Back on April 26, when Ted Leonsis and Dick Patrick announced the firings of George McPhee and Adam Oates, they confirmed they had already started a list of potential general manager candidates.
Some believed Jim Benning, an assistant general manager with the Boston Bruins, was at the top of that list. But now that Benning reportedly will be hired as the Vancouver Canucks’ next general manager, what does that mean for the Capitals’ search for a new GM and, by extension, a new head coach?
Does Ray Shero, who was fired as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, move to the top of their list? If so, would he need to arm wrestle Benning for the chance to hire Barry Trotz as his head coach?
And what about Don Sweeney, an assistant to Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli the past five years? Could the Bruins, who apparently granted the Capitals permission to speak with Sweeney, pull him off the job market now that another valued member of their management team has agreed to work for the Canucks?
[There has been recent discussion among NHL general managers that compensation in the form of draft picks be given to teams that lose front office personnel to other NHL teams].
Two other names that had been connected to the vacant general manager’s job in Vancouver are Scott Howson, the Edmonton Oilers’ senior vice president of hockey operations, and Paul Fenton, the assistant general manager to David Poile in Nashville. Both reportedly interviewed with Canucks president Trevor Linden and Fenton reportedly met with the Capitals as well.
As for Wayne Gretzky, his quiet campaign to become the Capitals' next president reportedly came with a request that he be given an ownership share in the team, believed to be 8 percent. If that is true, Leonsis and Patrick might be inclined to move in another direction.
As a former general manager of the Capitals, Poile has a history with Patrick and could provide valuable background evaluations on both Fenton and Shero, who worked with him in Nashville.
Fenton and Shero also worked with Trotz in Nashville and the clock appears to be ticking for teams wanting to hire the 51-year coach who spent 15 years in Music City before he was relieved of his duties. Trotz has a summer home in British Columbia and has said recently that he would like to see a general manager in place in Vancouver and/or Washington before seriously considering coaching openings in those cities.
The Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes also may have a strong interest in Trotz, who said he would like to begin the interviewing process this week, which means if the Caps want him they may need to move on a GM quickly, especially with the June 27-28 NHL draft looming.
Trotz has been described as a defensive coach because of the systems he played in Nashville, but he told the Vancouver Province that is not necessarily true, saying he coached the style that best suited his personnel.
“I’ve had very offensive teams to defensive teams to teams that people thought wouldn’t do very much,” Trotz said. “Experience allows you understand what’s really important in a game and look at it differently from a standpoint of evaluation and creating an environment.
“I think I bring a high level of communication and we [the Predators] were successful and brought a lot out of players. I’ve been a part of building something from the ground up. I understand patience and the urgency of making the playoffs.
Trotz said he also understands the media scrutiny he would face outside a smaller market like Nashville.
“I get it,” he said. “I’m prepared for anything and that’s what experience brings you. I wouldn’t change. I would still be myself. I just try to do what’s right, not be popular. That will never change.”
Trotz may be the coach most in demand but he is not the only coaching option on the job market. Willie Desjardins, head coach of the AHL Texas Stars, John Stevens, an assistant coach of the Los Angeles Kings, and Doug Houda, an assistant coach in Boston, have also been rumored to the opening in Vancouver, while Jacques Martin, an assistant coach under Dan Bylsma in Pittsburgh, Guy Boucher, a former head coach in Tampa, and Bylsma himself have been mentioned as possible candidates in Florida, Carolina, Vancouver and Washington.