Much has been made of Brian MacLellan’s initial interview with Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, during which the longtime assistant general manager essentially told Leonsis what the big boss could do better.
“I thought that was very brave and very astute because you don't want to hear things like that,” Leonsis said at Tuesday’s introductory press conference.
“I thought that was very, very straightforward and honest and authentic to him. I was very appreciative of that because I obviously need to be a better owner because we've fallen short of our plans.”
While MacLellan’s straightforwardness with Leonsis may say something about his character – “that’s just the way I am,” he told the Monumental Network- his constant mentions of player development on Tuesday also say something about how he plans to improve the Capitals moving forward.
“I think we’ve done a good job historically of developing our prospects with [the American Hockey League’s] Hershey [Bears],” MacLellan said. “We want to put them in a winning environment, surround them with some good veteran players and put them in a spot to succeed.”
For the better part of the last decade Bears enjoyed much success as Washington’s top minor league affiliate, highlighted by the Bears back-to-back Calder Cup championships in 2009 and 2010.
The 2010 Bears had nine Capitals draft picks sprinkled throughout their lineup, with Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Michal Neuvirth and Mathieu Perreault chief among them.
Contrast that to this past season when defenseman Patrick Wey and goalie Philipp Grubauer were the only two Caps draft picks to play in as many as 20 games with Hershey. The Bears went on to miss the playoffs for the first time since partnering with the Capitals in 2005.
"One thing that struck me loud and clear,” Leonsis said of his conversations with MacLellan, “was that we had drafted very, very well but perhaps some of our development had gone sideways over the last couple of years and we needed to make a big recommitment to our affiliate in Hershey. I think that was news to us, how we needed to re-bond and make a recommitment to Hershey.”
The Capitals and Bears recently renewed their affiliation agreement, but they did so for just one year. No doubt the Bears would probably like to see which direction the Capitals are headed when it comes to player development, while at the same time, the Caps want to see that the appropriate personnel is in place in Hershey.
The Bears are searching for a new head coach after former bench boss Mike Haviland took a head coaching position at Colorado College. Bears President and GM Doug Yingst says that he received 60 applicants for the position and that the team is conducting a thorough search.
"I've always thought when we were at our best as an organization was when the coaching staff and GM of our AHL affiliate and NHL team were in sync,” Leonsis said.
“Brian has a real respect for what's going on in Hershey. And from Barry, you'll also see a real appreciation for that. They both said the same things to us in different interviews. They feel this can be a partnership that can really work."