GM George McPhee has been a busy guy in the last couple of weeks.

In:  Mattias Sjogren, Troy Brouwer, Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik and Tomas Vokoun.

Out:  Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon, Semyon Varlamov, Tyler Sloan and Eric Fehr.  In addition to Tomas Fleischmann and David Steckel last season.  So far.

That's a quarter of the team's active roster juggled since McPhee re-upped Brooks Laich to his brand new six-year deal.  It's quite a remarkable roster de-construction for a team that has been the class of the Eastern Conference, at least in the regular season, the last two seasons.

The changes, and the type of players being brought in, signify that McPhee identified some significant deficiencies in his roster.  Those deficiencies were obvious.  And it's nothing mystical like "leadership" or "presence".  It had everything to do with the toughness of the players on the roster. And I'm not talking about the willingness to play hard or drop the gloves.

For the last couple of seasons, the Caps have been routinely outmuscled; on the boards, behind the nets, in the crease.  They've been built on finesse, and as such their speed and skill have been one of their biggest strengths.  Teams across the Southeast Division couldn't keep up with the Caps and most adapted and changed themselves to a more offensive, speed-oriented game.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  But that nagging problem of muscle lingered.

It's most evident, obviously, against the more physical teams, and in the playoffs when the ice sheet shrinks.  The Flyers. The Penguins. The Bruins.  The Canadiens.  These are teams that traditionally have built their schemes around winning individual physical battles along the boards and doing the dirty work around the goals.  Look at a shot chart from Sidney Crosby one time.  You'll see most of his shots come from 15 feet in.  Then look at a shot chart from the Caps.  It's a stark difference.

A matter of style, of course.  Bruce Boudreau has always played a wide-open, offense-first system.  But when things bogged down last season, starting the first week of December, for the first time in his coaching career Boudreau pulled back the reigns.  He stressed responsibility. He eased up on the three-man forecheck. He employed (GASP) the trap!

His players took to the changes, but they weren't a good fit. It was like asking a thoroughbred to pull a plow.  The players on last year's team were talented enough athletes to adapt to the new systems, but it wasn't who they are.  Or I should say, who they were.

McPhee and Boudreau obviously like the hybrid systems they ran after the first of the year, when they had so much success, moving from the doldrums of December and early January to the top of the conference.  But with time to assess and contemplate, they decided that didn't have the right players to put into those systems.

Enter the "Stealth GM".

McPhee really surprised no one by locking up Laich.  He would have been one of the most sought after free agents had McPhee let him get there: a talented, hard working two-way player that can play any forward position on any line and any situation without being a liability.  He could even play D for you in a pinch if you needed it.  Laich's versatility -- beyond even his skill or work ethic -- is his biggest asset.

McPhee brought in Swedish forward Sjogren, who in his own words said "I like to hit."  Joel Ward was second among forwards in blocked shots and fourth in hits for a gritty Nashville team last season.  Hamrlik is a veteran two-way defenseman.  Halpern is a face-off and penalty kill specialist that isn't a liability in the offensive end.

And Brouwer is physical (fifth in hits in 2010-11), has a mean streak (11 fights last season), and 39 combined goals in the last two seasons.  And has his name on the Cup.

The kicker is Vokoun, the 35-year old goalie that eschewed longer contracts to sign a one-year deal for a mere pittance to come play in D.C.

All are veteran players that will add strength, muscle, physicality to a team that for the last couple of seasons had acquired a well-earned reputation as a "finesse" team.  There is no more damning description for a hockey team than that, and McPhee went out of his way and spent a lot of Ted Leonsis' money to change that.

Let your mind wander and imagine for a moment a third line of Brouwer-Laich-Ward and a fourth line of Chimera-Halpern-Hendricks. That's toughness right there. Just picture those six wearing down opponents top lines all night.

The Capitals now have a pretty impressive blend of thoroughbreds and plow-horses.  Let's see how well this formula works come April 2012.