New-look Capitals name Wilson, McPhee
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Washington Capitals formally discarded their past Monday by introducing new coach Ron Wilson and new general manager George McPhee at the site of their future home, the MCI Center.
``It’s like the slate is wiped clean here,″ Wilson said, raising his voice to drown out the sound of hammering in the background. ``All those years of bad luck playing in the Capital Centre are almost over. Then we turn over a new leaf, and away we go.″
The Capitals will be moving this winter from the USAir Arena (formerly called the Capital Centre) to the MCI Center in downtown Washington. Owner Abe Pollin is eager to build a new fan base while erasing memories of the Capitals’ worst season since 1981-82, a 33-40-9 disaster that ended Washington’s 14-year playoff run.
Wilson, 42, signed a three-year contract worth a reported $2.1 million. He spent the past four years as coach of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, compiling a 120-145-31 record and guiding the expansion team to its first playoff appearance this season.
The Capitals were one of several teams to interview him for a coaching opening.
``It was like being the flavor of the month,″ Wilson said. ``Everybody’s taking a lick, but you don’t know if they’re going to buy the whole ice cream cone. (The Capitals) finally bought the whole cone.″
Wilson coached Team USA to the 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship. He and McPhee will work toward assembling a team that is both entertaining and successful.
``I think we can generate some excitement about our product,″ McPhee said. ``Our objective is to win, fill this building and put an exciting team on the ice.″
Wilson replaces Jim Schoenfeld, whose defense-oriented style did not seem to fit a team with offensive-minded players such as Peter Bondra, Adam Oates, Chris Simon and Joe Juneau. Schoenfeld, fired by Washington last week, on Monday was named coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.
``I think there are plenty of guys on this team with speed,″ Wilson said. ``Now we have to employ a style that plays to the strengths of those players. Lord knows they know how to play defense _ Jim Schoenfeld did a great job teaching them how to defend.
``My job is to get them to play a little more open offensively and to get them to have a little more fun,″ Wilson said. ``I think if the players are having fun, the fans will have fun, too.″
McPhee assumes the responsibilities of David Poile, who was fired last month after a 15-year run. McPhee, at 38, becomes the league’s youngest general manager. Although he has never been a GM, McPhee did plenty of front office work with the Vancouver Canucks as vice president of hockey operations.
``I’d better be circumspect when talking to the other general managers because the veteran guys are going to take advantage of the young guy,″ McPhee said. ``What I’ve got to do is watch a lot of videotape and get to learn this team as quickly as possible.″
He won’t have much time to settle into his new post _ the NHL draft takes place on June 21.
Wilson and McPhee are not strangers to each other. Both worked together in Vancouver when Wilson was an assistant with the Canucks.
``We know each well enough that I think this is going to be an easy transition,″ McPhee said.