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McPhee's moves have set Caps up for another run

by Brian Compton
George McPhee has dealt with plenty of disappointment as General Manager of the Washington Capitals.

It was less than one year ago when the Caps were ousted in the opening round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs after racking up 54 wins and 121 points during the regular season. But Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens managed to eliminate Washington in what was a wild seven-game series.

But after a rocky first half of this season, McPhee's Caps have found their way. Under the guidance of coach Bruce Boudreau, Washington -- which received some late-season help from the likes of Jason Arnott thanks to McPhee's diligence -- once again enters the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

It's for those reasons and more why McPhee is's choice to win GM of the Year honors for the 2010-11 season. McPhee, who also landed Marco Sturm and Dennis Wideman late in the season, has arguably given Boudreau even more to work with than the components the latter had a season ago. The Caps' coach certainly believes so, anyway.

"I think we're more compact and we've got better parts right now," Boudreau said. "As good as we were last year, team-wise we're a little better. I think it is because we're a little older and we've got guys who have gone through the battles. It is going to be interesting to see how this all works out."


Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Hall of Fame center added pieces before and during the season to help the Bolts return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four years.

While they just came up short in their bid to have home-ice advantage in the opening round, the Lightning ended up finishing fifth in the East with 46 wins and 103 points. Without a doubt, Yzerman's vision to hire first-year coach Guy Boucher was the right move, as the 39-year-old has most believing he'll be Yzerman's right-hand man for a long time.

"It's a long-term plan," owner Jeff Vinik recently told the St. Petersburg Times. "We're very excited to be in the playoffs this year. It's great, but we put this team in place to fight for many years to come. So hopefully, this is one step on the way to being the world-class team we've talked about."

Ray Shero, Pittsburgh Penguins -- It can't be easy to overcome the loss of players as talented as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the depth Shero has provided the Penguins basically allowed the team to never miss a beat.

Crosby still leads the Pens in scoring despite not having played since Jan. 5. But Pittsburgh managed to rack up 44 points over 35 games without Crosby and Malkin. Shero's ability to recall players from the American Hockey League such as Dustin Jeffrey, and his deadline deal combined with the deal that brought James Neal and Matt Niskanen from the Dallas Stars has allowed the Pens to not only remain competitive, but flourish.

Shero, though, believes it's the job Dan Bylsma has done behind the bench this season as to why Pittsburgh has been able to remain successful.

"Guys come in, guys come out, and that's the beauty of a real good coach," Shero said. "You play a certain style no matter who's in the lineup. Guys have asked if you've changed your style without (Crosby and Malkin), but we haven't. We're still playing the same way -- good penalty kill, good goaltending. It's nice to see."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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