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Over the 100-plus years of the NHL’s existence, many former players have gone on to work for teams’ front offices in multiple roles, providing teams with a valuable amount of knowledge of the game of hockey and experience as a former player. Capitals’ General Manager Brian MacLellan is one such example of a former NHLer who has gone on to have success as a front office executive, having served a role in the Capitals’ front office since 2000. In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a look back at the NHL career of “GMBM”.
Undrafted in each year of his eligibility, MacLellan was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Kings on May 12, 1982, making his NHL debut in the 1982-83 season, recording three assists in eight games played, finishing the season with a plus/minus rating of minus-5. MacLellan would establish himself as a full-time NHLer the following season, playing in 72 games with Los Angeles, scoring 25 goals and adding 29 assists for 54 points, with a minus-19 rating; his 54 points were good enough for sixth-best on the Kings that season and he finished the season with a career-high 23.6 shooting percentage and was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for November. The 1984-85 season would his last full season in L.A., but the most productive of his NHL career, as he played in a career-high 80 games, scoring 31 goals and adding 54 assists for 85 points, with a plus-2 rating. His goal, assist, and point totals were good enough for fourth, third, and fourth-best on the Kings’ roster, respectively.
The next season would see MacLellan play just 27 games in Los Angeles, recording 13 points before being traded to the New York Rangers on December 9, 1985 along with a fourth-round draft pick in 1987 (the Kings would select Mike Sullivan, the current Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins) for defenseman Grant Ledyard and goaltender Roland Melanson. Despite differences with the Rangers’ coaching staff regarding how he was used, MacLellan managed to finish his 51 games with the Rangers with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists). Shortly before the 1986-87 season began, MacLellan was traded to the Minnesota North Stars for Minnesota’s third-round draft pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. MacLellan’s first season in Minnesota saw him score 32 goals and add 31 assists for 63 points in 76 games played, finishing the season second on the team in scoring behind Dino Ciccarelli’s 103 points.
MacLellan would play 135 more games with Minnesota, recording 32 goals and 87 points before being dealt to the Calgary Flames on March 4, 1989 along with the North Stars’ fourth-round draft pick for Shane Curla and Perry Berezan. The move proved to pay dividends for Calgary, as MacLellan recorded a combined 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 32 regular season and playoff games en route to the Flames capturing the Stanley Cup. Just 29 years later, MacLellan would become just the seventh person ever to win the Stanley Cup as both a player and general manager when the Capitals won the coveted trophy on June 7, 2018.
MacLellan would be traded to the Detroit Red Wings on June 11, 1991 and would play 23 games with the Red Wings (recording six points) before retiring at the age of 33. MacLellan finished his NHL career having played in 606 games, scoring 172 goals and adding 241 assists for 413 points, with a minus-19 rating. In 47 playoff games played, MacLellan recorded 14 points.
MacLellan’s promotion to the role of General Manager in May of 2014 after serving then-13 seasons already in the Capitals organization was a surprise to many, but in his five seasons at the helm so far, the Capitals have a regular season record of 246-110-41 (at the time of writing), two President’s Trophies, to-date four division titles, and a Stanley Cup championship.
By Michael Fleetwood