The Washington Capitals have the oldest roster in the NHL this season with an average age of 31 and they’ve also been the most injured. Before the trade deadline, seemingly every time the team could go older it would, playing veterans over prospects like Aliaksei Protas, Connor McMichael, and Alex Alexeyev despite how good at times the kids have looked.
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette has faced criticism from fans for his decision-making with his lineups and some have wondered if that has partially contributed to the team’s poor season.
During an interview on Monday with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant and Danny, general manager Brian MacLellan was asked a difficult question by Grant Paulsen: Is there a disconnect between him and Laviolette in terms of playing the kids?
Grant Paulsen: Maybe this is just the difference between being a GM and then being a head coach, right, because you’re always looking partially toward the big picture and if you’re Laviolette, in the final year of a contract, you’re worried about getting two points tonight. But I have been curious, Mac, if there’s ever a disconnect between you and him roster-wise in this regard. I love when you clear space like you did to create some opportunity. I’m going, right after the Orlov deal, I’m going to see Alexeyev at the game tonight. But then, no disrespect to Irwin or any of the other guys that aren’t high-end prospects, I’m waiting for these first-round picks to get a shot. I understand year-in, year-out, you’re trying to win a Cup, that doesn’t happen, but yet, you’re clearing space but still using some of the older guys rather than… let’s play Protas every single night. Are those conversations you guys have constantly? Are you in on ‘the who gets to play and who doesn’t’ (conversations with Laviolette) as well?
Brian MacLellan: To a certain extent, but I think the coach, that’s his responsibility to put the lines together. I can have input to a certain extent but you have to give him the responsibility of putting the team together, accomplishing what he wants to accomplish: who he wants to use on specialty teams, how he wants to match up against the other teams.
I don’t think it works for a manager to come in and control personnel situations. I can ask, ‘What about this? What about that?’ And then vice versa, you don’t want your coach making personnel situations, who we bring in. You want to keep him informed but there’s a relationship that has to go on between the two and each of them has to do their job.
In a follow-up question, MacLellan was asked if he was comfortable with the ice time the young players were getting and if it was a grey area due to the Capitals still trying to make the postseason and Laviolette being in the final year of his contract.
“It is grey, but I think, last game, Sandin and Alexeyev… two games ago, Alexeyev played the most minutes two games ago and Sandin was our number one defenseman,” MacLellan said. “I think you’re seeing it happen now on the backend. Part of it is injuries to Jensen. It’s happening now more than it has and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
In the same interview, though, MacLellan intimated that the team was likely soon to send down their top defense prospect Vincent Iorio, once again highlighting the real-time contrasts of the team’s direction.
“When we’re winning and competing for a championship, it’s tough to bring young guys in,” MacLellan said of the team’s rationale earlier in the season. “You can’t afford to develop, you can’t afford to help them [through] mistakes. That’s the way it goes when you’re competing for a championship.”
As of Wednesday, March 8, the Capitals have a 5.8 percent of making the postseason according to MoneyPuck.
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