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Capitals Head Coach Search ‘Just Beginning,’ MacLellan Says



Capitals coach Peter Laviolette
The Washington Capitals and head coach Peter Laviolette mutually parted ways shortly after the end of the regular season, leaving the job vacant. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The head coach’s office has sat empty for nearly a month, but the search for the Washington Capitals’ new leader behind the bench has barely gotten off the ground.

“We’re just beginning,” general manager Brian MacLellan told NBC Sports Washington Monday. “There’s a lot of teams still playing, there’s a lot of guys we want to talk to, so we’ll monitor the playoffs, see what happens in the playoffs.”

The Capitals and Peter Laviolette mutually parted ways the day after the regular season following the team’s first missed playoff berth since 2014. Two winning seasons were not enough to save Laviolette’s job, with MacLellan opting for an approach that the winningest American-born head coach did not possess.

“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 on breakdown day. “It’s going to be challenging to find the right guy for that.”

To date, only Tampa Bay Lightning assistant Jeff Halpern has been publicly linked to the vacancy. A native of the DMV, Halpern spent seven seasons in the nation’s capital before his playing career ended in 2014. 

Halpern, 47, touts five years of NHL coaching experience as well as two seasons as an AHL assistant. The Lightning have won two Stanley Cups in the time that he’s been on the coaching staff, but a disappointing first round playoff loss last month allows him to be the first potential candidate in the door.

MacLellan’s comments allude to an interest in speaking with assistants on current playoff teams. Spencer Carbery, a former Hershey Bears head coach and current second-year assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been a widely speculated name due to his ties to the organization, but likely would not interview about the Capitals’ head coaching position until the Maple Leafs’ season comes to a close.

Another coach whose team is still on the ice is current Hershey Bears head coach Todd Nelson, who’s in his first season at the helm of the Capitals’ AHL affiliate. He’s spent six seasons as an NHL assistant — plus 51 games as the Edmonton Oilers interim head coach in 2014-15 — in addition to eight seasons as an AHL head coach for three different teams.

Toronto, currently down 3-0 to the Florida Panthers in the second round, hits the ice for Game 4 on Wednesday. Hershey opens the five-game Atlantic Division Finals in the AHL playoffs on Thursday. Neither league’s playoff bracket will come to a complete end until late June, setting a potential time frame for when there may be a little more movement around the Capitals’ head coaching vacancy.

“We have targeted a few guys and we’ll bring them in, we’ll talk to them and then we’ll kind of go from there, make a plan from there,” MacLellan said.

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