On Wednesday, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan spoke to the media for the final time this season after the Capitals were eliminated on Sunday in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season. He discussed why the regular season was successful for the Capitals, but the playoffs were not, and his thoughts on Peter Laviolette’s first season as head coach for Washington.
“I was happy with the regular season we had,” MacLellan said. “The progress [with a] new coach coming in…doing a really good job, changing our style of play.” Even with “different types of circumstances” such as a condensed training camp and a “tough”, 56-game schedule, he said, “We finished one of the better teams in the league…both specialty teams were good…I was happy with what we [had] done in the regular season.”
He acknowledged that entering the playoffs the team “ran into some injury issues.” “I still thought we played good the first three games and then we ran out of gas and didn’t perform well in the last two games,” MacLellan said.
The general manager explained why the Capitals’ failed to get past the first round in the postseason three years in a row, saying that “each year has been a little different.” In 2019 against the Carolina Hurricanes, he “thought we should have won it”, but there was “underperformance from some guys and some other issues.” The Hurricanes won in double overtime in Game 7 and eliminated the Capitals one year after Washington won the Stanley Cup.
The following year, the Capitals clashed with the New York Islanders in the Toronto bubble. MacLellan said he “didn’t think we played well…we weren’t totally invested in the playoffs.” The Islanders won in Game 5 and once again eliminated the Capitals.
MacLellan believes injuries were the downfall for the team during this postseason run and occurred “at the wrong time for us.” “In the end, we were thin up the middle…I think that really affected our performance,” he said, adding, “If you’re going to go for a run in the playoffs, you got to be healthy up the middle…you got a better chance at winning games.”
He praised Laviolette’s first season as the head coach getting back that structure and accountability, saying, “He does a [really] good job of addressing issues as they come up through the year.” MacLellan called Laviolette a “good communicator” and he “defines expectations…He shows people what he wants from them…We’re very happy with the way he’s come in and provided leadership to our team [and] to our organization.”
“What he’s established this year will benefit us next year…I think we’ll have a good jump on the season,” MacLellan said.
By Della Young