After firing head coach Todd Reirden on August 23, Washington Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan told the media that “we need an experienced coach, [one who will] press buttons on some players.” MacLellan thought the sense of accountability within the locker room was lost.
On Tuesday the Capitals announced that Peter Laviolette would be the organization’s 19th head coach in franchise history, signing him to a three-year deal. In the end, MacLellan felt Laviolette was best suited to lead the Capitals forward, but more importantly, reinstate “accountability” within the team.
“Peter has a track record of establishing a culture, and it’s one of his priorities. And part of that culture is getting guys to play the right way and holding them accountable to play the right way. I think it’s a big priority when you talk to him, so I have confidence, because he’s done it in the past,” said MacLellan. “We assume the players [know] that’s a big strength of his moving forward and it’s a big reason why we hired him.”
Accountability can be a tricky thing. When implemented correctly, it can lead to great achievements. If not properly applied, it can lead to disaster. The coaching highway is littered with casualties who failed at correctly instituting accountability, ultimately losing the room and their job. Laviolette has demonstrated the ability to successfully implement and maintain accountability with his previous employers.
Former Capitals bench boss Barry Trotz told The Coaches Site a story about accountability, specifically about Alex Ovechkin missing a meeting and being forced to sit out of a game. “This won’t be good for you,” Ovi told Trotz. “I don’t know what you mean, and I don’t care.” said Trotz. The bottom line, everyone needs to be held accountable, veterans included.
MacLellan is confident Laviolette is the man to right the ship. Laviolette believes in creating an identity from day one, and more importantly, he believes in building an ideal culture on and off the ice.
“I feel like there’s always an opportunity going in as a coach to not only build an identity on the ice, on how you want your team to play and an expectation of what it’s going to look like on a nightly basis, but also how you’re going to build your team internally and how hard they fight for each other, how much they care about each other. For me, those are things that you can go in and you can work on a daily basis both in the room and on the ice,” Laviolette said on Tuesday.
Laviolette considers the Capitals landscape a blank slate and will start the reshaping immediately.
“I think when you take over a team you come in with an open mind and a blank slate on the team and the players and the individual personnel. And then from there it’s about building your identity on the ice, setting a standard of what you expect on a daily basis and working together throughout the course of the year to try and prepare yourself for the playoffs,” said Laviolette.
The changes will likely come fast and furious in the coming days for the Capitals. Laviolette is expected to begin assessing coaches for his staff immediately, and will begin meeting with certain players. In addition, the 2020 NHL Entry Draft will be held three weeks from today, with free agency opening just two days later.
By Jon Sorensen