The Washington Capitals hired Mitch Love as the first member of new head coach Spencer Carbery’s staff in late June. Love, the reigning two-time AHL coach of the year, departed the Calgary Flames organization and has made his way east to DC.
But, his stay in the nation’s capital could be a short one. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman is already bringing up Love’s name for potential head coaching vacancies come 2024.
The topic of conversation was sparked by Friedman after the recent news of Mike Babcock being ousted in Columbus before coaching a single game. Babcock resigned after he asked players to share photos from their personal phones during one-on-one meetings.
Assistant coach Pascal Vincent has taken over as Columbus’ new head coach and Vincent was seen as a prime candidate to be potentially poached from Columbus next offseason as he has been very close to a head coaching job in the past. With a potential name now likely coming off that list, Friedman says he has turned his attention to Love.
“This also makes me wonder about two-time AHL Coach of the Year Mitch Love,” Friedman writes in his most recent 32 Thoughts column. “Now on Spencer Carbery’s bench in Washington, at least five teams asked to talk to him after Calgary elevated Ryan Huska to the number one spot. Maybe 2024 is The Summer of Love.”
Love was considered a “prized AHL coach” when the Caps plucked him from the AHL. In the past two seasons, he has led the Stockton Heat and Calgary Wranglers to a combined record of 96-33-11. Before his pro success though, Love cut his teeth in the WHL as an assistant coach with the Everett Silvertips for six seasons and as head coach of the Saskatoon Blades for three seasons.
He was also an assistant for Team Canada at two straight World Juniors (2020, 2021) where he helped the team capture a gold and silver medal.
Although his closest past ties to current Caps come in the form of forwards Matthew Phillips (AHL), Connor McMichael (Team Canada), and Riley Sutter (WHL), Love’s primary responsibility with the Caps will be leading the team’s defensemen. He spoke a little about getting that process started in his introductory media availability in June, particularly keying in on young blueliners Rasmus Sandin, Martin Fehervary, and Alex Alexeyev.
“I’ve watched bits and pieces of their game later in the season when I was going through this process to get my bearings under me on the defense there in Washington,” Love started. “They’re young players. Some have played 150 NHL games. In Alexeyev’s case he’s played 33. They’re still young and being a defenseman in pro hockey in the NHL it takes some time and maturing. It’s a tough position.
“We’ll put together a bit of a plan in terms of how we teach, how we work in practice, making sure our habits are in a good spot, and process throughout the year,” he continued. “Once we get together and I get to know them and they get to know me in terms of how we’re going to have that working relationship. I’m excited to watch their growth within the Capitals organization.”
If Love were to only last a short time behind the bench in DC, his journey would continue to closely mirror that of Carbery’s.
Carbery, a former Canadian major junior coach in his own right, turned his own short but very successful head coaching stint in the AHL into an NHL assistant job with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2021. The last coach other than Love to win AHL coach of the year was Carbery for his 2020-21 campaign with the Hershey Bears.
Carbery lasted just two seasons in Toronto before the Caps organization came calling again, this time to replace Peter Laviolette at the highest level. Love seems to be heading down that same path.
Screenshot via Capitals
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