Twelve years ago, when Spencer Carbery received his first professional head coaching job with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, a future stint leading the Washington Capitals wasn’t on his radar.
No, only two years removed from his minor league playing career, Carbery’s day-to-day centered on further developing his coaching acumen, often a process of baby steps. But after various stops in small cities around North America, Carbery is now being handed the keys to one of the world’s best hockey teams in one of the world’s most powerful cities.
Carbery, flanked by Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan, was introduced as the team’s head coach Thursday, putting an end to a seven-week search for Washington’s next bench boss.
“As I went through the process with my family, this has always felt right for me — this organization, the people I have relationships with, the way they treat players, the players they value,” Carbery said. “So as I went through it, everything kept drawing me to this organization and to Brian and hopefully getting an opportunity to be the head coach here.”
At 41-years old, Carbery comes to Washington fresh off a two-year stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs — his first at the NHL level. Tasked with overseeing the team’s power play, Carbery turned the unit into one of the league’s best since taking over in 2021.
After the Capitals parted ways with head coach Peter Laviolette in April, Carbery’s resume placed him at the top of the team’s list from Day 1, according to MacLellan. Also in Carbery’s favor was his relationships within the Capitals organization, having spent five seasons as the Stingrays head coach before a three-year stint with the AHL’s Hershey Bears from 2018-21.
“Spencer’s experience in Toronto dealing with established, highly-skilled players running a high-end power play,” MacLellan said. “I think that level of relationship, that level of communication I think it’s a skill that he’s learned over the last two years and I think it’s applicable to what’s going on with us. We’ll have the same type of players and I think he’s had experience doing that. In the end, I think he’s a blend of having a strong background in development and being able to coach high-end players too, so it’s a good fit.”
Carbery meets the Capitals in a transitional period. With an aging roster, MacLellan has harped on the need to add youth to the roster — but not at the expense of fully closing the team’s Stanley Cup window.
“It’s our job as a coaching staff to come in and help these young players get caught up to speed as quickly as possible,” Carbery said, “[but] it’s also the responsibility of our leadership group. They have a big part in how can we get these young players ready to play and playing in a winning culture, and that’s what I will specifically be on our leadership group a lot and challenge them to do a good job in that department.”