The Capitals will have a new look behind the bench this fall, with Spencer Carbery taking the reins as the franchise’s 20th head coach. Carbery will head a veteran-laden roster — including captain Alex Ovechkin — as they attempt to rebound after missing the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
Ovechkin has stayed in Moscow for the summer but has remained in contact with the the coaching staff in Washington. With training camp less than a month away, Carbery told NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti that Ovechkin is eager to get to work.
“In all the conversations that I’ve had with him, it seems like he’s in a great frame of mind,” he said. “Since being around him a few years ago, it’s like he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s excited, hungry. Everything that he’s talking about is getting back to the playoffs and winning again and what are we doing to get back to being a playoff hockey team.
“You can just feel through the phone and through our conversations his energy and excitement and enthusiasm. I’m just looking forward to getting to work with him this year and getting camp rolling because you can just tell how excited he is about it.”
Ovechkin gave his first public comments about the hiring earlier this month, presenting a similarly positive outlook on his contact with Carberry.
“We already knew him, we have a great relationship,” Ovechkin said. “I was happy with this appointment, because he knows me, many of the guys in the club who had previously played in Hershey. I don’t think there should be any problems.”
Carbery has also been in touch with several other Capitals players, including Evgeny Kuznetsov, Anthony Mantha, and Nicklas Backstrom. More than a year after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery, Backstrom shares Ovechkin’s enthusiasm for the season to come.
“He’s excited,” Carbery said. “Another guy that is really, really hungry and lots to prove and his summer of training, I think having the extra time but also being able to fully recover from his surgery and now being able to prepare for a season and a training camp, having a full offseason to do that, I think he’s excited and it’s been going well for him.”
Carbery’s arrival comes after a difficult season for the Capitals, but also amidst a historic period in the Great Eight’s career. Coming into the 2022-23 season, Ovechkin sits just 73 goals away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals. Ovechkin himself has remained demure when discussing the record and has stated on multiple occasions that his focus is on winning another Stanley Cup. Carbery’s impression of the Capitals captain similarly reflects a focus on team success over individual milestones.
In mid-August, Ovechkin noted he still wasn’t certain whether he would be able to reach Gretzky’s total.
“Of course, I would like to do this, he said, translated by Google Translate. “I once said that it is unrealistic. I still doubt that this is possible, but I will do my best to get close to this figure. Gretzky sincerely believes in me and expects this to happen. I think all the fans want it because it’s history. To be in this race is worth a lot.”
Though Ovechkin has often been self-effacing about his pursuit of the record, Carbery has noted the significance of the milestone and his role from behind the bench.
“It’s a huge responsibility for me as a head coach,” Carbery said shortly after being hired. “I’ve watched and seen his greatness up close indirectly. It’s my job as a head coach to put him in situations where he can be successful and that’s what my challenge is and I don’t take that lightly at all. That’ll work into how we play as a group. One of my focuses is how we put him in situations to succeed.”
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
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