Welcome to our Friday 6-Pack of Questions, where, every few weeks during the offseason, we aim to keep it real while answering your most pressing questions regarding the Washington Capitals.
Let’s get started.
@martiroffff What's your opinion on [Barry] Trotz vs. [Peter] Laviolette? Who would you choose to be our next coach?
Great question. Two very different personalities and I don’t think you can go wrong with either one. As of now the Caps, Canucks, Panthers and Predators are without head coaches and that number will increase if the Sharks decided to part with Todd McLellan following their first-round collapse against the Kings, and the Blues dismiss Ken Hitchcock after they blew a 2-0 series lead to Chicago. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Wild coach Mike Yeo are also on the hot seat entering their second-round playoff series. Trotz, 51, had an interesting interview with Josh Cooper of The [Nashville] Tennessean, in which he said he will not begin interviewing for coaching jobs until mid-May. He also said Predators GM David Poile told him a handful of NHL teams already have asked permission to speak with Trotz, whose contract with Nashville expires June 30. Trotz commands a great deal of respect around the NHL and many believe his no-nonsense approach and defensive structure would be a perfect fit for the Capitals. Laviolette, 49, is also all-business and is not afraid to bench star players for poor performances. The difference is that Laviolette likes to play a more aggressive style and he may rub players the wrong way after two or three seasons of in-your-face, pedal-to-the-metal coaching methods. Honestly, I would take either coach, but Trotz would be my first pick.
@HockeyShrader8 Who do you see [Ted] Leonsis hiring as our new GM and HC? And will the Caps fix their issues to be a playoff team again?
I’ll address the second part of this question farther down in this story. Trust me when I tell you this will be an exhaustive search that will include as many as 10 different potential general managers speaking with Leonsis and Dick Patrick, either by phone or in person. Here is the dilemma and it’s a big one: What if the Caps’ No. 1 coaching choice is Trotz and their No. 1 general manager’s choice is Boston assistant GM Jim Benning, and one has no interest in working with the other? I’ve been told the Bruins will not grant teams permission to speak with Benning until the Bruins are out of the playoffs and that might not be until mid-June. Nearly every potential general manager the Caps speak with will want the authority to hire his own coach. If the Caps’ ownership team pulls a power play and hires a coach before a GM, as they did in 1997 when Ron Wilson was hired before George McPhee, are they setting themselves up for a power struggle between the two? The Caps could get this done by the end of May if Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton and Trotz were their top choices for general manager and coach and both agreed to come to Washington. A GM-coaching combination of Ron Hextall [Flyers] and John Stevens [Kings] or Laviolette also seems logical, as does a Tampa GM-coach combo of Julien BriseBois and Guy Boucher. Right now, it’s too soon to know which way the Caps are leaning, but it’s clear their list of candidates is a long one.
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@i_bern_em Does [Wayne] Gretzky land an office spot on this team?
I’ve been hearing Gretzky’s name a lot lately and it would not surprise me if Leonsis reaches out to the Great One, who has not been in NHL management since 2009. If you recall, Gretzky sat with Leonsis in his luxury box for a Nov. 22 game at VerizonCenter this season, sparking rumors he might be interested in becoming team president, which has become a new trend in the NHL, illustrated by the recent hirings of Trevor Linden in Vancouver and Brendan Shanahan in Toronto. In that role, the team president hires a general manager, but has the final say in all trades and player transactions. Gretzky’s track record with the Phoenix Coyotes was not a great one [unintentional pun]. The Coyotes reached the playoffs just once during his nine years as President of Hockey Operations, and as their head coach from 2005-09 the Coyotes failed to reach the post-season.
@HyngveHusdal Do you have a personal favorite for GM?
Every time I ask the question to other NHL personnel, Jim Benning’s name comes up first and that’s because the Bruins are considered one of the best-run organizations in the NHL. But I’m also told Benning is perfectly comfortable staying in Boston and the opportunity would have to be a perfect one for him to move. I have a great deal of respect for Hextall’s hockey knowledge and believe he’s ready to be a general manager in the NHL. But there are rumblings that a restructuring could take place in Philadelphia, with Paul Holmgren getting bumped up to president and Hextall replacing him as GM. Could the Capitals go the former Flyers route by hiring Dave Poulin [now in Toronto] as president, Hextall as general manager and John Stevens or Laviolette as head coach? Yes. Just not sure how that would fly [another unintentional pun] with their fan base.
@DCSportsFan85_ If you were the new GM how would the 14-15 Caps opening night roster look? (Reasonable trades, UFA, buy outs, prospects etc.)?
Wouldn’t we all like to be GM for a summer? While there are whispers a new GM would want the authority to trade Alex Ovechkin I’m guessing that’s a non-starter, at least this summer. So, assuming Ovechkin is on my roster, I would then need to decide if he’s my top-line right wing or left wing, which would mean a long discussion with my new coach. Since the Caps are deep on the right side and lack depth on the left, I’d consider moving Ovi back to left wing. Even with Ovechkin, the Caps need a culture change, so I’d start by gauging interest in defenseman Mike Green, who has one year and $6.1 million remaining on his three-year contract. The new GM in Vancouver is also looking to make changes and if there’s a way to land center Ryan Kesler [two years, $10 million] and defenseman Kevin Bieksa [two years, $9.2 million] or Dan Hamhuis [two years, $9 million] I’d try to get creative. If that means putting together a package that includes Green and possibly Troy Brouwer and/or Marcus Johansson and/or draft picks, I would consider it. The Sharks and Blues might also be looking at making major roster changes. Defenseman Dan Boyle will be a free agent on July 1. Am I willing to trade for Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester [five years, $27 million]? Probably not. But I’d certainly ask about defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk [three years, $12.75 million]. Veteran defensemen Andrei Markov and Brooks Orpik will also be free agents. Having a big-name coach or GM in place before the draft would accelerate the culture change and could attract free agents to come to Washington on July 1. As for buyouts, Green would be a consideration if there was no interest around the NHL, but I would need some assurances I could improve the depth on the back end before buying him out. Brooks Laich [three years, $13.5 million] would need to pass a physical to become a buyout candidate and I would certainly ask him to take one following the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final. He and Green would be my only two buyout options. As for prospects, I’d give a long look to Andre Burakovsky during training camp, with the intention of giving him second-line responsibilities, possibly with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. There have been promising reports on defenseman Madison Bowey and I’d like to see him in a few preseason games, but promoting him to the NHL at 19 might be a mistake. In a future post we’ll break down potential forward line and defense combinations.
@pthompsonktown Do you think [Braden] Holtby will go back to his original style of goaltending with Oates out of the picture now?
@wbhenry2010 Will [Olie] Kolzig be gone as goalie coach?
@ICEMANVA Is Holtby the clear number one goalie going into next year?
A new coach and GM means a clean slate for Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. It could also mean a new No. 1 goalie and a new goalie coach in Washington. After all of those post-season interviews it seemed apparent there was a difference in philosophy between the way Adam Oates and Kolzig wanted the Caps’ goalies to play and the results were disastrous. That said, I would not be surprised if Kolzig retains his position as goalie coach and works to accentuate the natural talents of his two young goalies. I still believe Holtby has the tools and the mental makeup to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL and I like what I saw from Grubauer this season. With that in mind I’d have no trouble going into next season with Holtby as my No. 1 and Grubauer as my backup. A new GM may feel differently and decide this team needs a new look between the pipes. But the Caps have been down that road far too many times in the past six years.