- CSNwashington.com - Monday, May 5, 2014

Wayne Gretzky as president of the Washington Capitals?

That’s the hottest rumor around the NHL right now and it seems to be picking up steam.

According to a report in the New York Post, there is a “mutual interest” between Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Gretzky in creating a position for the world’s greatest hockey player on the Caps’ management team.

If Gretzky, 53, is hired by the Capitals as president, Dick Patrick would relinquish that role with the team while retaining his position as vice president and chief operating officer of Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

Patrick, who joined the Capitals in 1982, is teaming up with Leonsis to find the Capitals‘ next general manager and coach following the April 26 dismissal of George McPhee and Adam Oates.

Washington Capitals' Michal Pivonka (20) fights for the puck against Los Angeles Kings' Wayne Gretzky (99) during a faceoff in the first period of the game at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.  Thursday, Nov. 30, 1995. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Washington Capitals’ Michal Pivonka (20) fights for the puck against Los Angeles ... more >

In recent years the trend has been for NHL teams to hire a president who oversees all personnel decisions by the general manager.

Trevor Linden was hired as president of the Vancouver Canucks and is currently conducting a search for a new general manager and coach. Brendan Shanahan is in a similar position now in Toronto, although he was given the added role of alternate governor.

In Philadelphia, the Flyers are reportedly considering moving Paul Holmgren into the role of president and elevating assistant general manager Ron Hextall to general manager.

It has been five years since Gretzky served as director of hockey operations of the Phoenix Coyotes, where he spent nine years, the last four as head coach. The Coyotes made the playoffs just once during Gretzky’s time there, falling to the Sharks in five games in the opening round in 2001-02.

Gretzky’s greatest success as a manager came in 2002 when, as executive director of Team Canada, he assembled a gold-medal winning team at the Salt Lake Winter Olympics.

If Gretzky was hired as president of the Capitals, whom might he hire as general manager and coach?

In his 29 years in the NHL as a player, coach and executive, Gretzky’s connections are spread throughout North America, from Mark Messier, who left the Rangers last season after four years as Glen Sather’s assistant, to Pat Quinn, who coached Canada to the gold medal in 2002. Other coaches hired by Gretzky for that Olympic team were Ken Hitchcock, Jacques Martin and Wayne Fleming. 

What would a management team of Gretzky and Messier do for the continued interest of hockey in D.C.?

More importantly, how much more attractive would it be to play in the nation’s capital with Gretzky and Messier running the show?

Imagine the culture change in Washington with a management team of Gretzky and Messier and a head coach of, say, Peter Laviolette, Barry Trotz or Martin, who is now serving an assistant coach in Pittsburgh.

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