Say this about Capitals assistant coach Blaine Forsythe: the guy has some serious staying power.
In his eight seasons employed by the Caps as a video coach, amateur scout and assistant coach, Forsythe has survived the purgings of head coaches Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau, Dale Hunter and Adam Oates, along with the firing of general manager George McPhee.
The math doesn’t add up but that’s like having nine lives in eight years.
With a new coaching regime of Barry Trotz, Lane Lambert, Todd Reirden and Mitch Korn, Forsythe brings a unique perspective behind the Capitals bench. He has literally seen it all, from the rise of Alex Ovechkin and the Caps’ dominant run to a Presidents’ Trophy in 2009-10 to having a seven-year playoff run ended with a ninth-place finish last season.
So, what are Forsythe’s thoughts on what needs to change?
“I’ll echo what Barry has said all along, and I agree,” he said. “The team has to become a team again.
“We’ve had flashes of that. Obviously, we all want to win. All the players in there want to win. We might have gone down some paths we didn’t want to the past couple years. But the biggest thing is to get everyone on the same page again.
“We have great people in this organization. We have great players, great personalities and we just need to refocus and get our goals back to where we want to be and having a guy like Barry will help us do that.”
Trotz arrives in Washington after 17 years as head coach of the Nashville Predators, a team he led to the playoffs in seven of eight seasons before finishing 14th in the Western Conference in 2012-13 and 10th last season.
“He’s been around and has seen a lot of different situations,” Forsythe said. “I think he’s got a real strong pulse on this team coming in.
“He’s done his homework. He sees what the issues are as far as building a winning team. Based on my experience being around the team, I can help him out with giving him some ins and outs with some personalities. But he’s got a real strong feel for this team already.”
A native of Calgary, Forsythe played Division II hockey with the University of Minnesota-Crookston before taking a job with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western League in 1998. In eight seasons with the Hitmen, Forsythe served as an assistant general manager and assistant coach.
He was hired by the Caps as a video coach prior to the 2006-07 season and served as an amateur scout for one season before returning as video coach in 2009-10, working from the press box under Boudreau.
When assistant coach Tim Hunter left the Capitals following Adam Oates’ first season behind the bench, Forsythe moved down to the bench, where he helped direct the Caps’ power play to a No. 1 ranking in the NHL last season [tied with Pittsburgh at 23.4 percent].
Forsythe will remain on the bench under Trotz next season, giving the Caps four coaches – Trotz, Lambert, Reirden and Forsythe – at ice level
“Being down there you get a better feel for the game and for me personally, having that instant communication on the power play with guys rather than wait between periods to talk about situations,” Forsythe said. “Having the ability to go to Nick Backstron and say, ‘Did you see that stick there?’ Just having the ability to do that I think helped us create more offense than we did two years ago.”
Forsythe and Reirden will exchange ideas on what worked for the Capitals and Penguins on their respective power plays last season and apply them to the skill sets of the Capitals’ personnel. He’ll also focus on what he calls “the game within the game,” charting battle drills and using them as teaching tools the next day at practice.
Forsythe said he’s confident Trotz will provide the stability the Capitals have been seeking in their head coach’s office and said it won’t take long for the players to respond.
“Having Barry’s experience will make it a real easy transition, just because Barry’s communication skills are fantastic,” he said. “Everyone here is used to change, unfortunately, in the last few years. Barry is a great communicator and coming into camp everyone is going to be on the same page.”