- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Ted Leonsis hired a new general manager for the Washington Capitals who has worked for the past 13 years with the old general manager who worked here for 17 years before he was fired.

How was Citizen Ted ever bold enough to invent the Internet? We would still be using rotary phones if he had operated America Online like he does his hockey team.

The Capitals introduced their new general manager and coach Tuesday, both of them familiar faces if you have followed closely the hockey team’s front office hierarchy during the George McPhee (the fired GM) era.

New Washington general manager Brian MacLellan worked for McPhee for 13 seasons, as a scout, a player personnel director, and for the past seven years, McPhee’s assistant GM.

Talk about a safe choice. I’m surprised he didn’t just hire McPhee back and ask him to change his name and wear a disguise.

SEE ALSO: Brian MacLellan pledges to be ‘different’ as Caps GM despite long run in organization

At least he didn’t just give the job to Ernie Grunfeld.

The Capitals also introduced former Nashville coach Barry Trotz as the new man in charge on the ice. And though he spent the last 15 seasons as the Predators’ head coach, you don’t have to play six degrees of Kevin Bacon to find his Capitals connections. He was a part-time scout in 1987 and served as an assistant coach and head coach for the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate in both Baltimore and Portland, Maine.

He left the Portland Pirates job in 1997 to take the head coaching job with the new expansion Nashville Predators — the same year McPhee came on board as the Capitals general manager, both within two months of each other. Who hired Trotz in Nashville? David Poile, the then-recently fired Capitals GM who took over the Nashville job.

No one in Capsland is going to get particularly juiced up about Brian MacLellan — particularly with the fact that he was part of the administration that fell short of expectations year after year here in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And because Leonsis, upon firing McPhee, declared he wanted a “fresh set of eyes and a new voice” for the franchise.

We can only assume that MacLellan said very, very little in the 13 years he’s been with the Capitals, and saw even less.

“I never really heard his voice,” Leonsis said at Tuesday’s press conference.

Leonsis also articulated in his blog, “Ted’s Take,” why he and team president Dick Patrick made this significant change by hiring the guy who has been in the room all along. “While we felt we needed to make significant changes — and we did by moving on the GM and coach — we also didn’t feel we had to completely rebuild or start from scratch,” Leonsis wrote.

“Of course Brian has incredible knowledge regarding all the players in our system, but what impressed us was his philosophy when it came to all personnel matters — the draft, player development, minor-league affiliations and amateur and pro scouting,” Leonsis wrote. “He was straight forward, confident and open with his ideas.”

He may be all of that and more. In the press conference Tuesday, Leonsis said MacLellan told the owner some things he may not want to have heard about the organization, which the owner gave him credit for. “His was the most negative of the interviews,” Leonsis said. “Familiarity breeds contempt, and I like that brutal honesty.”

We’ll see how long that lasts.

Here’s the money quote from Ted’s Take: “We promoted Brian to general manager because he better than anyone articulated a plan and a philosophy for all phases of our hockey operations department.”

There’s only one plan and one philosophy that truly counts now with this franchise, in all phases of hockey operations — the plan and philosophy that figures out how the Capitals can win a Stanley Cup with Alex Ovechkin.

Enter Barry Trotz, stage left.

Trotz was fired in Nashville because Poile said the Predators needed a “new voice.”

The problem is, Trotz’s voice, like every coach here in Washington since Ron Wilson in 1998, became silent once the playoffs reached the conference finals. In 15 years, the Predators never got beyond the second round.

Sound familiar?

Despite the lack of playoff success — he did win an AHL Calder Cup in 1994 and was inducted into the Portland Pirates Hall of Fame in 1995 — Trotz is well-respected throughout the league. He does represent a major change on the bench for Washington — someone with significant NHL head coaching experience.

He coached 1,196 Predators games and won 557 of them — 15th on the NHL’s coaching victories list and fourth among active coaches. He has been a finalist for the Jack Adams Award — the league’s top coaching honor — twice in the last five seasons and finished in the top five four other times since 2006.

What he doesn’t have is significant head coaching experience with the likes of Alex Ovechkin.

Trotz appeared to recognize that task at hand when he told reporters at the press conference Tuesday, “The team takes on the identity of their top players. I don’t want to take anything away from the Washington Capitals offensively.”

He’s known as a defensive coach, but the only coach he has to be is the one who figures out how to win a championship with Ovechkin — just like MacLellan needs to be the GM who constructs a roster that can make the most out of Ovechkin’s offense and limit the damage from his liabilities.

That’s the only voice anyone needs to hear.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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