According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman, the Washington Capitals knew Peter Laviolette was their target to become the team’s next head coach after they fired Todd Reirden on August 23. The Capitals hired Laviolette on Tuesday morning as the 19th head coach in franchise history.
The team also reportedly interviewed former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock and former Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant for the position after GM Brian MacLellan expressed the need for an experienced head coach.
“The moment the Capitals committed to a coaching change, word filtered that Laviolette was the [favorite]. During the hiring’s media conference, GM Brian MacLellan said there were two in-person interviews. Those were Laviolette and [Babcock],” Freidman wrote in his weekly 31 Thoughts column.
Gallant spoke with MacLellan over Zoom due to the United States-Canada border complications, so meeting face-to-face was too hard to work out.
MacLellan and Babcock met to discuss the job at a family cookout and that went so well that it “tightened the race,” Freidman said.
“In the end, I think Laviolette was the choice anyway. However, another coach told me that he believed Washington was a little concerned about the ‘noise’ around Babcock, especially since we don’t know when next year will begin. Without games, the focus is on the past, not the present or future. To be honest, I’m not sure Babcock would be crazy about that reality either. For the time being, he remains a guest coach at NCAA Vermont, helping the Catamounts prepare for their season,” he continued.
After Babcock was fired by the Maple Leafs on November 19, former Red Wings forward Johan Franzen called him “the worst person I’ve ever met” in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. There was also a story last year where Babcock asked 23-year-old forward Mitch Marner to rank his Maple Leafs teammates from least hard-working to most and then shared it with the team.
Had Babcock been hired by the Capitals, Friedman suggested that former Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery might have joined his staff. Montgomery was hired as an assistant by the St. Louis Blues earlier this week after he was fired by the Stars on December 11, 2019, due to problems with alcohol and after-hour behavior. However, he sought treatment and appeared to have successfully deal with his issues.
By Harrison Brown