong suit (I still have occasional nightmares about the brief linemate marriage of Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro). There is literally nothing to hate about this deal at all. Even if you’re worried about some of Grabovski’s character issues, which I’m not personally, he’s on a one year contract. If he’s a bad egg and everything blows up, he’s gone quicker than a pre-second half Dan Haren fastball.
I can’t help but feel optimistic about this lineup now, especially in this division. A one-two punch of Backstrom/Grabovski at center is one of the best in the game. It’s not Crosby/Malkin, but what is? Before the deal I felt that the Metro Division was a muddled mess after Pittsburgh, where anyone could theoretically finish anywhere. But I think the Caps have now solidified themselves as the clear number two team in the Division after the Penguins. The defense is still thin (so is Pittsburgh’s), but I think they can manage with the group they have until something opens up later in the season and they feel they need to make a change.
This has been an especially tepid and awful August. It’s hot outside. The Nats are playing out the string. The Orioles are good. But this goes a long way towards making everything better. I, for one, cannot wait until the season starts, and that wasn’t something I was really able to say not too long ago without sounding like a homer or a lunatic.