During his news conference announcing the firing of general manager George McPhee and head coach Adam Oates, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis noted the Caps were one of only five NHL teams that came into this season having reached the playoffs in six straight seasons.
The others were the Detroit Red Wings [22 years], San Jose Sharks [nine years], Pittsburgh Penguins [seven years] and Boston Bruins [six years]. All four of those teams kept their playoff streaks alive this season and the Capitals likely will be looking to steal some of their magic.
“All of us have to reconnect to that one goal and that’s what we’re hoping, to get a fresh set of eyes and a new voice,” Leonsis said.
“This is a great situation for an executive coming into. It’s a great, great city. It’s a great, great fan base. We have an incredible amount of talent. We have a lot of young talent in the pipeline and I’m sure we’re going to be able to find an individual who has a plan and can work with the organization to get us to where we want to be.”
The list of potential general manager candidates is a long one, albeit a little short on experience at the head level.
Jim Benning, the 50-year-old assistant general manager of the Bruins, appears to be at the top of everyone’s list. He was believed to be the first in line for the general manager’s job in Buffalo, but when he reportedly insisted on hiring his own head coach the job was instead offered to Tim Murray, who retained Ted Nolan behind the bench.
Tim Burke, 55, is the Director of Scouting with the Sharks, and is considered one of the best talent evaluators in the NHL. But when a talent evaluator takes on the role of general manager he often relinquishes those scouting duties to a scouting director such as the Capitals’ Ross Mahoney. Also, some wonder if Burke has the personality to handle the multi-faceted responsibilities of being a general manager.
Ron Hextall, 49, left the Flyers to become the assistant general manager in Los Angeles, where he helped lead the Kings win the Stanley Cup in 2012. He returned to Philadelphia as an assistant to general manager to Paul Holmgren, but unless Holmgren is ready to move upstairs as team president Hextall may be interested in filling the opening in Washington.
Capitals president Dick Patrick said the interview process, which could also include Julien BriseBois from Tampa, Paul Fenton from Nashville, Brad Treveling from Phoenix, and Dave Poulin from Toronto, will be a long one, possibly extending well into June.
“It’s a lengthy process,” Patrick said. “Are they best suited for the other personnel we have on the team?”
It is worth noting that the Capitals are keeping their entire scouting, coaching and training staffs intact, which means the NHL draft could be in the hands of Mahoney, who may also be on the Caps' list of potential GM candidates. One would think that with NHL free agency set to begin on July 1, a general manager would need to be in place by then at the very latest.
Patrick said most of the candidates on the Caps’ initial list are currently involved in the playoffs. While some teams are willing to grant permission for teams to speak with their potential candidates during the playoffs, others ask teams to wait until their teams are eliminated.
“Once we start meeting with people, and that will happen quickly, there are a lot of top quality people," Patrick said, "and we’ll be impressed with their character and focus and knowledge of the game.”
Although most of the top GM candidates lack head general managing experience, there are a few, like Craig Patrick, who managed the Penguins to a pair of Stanley Cups in the early 1990s and is now an advisor to the Buffalo Sabres, and Dave Taylor, who managed the Kings from 1997-2006 and is now vice president of hockey operations for the Blues, with considerable experience.