When the Capitals acquired former 20-goal scorer Martin Erat from the Nashville Predators in 2013, General Manager George McPhee felt that he was adding a top-six forward. Head coach Adam Oates thought otherwise, using Erat primarily on his fourth line and even sitting the veteran as a healthy scratch.
A year later, McPhee acquired Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks, another 20-goal scorer who he viewed as a possible fit among Washington’s top six. Once again, Oates saw the acquisition as little more than a depth forward who would skate limited minutes on the fourth line.
To suggest that GM and head coach were not always on the same page would be generous. At times, they didn’t even seem to be reading from the same chapter.
Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis says that will change under GM Brian MacLellan and head coach Barry Trotz.
“You need to be totally in sync,” Leonsis said of his message to the team’s new administration. “With the players that we sign, the players that we draft, you have to be in total sync. So far, so good on that. I think that's a good move in a positive direction to have the organization all signing from the same songbook.”
Leonsis was also complimentary of the staff that Trotz has assembled in Washington, noting that they already appear to share the same vision and approach in how to build the team.
When the owner gave management the green light to spend to the salary cap and to bolster the club’s blue line and goaltending, MacLellan and Trotz sought the advice of their assistant coaches as well.
“It's wonderful to have coaches join us who have experience in the League,” Leonsis said. “That's a little different than what we had previously in that the assistant coaches or the coaches behind the bench have worked in the League and know the players.”
In the case of assistant coach Todd Reirden, who spent four years as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins, there was plenty of familiarity with former Penguins defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Both signed long-term deals with the Caps on July 1.
“Defensively, bringing in these two free agents, there was total alignment from the assistant coaches and the head coach and the general manager,” Leonsis said. “They're all excited that we were able to execute that."
COMMUNICATION THROUGHOUT ORGANIZATION:
While better communication at the administrative level is has been a point of emphasis this offseason, Trotz wants to assure strong dialogue exists throughout the organization.
Upon meeting Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann last weekend, Trotz instituted a “48-hour rule,” mandating that the two remain in constant communication during the regular-season.
Trotz says that dialogue will continue over the next few weeks as his staff reaches out to all of the players they expect to work with in Washington.
“I’ve got a laundry list for all our coaches to call each player to introduce themselves to all the players and get a feel,” Trotz said. “Obviously we’re starting with Todd Reirden, who’s going to call all the defensemen, then Lane Lambert and Blaine Forsythe are in charge with the forwards, and obviously Mitch Korn and Olie Kolzig are in charge of the goaltending, and I’m going to phone them all.”
Trotz also said that he plans to visit Calgary this summer to meet with Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle and Mike Green and also hopes to identify and speak with the club’s “leadership group” about his plans moving forward.
“When you have an organization and I say there’s good communication horizontally and vertically in the organization, I think everybody understands the plan and buys in when you know what’s going on.”