It’s already been a crazy season for the Washington Capitals, as key injuries have derailed their 2022-23 campaign right from the start. How the team responds in the next quarter of the season will say alot about the direction of the team as they approach the 2023 trade deadline in March. A decision will need to be made in January. Will they be buyers? Will they be sellers? We should know in a months time.
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette is in the final year of his three-year, $4,900,000 per season deal, with the team currently sitting at an underwhelming 10-11-4. Once again, injuries have had a lot to say about the record. As a result, it’s possible Laviolette gets a pass for this season’s results. That’s tough when it’s a contract year.
Regardless of how things ultimately playout with Laviolette, it’s never too early to begin thinking about a plan for the next step, whenever that may occur. Bears head coach Todd Nelson could be that next step.
The Capitals/Bears officially announced the signing of Nelson as the Bears next head coach back in August 11.
“Todd has had an accomplished coaching career featuring multiple championships. He’s a coach that is driven to win, and he has played a pivotal role in developing a long list of players who have advanced to the National Hockey League,” said Bears VP of Hockey Operations Brian Helmer in the August 11 press release.
Helmer added, “Having played for Todd myself, I know how detailed he is, and he’s truly a coach who gets the most out of his players. We’re fortunate to have Todd at the helm, and we’re excited about rounding out his staff with an experienced and decorated group of coaches.”
Nelson, 53, has over two decades of experience in the United Hockey League, American Hockey League, and NHL. The native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach for the NHL’s Dallas Stars.
Prior to that he spent three seasons as the head coach of the Grand Rapid Griffins in the AHL. Nelson led Grand Rapids to a Calder Cup Championship in 2017, becoming only the third person in AHL history to win the Calder Cup as a player (1994, Portland), assistant coach (2008, Chicago) and head coach, joining former Bears Bob Woods and Mike Stothers on that exclusive list. Nelson also spent time on the bench with the Edmonton Oilers.
So far Nelson has continued his coaching success in Hershey. The Bears have “roared” out to a 14-4-2-0 (.750) record to start the 2022-23 season and currently sit atop the AHL’s Atlantic Division. He’s dealt with the inevitable roster callups and injuries, and kept the team focused on the task of winning hockey games. It’s early, but things look good in chocolate town.
So is Nelson a fit to someday come to Washington. The simple answer is yes. He’s got the experience and knowledge of the Capitals players and organization. However, any future decision on Nelson coming to Washington will likely depend on timing. Will he be around when an opportunity becomes available?
Spencer Carbery was another Bears head coach that was primed for a move to Washington (as we wrote about here). Carbery was named the AHL’s Most Outstanding coach for the 2020-21 season in May of 2021 before the Toronto Maple Leafs swooped in and hired him as an assistant coach a month and a half later.
Carbery is one that got away, as he will likely get an NHL head coaching opportunity in the next few seasons (he’s already interviewed in the past). It’s too early to say if Nelson is “THE” answer in Washington, but right now, he’s another one they don’t want to let get away.
By Jon Sorensen