F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 05/27/14 at 12:03 PM ET
As most people have learned as they have returned to non-holiday life, the Washington Capitals announced their new general manager and coach yesterday. Barry Trotz comes in as the new coach while former assistant GM Brian MacLellan moves into his former's boss' office. My initial reactions were rather polarizing (Trotz=! MacLellan=?), but a night's sleep has brought both back from the edge.
First, let's handle MacLellan. As has been pointed out ad nauseam on Twitter and the blogosphere yesterday, MacLellan is hardly the "new eyes" that Ted talked about after letting McPhee walk. Brian MacLellan has been with the organization since 2000, with his main focus being on professional scouting. So, when you look at some of the questionable acquisitions of NHL talent over the past 13 years (especially the last 7, when he was the assistant GM), you should probably look at MacLellan. It just makes me scratch my head a little.
I think a fair amount of Caps fans don't think that the staff that McPhee had hired during his tenure were just terrible, and I would include myself in that camp. The group helped rebuild the Caps, and saw the team succeed from 2007 until this past season. You can't say this staff didn't know how to rebuild. It just had become apparent that this staff didn't know what to do when it was the small moves that were needed. It's easy to see a team of Andrew Cassels, Ben Clymers, and Rico Fatas, and see what needs to be done. And when your job at the team was to advise the GM on NHL-level talent to bring in, and you continue to seemingly ignore replacing Fedorov or bringing in an established top-4 D, people are going to wonder how you are qualified to run the whole show.
But that's not even the biggest problem for me. Part of me says that there is no way Ted would bring in a guy without said guy already having a plan to fill the team's two biggest needs. I'll give him a pass for now on that for the time being. My biggest issue is the terrible PR the personnel department has right now. It was only a couple of months ago that a report came out detailing how agents hated working with McPhee and his staff. How do we expect players to all of a sudden want to come here, when it appears the same system is still in place? How do you go out and make a trade for a big player when he won't waive his no-trade clause to come to Washington? Go ahead and bring in a rookie GM. I'm all for that. But to just ignore the cloud that hangs over this staff is bordering on negligent.
Now, to Trotz. On my shortlist of dream coaches that the Caps could bring in, Trotz was third on my list, behind Laviolette and Byslma. With Laviolette taking Trotz's old post in Nashville, and Pittsburgh choosing not to let Bylsma go (a tactic, I believe, implemented to prevent him from coming to DC), Trotz was really the best available. And, for the first time since Ron Wilson was hired in 1997, the Capitals hired a coach with prior head coaching experience at the NHL level. Think about that for a second. If you include interim head coach Dale Hunter, that's 5 consecutive hirings of rookie NHL head coaches. That is honestly a little mind-boggling. But it gets better. Trotz is only the 5th head coach in the history of the team to have prior NHL head coaching experience (along with Ron Wilson, Jim Schoenfield, Milt Schmidt, and Red Sullivan). Five out of sixteen NHL head coaches (including Roger Crozier and his 1 game behind the bench).
But I digress.
While Trotz does bring a wealth of experience from behind the bench, he does it mainly with the accompaniment of losing. Trotz has a regular season win percentage of 46.57%. In his 15 years with Nashville, he took them to the playoffs seven times, never making it past the second round. In fact, Trotz has won 19 playoff games in his 15 years in Nashville. To put that in perspective, Bruce Boudreau won 2 fewer playoff games than that in his four full seasons in Washington.
Nashville is a different kind of hockey town than Washington. Had Trotz put up those type of numbers is Washington or Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, he probably wouldn't have stayed around so long. For most of their life, the Predators' main goal has been one of survival. They were too busy trying to create a hockey atmosphere in Nashville to be that concerned with trying to win a Stanley Cup. And keeping the same coach for so many years can create a storied history on which people can latch, even if that coach didn't have much success. Trotz won't have that luxury here. There is no way management can afford to waste anymore of Ovechkin's or Backstrom's career.
All of that being said, there is another side of the Nashville coin which points up for Trotz. With Nashville struggling to create a strong fanbase, they didn't have much money to go around. Going back to 2007 (as far as CapGeek will allow me to go), the Predators have spent every season in the bottom 10 in terms of payroll. Meanwhile, the Capitals payroll has seen a major increase since 2007 (when they were dead last in payroll), and now find themselves in top half of the league. That should give Trotz more pieces with which to work. As far as his career goes, his time in Washington might be one of the most defining moments of his career.
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Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate. This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals. The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.
In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at York College of Pennsylvania. I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland.
You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.