Another great regular season nullified by another playoff disappointment kickstarted talk earlier this month about the future of Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals.
However, based on reports from general manager Brian MacLellan’s Tuesday press conference, there will be no changes to the coaching staff, led by Trotz.
To recap: The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top regular season team, but were sent to another second-round elimination to the rival Penguins.
In three years behind the Washington bench, Trotz and the Capitals have amassed 156 regular season wins and three straight 100-plus point seasons. The third round of the playoffs, however, has been elusive, which put his future with that club into question.
Incredibly, Barry Trotz’s future isn’t secure. (One GM, hearing that, texted, “This league is a joke if [that’s] real.”) The surest predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Trotz said all the right things about Ovechkin accepting a move to the third line, but check Washington’s history. Dale Hunter didn’t return after demoting Ovechkin in 2012. Adam Oates faced pushback when he moved the captain into unfamiliar positions, and a harsh team meeting late in the 2013–14 season (where Ovechkin was ripped by several teammates) caused significant problems before a coaching change.
This is still a situation worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks and months leading up to next season. According to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post, Trotz is entering the final year of his contract and MacLellan said there has yet to be any contract extension talks between the two sides.
While MacLellan said there will be no changes to the coaching staff, they may still indeed lose assistant coach Todd Reirden to one of the vacant head coaching gigs in the NHL.
Reirden was reportedly going to interview for the Panthers coaching position, and could be a candidate in Buffalo, as well.
Meanwhile, MacLellan has plenty of decisions ahead of him, with 11 players on expiring contracts. Next year’s projected salary cap could have a huge impact on which pending unrestricted free agents the club decides to and can bring back.
The Capitals have five pending UFAs: Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, T.J. Oshie, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk. They also have six pending restricted free agents, most notably Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Dmitry Orlov, who are in line for substantial raises. Based on his comments today, the pending RFAs are the main focus right now for MacLellan.
MacLellan did say Oshie is a good fit in Washington. He was tied for the team lead in goals (33) with Alex Ovechkin. But with the restricted free agents he must get under contract, re-signing Oshie will depend on the salary cap.
Following another playoff disappointment, the prospect of a decline is certainly possible in Washington.