Spencer Carbery will oppose his former boss in a homecoming game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuesday.
After first transitioning from a player into a coach in the Washington Capitals’ organization in 2010, Carbery got his first taste of coaching in the NHL as an assistant coach on Sheldon Keefe’s staff in 2021. Carbery spent two seasons with Toronto, leading the team’s top tier power play and its forwards.
Carbery was all smiles when speaking about his previous experience on Monday, but admitted to the media that he hoped his prior years in the Canadian hockey mecca would give the Capitals an advantage — albeit small — in tonight’s game. But it’s what Carbery learned from Keefe, especially the creative ideas to try and find an advantage in games, that helps inform who he is as coach.
Carbery’s comments about his time in Toronto are presented fully below in Q/A format.
What are your feelings coming into the game?
Spencer Carbery: “Important hockey game against a really good hockey team. Excited to see some familiar faces and a lot of positive memories over the last couple years, a lot of built relationships over there. I’m sure once the puck drops, it’s business. They obviously have a real talented team and we have our hands full. It’s an important time in our season to try and get some momentum. Looking forward to the challenge.”
Do coaches ever put money on the board?
Spencer Carbery: “We’re not allowed to express that.” [laughing]
What did you learn as an assistant coach under Sheldon Keefe?
Spencer Carbery: “I learned a ton from the organization, number one, as a whole. Kyle, Brendan, all the different areas. Took a ton from my experience there, but Sheldon specifically, a lot of the ways he sees the game and some stuff from a standpoint of the way you play and certain things to look for, I learned a ton: bench management – there’s some unique things he does. I’m a little different than some other coaches and picked some of those up. I could name 100 different things that I still think about to this day that I’ve incorporated into my coaching style that I learned from him.”
Can you give us an example of the bench management?
Spencer Carbery: “You guys see it a lot. He’s a good in-game manager of picking spots where you can put Auston, Mitch, Will together and using John in different situations. Multiple centers out on the ice at the same time. Being creative with, you guys probably remember this, I think he does it every year because it was Will playing the middle and Mitch Marner was playing on defense last year in Training Camp, little things like that. [Editor’s note: Carbery had TJ Oshie skate as a defenseman during one Training Camp session.] Maybe you use it, maybe you don’t, but you’re always trying to push the envelop to find ways to — at the end of the day — he’s trying to gain an advantage for his hockey team and that’s for head coaches, that’s what you’re trying to do. You could roll out all your lines and that’s our responsibility, but you can also find little ways to create advantages in a 60-minute game. He’s as good as anybody at doing that and there’s ways we can do that besides calling out line 2, line 4, to try and create those advantages.”
Speaking of things you brought over from Toronto, they had like a half-dozen skill coaches in Toronto.
Spencer Carbery: “We’ve got Kenny McCudden!”
What can he do in the twenty minutes before practice to help players?
Spencer Carbery: “He can do a ton. I’ve talked about that a lot learning about it first hand the last couple years in Toronto. With focusing on individual parts of players’ games and the impact they can have whether that’s skating with Justin Holl or that’s John Tavares’ touches down low, whether that’s Auston Matthews attacking on the rush. Them being able to get those touches and focus on that specific area of their game only better prepares them for that night to play but also they are continually building good habits, good touches, where sometimes you don’t get that in practices. There’s 35 minutes. You do special teams, a couple line rushes, and you don’t get that. That’s what Kenny brings.”
There is a lot of media coverage in Toronto. How do you think that helped you as a coach for the Capitals?
Spencer Carbery: “Helped me a ton. Just being able to be in that environment… from a media perspective and all the different things that you need to be prepared for as a head coach, that was really really helpful. Than the pressure. I loved that part of it. But you knew that if the power play struggled, you were going to hear about it behind the scenes. But that’s good. That’s pressure and being in that environment, nothing prepares you or gives you more preparation for moments and opportunities like this.”
Will your familiarity with the Leafs give the Capitals any sort of advantage tonight?
Spencer Carbery: “I’d like to think so. I don’t think we have any type of advantage other than teams are so heavily pre-scouted now that essentially each game you go into, you know what teams’ identity and what they’re trying to do systematically – what they play in the neutral zone, their D-zone coverage – all that stuff. It’s now taking advantage of their D-zone coverage, and what neutral zone they play in, and how we can find ways to exploit it. Yeah, it might have saved us a little time on the amount of film we had to dive into in Toronto knowing how they play and the different systems specifically how they play in all three zones. At the end of the day, to gain an upper hand we’ve got to exploit what we know and that’s the challenge every night.”
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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