Why Players Want OutPosted on November 28, 2013 by Ben Bruno
It's not often that two players from the same organization request trades just days apart from each other. Yet it happened this week with Martin Erat asking to be moved, and Dmitry Orlov's agent demanding a trade for his client as well. The frustrations of each player are understandable, with Erat seldom getting major minutes and Orlov constantly being shuffled between Hershey and DC, only to never get on the ice for the Caps. However, being frustrated and asking to be traded are very different animals and this brings up much larger issues. The first being would either player have asked to be traded if he considered the Caps to be a "premier" franchise, and second, why aren't McPhee and Oates on the same page regarding their players?
Erat is 32 years-old and although he has been to the playoffs seven times with Nashville and once last year with the Caps, none of these teams made a deep run into the playoffs. Even with the potential for a few more solid years of hockey ahead of him, Erat would not be jumping ship if he felt this Caps team had a serious chance of contending this season, regardless of how many minutes he's playing a night. No one wants to play less minutes than they are used to, but I'd argue that having playing time cut would be a willing sacrifice for most any player if it meant being on a Stanley Cup caliber team. The same goes for Orlov.
While Orlov, and especially his agent, believes he is NHL-ready and shouldn't be playing in the minors anymore, he probably would be reluctant to leave an organization that he feels is going in the right direction. I'm speculating here, and it's possible that Orlov could truly care more about playing in the NHL on any team at this point in his career. But if I'm in the minors and can't crack the starting lineup because the organization I'm a part of is a legitimate contender, or at least moving in that direction, then I'm biding my time and waiting for the opportunity to play for a team of this stature instead of moving on. If Orlov is part of - dare I say it – an organization like the Penguins, does his agent still demand a trade? (Actually forget it, since I hate myself a little for saying that.) Again I'm speculating, but if neither Erat nor Orlov think of the Caps as a "premier" team, could part of this be due to the McPhee and Oates relationship?
When McPhee traded away Filip Forsberg, who was one of the best prospects the Caps had at the time, to acquire Erat (and also Michael Latta), he did it to bring in a top-six player who would get top-six minutes every night. Yet according to the Washington Post, Erat said, "Since day one, I didn’t get the chance here...and it's time for me to move on." I'm not privy to the inner workings of the Caps' front office, but one would think that McPhee would discuss giving up one of his best prospects to acquire top-six talent with his coach. But this seems not to be the case, as Oates hasn't used Erat as a top-six type player. This type of disconnect is worrisome since it gives the impression that McPhee and Oates have different ideas of roster construction and how to reach the ultimate goal of winning the Cup.
Another example of this is how Orlov is being handled. McPhee has recalled Orlov from Hershey several times this season but he has yet to appear in a single game for the Caps. The reasons for these recalls could have more to do with a clause in Orlov's contract - which allows him to leave for the KHL on January 1st of next year if he hasn't spent 30 days on a NHL roster - than whether McPhee believes he's NHL ready. Regardless, Oates has chosen to play both Nate Schmidt and Tyson Strachan, neither of whom are superstars, over Orlov this season. I tend not to value much of what agents say about their clients, but for what it's worth, Orlov's agent thinks that, "Adam [Oates] does not like Dmitry's game" and that "there is no intention on Adam's part to use him," according to Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington. If this is true, then McPhee's comments about Orlov (again from Chuck Gormley) that, "We really like the way he's playing and we're looking forward to that day he goes in," seem to be quite different from how Oates feels. This lack of management congruity does not bode well for the success of the Caps, as it can only create confusion and unrest among players.
Successful organizations need to be unified, but
from the outside looking in, it does not appear that the Caps are. McPhee's
hands are tied since he has no choice but to move Erat. I'm still holding out
hope that the situation with Orlov can be rectified, but it may already be too
late since Orlov’s agent said, "there’s no chance in hell Dmitry is going to
sign with the Capitals for next season," according to the same report from
Chuck Gormley. If McPhee and Oates can't figure out a way to get on the same
page soon, it won't matter that things like the team getting outshot 19-3 in
the 2nd period and blowing a 3-1 lead last night to Ottawa happen,
since the issues are much bigger than a single loss. Fortunately for the Caps,
there is still plenty of season left and time for McPhee and Oates to work
things out. Who knows? Maybe the player
brought in from a potential Erat trade will be the instigator the Caps need,
and one on whom both McPhee and Oates can agree.