MacLellan Seeking Youth, Veteran Balance In Capitals’ Next Head Coach
The Washington Capitals’ head coaching job became vacant three weeks ago, the result of the team’s first spring sitting at home in nine years.
Two winning seasons in three years wasn’t enough to save Peter Laviolette, who helmed the squad that went on to finish sixth in the Metropolitan Division with a 35-37-10 record. Laviolette and the Capitals mutually parted ways the day after the regular season, leaving general manager Brian MacLellan with time to leave no stone unturned.
“We’ll see how it shakes out here,” general manager Brian MacLellan said last month following the end of the regular season. “We’ll start looking at names and, with our group, talk about different coaches that people know and traits they have. Maybe we have to wait to talk to some assistant coaches that we think are candidates. We’ll see how it goes.”
On paper, the Capitals’ job should be one of the best available in the offseason’s coaching carousel. The presence of Alex Ovechkin, despite suiting up at 37 years old this fall, makes the team an instant threat in the Metropolitan Division — a factor only bolstered by the fact that John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom, and Tom Wilson have a whole offseason to rebound from injury-riddled seasons.
But one of the league’s oldest teams still stands to be a year older come the season’s first puck drop unless home-grown prospects like Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre can force their way onto the big league roster.
“It’s going to be different in that you want a coach that can work with young guys, and we’re gonna have a veteran group at the top that kind of needs a veteran coach,” MacLellan said. “It’s going to be challenging to find the right guy for that.”
Little about the Capitals’ behind-the-scenes efforts has become public knowledge, excluding the emergence of a familiar candidate in Jeff Halpern, a Capital for part of his playing career who is expected to speak with the team’s brass about the vacancy, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
MacLellan knows what he’s looking for in a head coach, but the real test is whether the perfect candidate is available this offseason.
“Probably a combination of what we’ve had would be the ideal candidate,” MacLellan said. “I don’t know that we can find it, but we’ll do the best we can.”