The Washington Capitals parted ways with head coach Peter Laviolette and assistants Blaine Forsythe and Kevin McCarthy in April after the team had put together their worst full, 82-game season in 16 years.
The Caps then hired former Hershey Bears bench boss Spencer Carbery in late May but held off on filling out the rest of Carbery’s staff until later in the offseason.
That process was finally completed in July when both Kirk Muller and Kenny McCudden were brought on as assistants to go along with Mitch Love’s hiring the month prior.
General manager Brian MacLellan oversaw that undertaking and had his first chance to comment on the full staff’s composition when he met with reporters on Monday to discuss Tom Wilson’s recent long-term extension.
“We were excited to get Mitch Love and Spencer [Carbery] signed,” MacLellan said. “Two really good, young coaches that are going to be successful in the league for a long time.”
Carbery signed his four-year deal on May 30 after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Prior to jumping to the NHL level, Carbery served as head coach of the Bears for three seasons. He also spent five seasons as head coach and director of hockey operations for the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, one season as head coach of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, and one season as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Providence Bruins.
Love was brought in on June 22 after spending the previous two seasons as the head coach of the Calgary Flames’ AHL affiliate. He became just the third coach in AHL history to win back-to-back coach of the year awards and the first to do so in his first two seasons in the league. Prior to joining the Flames organization, Love was head coach of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades for three years and also previously served as an assistant coach with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips for seven seasons from 2011-18.
While that level of experience and records of success both men have in the hockey coaching world is impressive, they have combined for just two years in the NHL. Due to that, filling out the rest of Carbery’s staff with more NHL-experienced names was something the Caps sought to do and successfully did.
“Talking with Spencer, both of us thought it was important that we got an experienced guy in to help him out,” MacLellan said. “Kirk [Muller] brings a lot of that stuff. He has great experience as a player, great experience as an assistant coach, he’s been a head coach, and he’s got a reputation of working well with the other coaches. We thought it was a perfect fit. He’s done some power play with teams. So, I think it was important to get that experience in for Spencer to have someone to lean on and Mitch to have someone to lean on.”
Muller, who has run power plays in the league for the last nine seasons with the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, and St. Louis Blues, provides that experience in spades. Muller has been a coach in the NHL for the last 17 yeasr after wrapping up a 19-year playing career. Two of his past stints as a pro coach have been in the role of head coach. He spent 17 games as the Milwaukee Admirals bench boss in the AHL before being brought on as the Carolina Hurricanes’ head coach for three seasons starting in 2011.
Alongside Muller will be Kenny McCudden, who has spent the past two decades as a pro skills coach. McCudden’s spent eight seasons working with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Before that he served as an instructor at development camps for several NHL teams and was the skating and skills coach for the United States Women’s National Team from 2011 to 2014.
“Another experienced guy, high energy guy that brings a lot of excitement and a lot of passion to the game,” MacLellan said. “I think it will be good for our coaching staff and for our players to have him around.”
An added bonus is that the new names almost all happen to have past connections to current players either on the Capitals roster or in the organization. Carbery has extensive ties to many of the younger players due to his time in Hershey; Love has coached AHL-standout Matthew Phillips for the past two years; Muller has spent time with forwards Dylan Strome and Anthony Mantha with Team Canada; and McCudden crossed paths with Sonny Milano in Columbus for multiple years.
The new additions will join assistant Scott Allen, goaltending coach Scott Murray, assistant coach/video Brett Leonhardt, and video coordinator Emily Engel-Natzke who remain in DC from last season. MacLellan believes this staff should set them up well for the future.
“I think we rounded it out really well at the end of the offseason,” MacLellan said. “Excited to see how it gels together at the beginning of the year.”
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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