Between now and next weekend’s NHL draft in Philadelphia, a multitude of questions face newly appointed Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan.
Perhaps the most important is the kind of stamp the 55-year-old native of Guelph will have on his roster.
Will he bring in the top-four defenseman fans have been clamoring for and, if so, what will it take to get him?
Who will he choose as the veteran goaltender to back up Braden Holtby next season?
But perhaps even more important will be the kind of influence MacLellan will have on his first draft as general manager? Will he be more North American friendly than George McPhee?
Since taking Alex Ovechkin with the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, the Caps have selected just two North Americans – Sasha Polulok [14th overall in 2005] and Karl Alzner [fifth overall in 2007] -- with their first picks of the draft.
Some of those Europeans [Nicklas Backstrom, fourth overall in 2006; and Marcus Johansson, 24th overall in 2009] have had productive NHL careers, while others [Anton Gustafsson, 21st overall in 2008; Steffen Soberg, 117th overall in 2011] have not. The future looks bright for the recent Euro selections Evgeny Kuznetsov [26th overall in 2010], Filip Forbserg [11th overall in 2012, traded to Nashville], and Andre Burakovsky [23rd overall in 2013].
Player agent Rolie Thompson said he’s interested to see some of the changes MacLellan will make to the Capitals, beginning with the draft and the players he acquires in the days surrounding it.
Thompson has known both McPhee and MacLellan since they worked at his hockey camp while both were still in college. Thompson also attended MacLellan’s induction into the Guelph [Ontario] hockey hall of fame.
“It was a surprising move, but it was one when you look a little deeper into it, [MacLellan] may be the best guy to come in there,” Thompson said. “He shot from the hip when he had the interview and I think the message he got across was what is required to turn this ship around.
“Brian and George talked a lot and I’m sure he voiced some of the frustrations George went through, so I can’t think of anybody more prepared to take on this task.”
Thompson said that with perhaps one big player move and some adjustments under new head coach Barry Trotz, the Capitals have the potential to turn around and be a “dynamic” team next season.
“Trotz is the most professional, genuine, honest coach you would ever want to meet,” he said. “I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. The guy’s a gem. He will not put up with a double-tiered standard, that is for sure. And that’s exactly what the team needs.”