If it is true the Vancouver Canucks are seriously considering hiring Boston Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning as their next general manager, the Capitals have an opportunity to hit a front office home run this offseason.
With Ray Shero now unemployed by the Pittsburgh Penguins, he immediately elevates to No. 1 among available NHL general managers – ahead of Benning, who has interviewed twice for the job in Vancouver, and Don Sweeny, another assistant GM in Boston who reportedly has interviewed for the vacancy in Washington.
Facing two of his biggest decisions since taking over the Capitals in 1999, Caps majority owner Ted Leonsis, along with team president Dick Patrick, has the opportunity to hire Shero and Barry Trotz as his next general manager and head coach.
Rarely have two men with such respect and experience been available at the same time. And the two have a history of working together.
Shero, 51, spent eight seasons as the assistant general manager in Nashville, where Trotz coach for 15 seasons before being fired on April 14, twelve days before Adam Oates and George McPhee were relieved of their duties in Washington.
In eight seasons in Pittsburgh, Shero guided the Penguins to eight straight playoff appearances, the third-longest active stretch in the NHL behind only the Red Wings [23 straight season] and the Sharks [10 straight].
In those eight seasons, Shero’s teams won three division titles, eclipsed 100 points six times, reached the Eastern Conference Finals three times, the Stanley Cup Final twice and won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
During Shero’s tenure the Penguins went 373-193-56 in the regular season and 58-45 in the playoffs, winning 11 of 18 playoff series.
During that same span under McPhee, the Capitals have gone 330-213-70 in the regular season, winning five division titles and eclipsing 100 points three times. They reached the playoffs six straight seasons during that span, going 27-31 and winning three of nine playoffs series.
Trotz said last week that he would like to see a general manager in place before accepting a coaching position with any NHL team. In addition to the Capitals, Penguins and Canucks, the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes are also looking for a head coach. All five teams are believed to have a strong interest in Trotz, who has been mentioned as a leading candidate in Vancouver.
Shero’s arrival into the general manager’s pool could change things for Trotz, whom many believe would be the perfect voice for Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals after they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
Trotz told multiple outlets that he would begin interviewing for potential head coaching jobs near the end of May.
As for Sweeney, the 47-year-old former NHL defenseman has been with the Bruins’ front office since 2006, first as their director of player development, then to director of hockey operations and assistant general manager to Peter Chiarelli.
Others who have been mentioned as general manager candidates for the Capitals include former Columbus Blue Jackets GM Don MacLean, former Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster, former Vancouver GM Mike Gillis, former Calgary GM Craig Button and Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton.