Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan was forced to make a move on the coaching staff earlier than he was intending.
Hours after the Capitals lost their final game of the season, a 5-4 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils, MacLellan met with head coach Peter Laviolette – a day before Breakdown Day.
“I personally wanted to get through meetings with the players and coaches and go back to Ted [Leonsis] and Dick [Patrick] and make some decisions,” MacLellan told the media. “But I ended up meeting with Lavy [Friday], had a conversation, and the conversation went in a certain direction where we both decided we’d make changes.
“I think he’s a good coach,” he continued. “I think he’s a good person. I like working with him. I think we were open. I guess I wanted some time with players and wanted some time with everybody around to get some opinions and kind of go from there.”
In his third and final year with the Capitals, Laviolette led the Caps to their worst full season in 16 years. The team did not win a single playoff series during Laviolette’s tenure and missed the postseason altogether in 2023 as the eighth-worst team in the NHL.
Laviolette amassed a 115-78-27 total record from 2020 through 2023, but the team got worse every year under his watch, seeing its points percentage drop from .688 in his first season in charge to an abysmal .488 this year. Laviolette, who is without a contract for next season, seemingly made the decision for MacLellan.
Now, the Caps find themselves amid a search for a new head coach for the third time since winning the Stanley Cup under Barry Trotz’s guidance in 2018. It’s a process that MacLellan says will start soon but likely will not end until a team hoists the Stanley Cup as the team may want to interview assistant coaches still coaching in the playoffs.
“It’s a day after so we’ll see how it shakes out here,” MacLellan said. “We’ll start looking at names. Talk about with our group different coaches that people know and the 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 here.”
Two names that fit that billing include current Toronto Maple Leafs assistant Spencer Carbery and current Tampa Bay Lightning assistant Jeff Halpern. Carbery, formerly head coach of the Caps’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears, has been rumored to be on the Capitals’ radar to replace Laviolette before there was even an opening to be filled.
Neither Carbery nor former Caps captain Halpern have been head coaches in the NHL before. To hire one of them would be a change in direction that MacLellan says the Caps are more willing to look at now even with a core full of tenured players.
“I think we’re more open,” MacLellan said. “Our group is changing. We’re trying to get younger. It’s going to be different in that you want a coach that can work with young guys and we’re going to have a veteran group at the top that kinda needs a veteran coach. It’s going to be challenging to find the right guy for that.”
That complicated dance is one that MacLellan admits could be served by careful selecting of the new coach’s assistant staff. As things stand, MacLellan has yet to make any moves regarding Laviolette’s assistants Kevin McCarthy, Blaine Forsythe, and Scott Allen.
McCarthy has been a package deal with Laviolette for the better part of 20 years, Forsythe has stuck with the Caps since the 2006-07 season, and Allen is still signed to a multi-year contract.
“I haven’t had an opportunity yet to meet with the assistant coaches,” MacLellan said. “We’ll do it over the next few days. Kind of have the same conversations and make decisions based on that.”
The 2023 offseason figures to be MacLellan’s toughest while in charge of the Capitals. Finding new voices to lead the talent he puts together on the team’s roster could be the most difficult and vital decision he makes.
The last time the Capitals missed the playoffs and fired their head coach (Adam Oates), they hired Trotz and eventually won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. MacLellan will be hoping for a repeat of sorts there.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.