Photo: Yahoo! Sports
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman, the Washington Capitals have interviewed former Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant and former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, who is a “legitimate candidate,” to fill their head coaching vacancy.
In 541 career games behind the bench with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and Golden Knights, Gallant went 270-216-51 (.550 points percentage) in the regular season and 18-15 (.545 winning percentage) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 56-year-old took the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, where they lost to the Capitals in five games but set every expansion team record.
During his tenure with the Golden Knights, they were one of the league’s best possession teams, ranked 10th with a 3.11 goals-per-game average, ninth with a 2.83 goals-against per game, 16th with a 19.6% power-play efficiency, and tied for 11th with an 80.6% penalty-killing rate. He won the Jack Adams Award in 2018 and was nominated in 2016 with the Panthers.
Babcock was fired by the Maple Leafs on November 20 after a 9-10-4 start to the season and three consecutive seasons of losing in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a talented but inexperienced core. Babcock guided the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008 and came just one win shy of a repeat the next season. He has gone 700-418-19 (.608 points percentage) in 1,301 career games behind the bench with the Maple Leafs and Red Wings and has taken his teams to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 12 of his 15 seasons as a coach. He is 90-74 (.549 points percentage) during the tournament in his career.
During his tenure with the Red Wings, the team allowed an average of just 2.55 goals-per-game, tied for fourth in the NHL over that span, while they scored an average of 3.03 per game, tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first. That changed when he was in Toronto, but that was more due to the team’s personnel on the backend.
Under Babcock’s guidance, the Maple Leafs averaged 3.05 goals-per-game (sixth), a 2.94 goals-against per game (tied for 22nd), a 21.3% efficiency on the power-play (fifth), and 81.4% penalty-killing efficiency (12th). Babcock also led the Canadian men’s Olympic team to two consecutive gold medal wins in 2010 and 2014 as head coach. Though there were complaints about how he treated his players in Toronto, his track record combined with the fact that he is a free agent makes him a possibility. He has been nominated twice for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s head coach of the year.
The Capitals have also reportedly spoken to former Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette about being the team’s next head coach after they fired Todd Reirden on August 23, three days after their season ended with a 4-0 loss to former head coach Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals ended the regular-season by going 19-16-3, including 8-9-3 in their final 20 games, before the NHL paused due to COVID-19. Their average of 3.44 goals-against per game after December 22 was the most of any of the 24 qualifying round teams. The Capitals arguably came up short of expectations in Reirden’s first two seasons as head coach, falling in the first round to teams they should have beaten and getting outplayed and, some argue, out-coached in both series.
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan told the media after Reirden was fired that the Capitals will be looking for an experienced coach.
Reirden was hired as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
By Harrison Brown