Capitals’ GM Brian MacLellan: “For Us To Get Through This, Our Top Players Have To Be Our Best Players, And They Have To Carry Us Through This Stretch Here”

Screencap: Capitals

Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan spoke to the media before the team’s tilt against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday. He discussed the state of the team currently as well as the numerous injuries.

“I think we have to be concerned,” MacLellan said regarding the team’s standing. With a record of 10-12-4, the Capitals sit sixth in the Metropolitan Division with 24 points and twelfth in the Eastern Conference. Washington is 3-5-2 in their last ten games.”I think we dug ourselves a hole here…the margin for error is pretty slim right now.”

MacLellan explained that he “liked the way we played” in the past five games, especially with the return of right-wing T.J. Oshie. “We have to put a string of good games here together—wins—to stay in it.” He said that “hopefully” the Capitals will “be more competitive” by the time injured guys come back.

The Capitals have a laundry list of players injured: right-wing Tom Wilson (ACL), center Nicklas Backstrom (hip), center Carl Hagelin (hip), right-wing Connor Brown (ACL), right-wing Beck Malenstyn (finger), and defenseman Dmitry Orlov (lower-body). During Saturday’s game, they lost defenseman Martin Fehervary and goaltender Darcy Kuemper to upper-body injuries.

Regarding Backstrom, MacLellan noted that he is “progressing well.” “There’s been no setbacks, so it’s positive. I don’t know where it ends up, but everything’s been positive so far.”

“Tom’s good too,” he added about Wilson but said there is no exact timetable for return. “We’ll get a better picture here in the next few weeks…mid-December, I think we’ll have a pretty good idea of where both those guys are at.”

On Malenstyn, MacLellan mentioned the 24-year-old is skating, but “it’s a matter of healing his finger” in regards to gripping the stick, shooting, and handling the puck. He is projected to return in the next 2-3 weeks.

“It’s been a little struggle identifying and helping him get through his injury,” he remarked about Orlov, who missed his thirteenth consecutive game on Saturday. “It’s kinda lingered on a lot more than I think anybody’s anticipated…seems to be heading in the positive direction. That’s why he’s come out here for the trip, and we’ll see how it goes over the next couple days.”

Besides injuries plaguing Washington, consistency and sixty-minute efforts have painted a bleak picture of the 2022-23 season. MacLellan said, “I’m not as down on the Seattle game as a lot of people. I thought we played decent. I didn’t think we had legs for part of it.”

He explained that the Capitals have “struggled getting that third goal,” whether through breakaway and power-play opportunities. MacLellan admitted “at the end of the game” is where the inconsistency happens by not finishing strong when the opposition scores that game-tying goal. “Made a couple mistakes by a couple players, and it’s in the back of our net, and we’re playing a different game then.”

“You can’t have a stretch where your power-play is 0-for-21 or something like that. It’s gonna hurt you, and it’s been hurting us—lately, it’s been better, but it hurts us…for us to get through this, our top players have to be our best players, and they have to carry us through this stretch here.”

One of those top players who has had a slow start to the 2022-23 campaign is center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who MacLellan said they “need more offense from.” MacLellan said Kuznetsov, captain Alex Ovechkin, and defenseman John Carlson “got to carry our team” and “that’s just the reality of it.”

You can listen to MacLellan’s full interview here.

The Capitals clash next with the Edmonton Oilers on Monday at Rogers Place. NBC Sports Washington will have the coverage beginning at 10:30 PM ET.

By Della Young

About Della Young

Della Young is an aspiring novelist and screenwriter who earned a BFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University in 2021. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Screenwriting from Regent University. Della comes from a family of big Capitals fans and became inspired to start writing for hockey in 2019. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and working on both sides of the camera. Follow Della on Twitter: @dellayoung
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11 Responses to Capitals’ GM Brian MacLellan: “For Us To Get Through This, Our Top Players Have To Be Our Best Players, And They Have To Carry Us Through This Stretch Here”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It sounds like Mac is within a hair of pulling the trigger on a complete tear down and rebuild. And the interview was held BEFORE last nights debacle in Calgary.

    • hockeydruid says:

      Since a complete tear down is what is needed this GM does not have the balls to do that as it might affect Ovie getting the record and that is what is most important to the owner at this time.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Oshie’s a RW not a LW, right?

  3. Jonathan says:

    Couple interesting things he said I want to comment on:

    “It’s been a little struggle identifying and helping him get through his injury,” he remarked about Orlov.

    That’s an odd thing to say, and worrisome. Being a cancer survivor, twice, phrases like that I don’t like.

    and…..

    He explained that the Capitals have “struggled getting that third goal,” whether through breakaway and power-play opportunities. MacLellan admitted “at the end of the game” is where the inconsistency happens by not finishing strong when the opposition scores that game-tying goal. “Made a couple mistakes by a couple players, and it’s in the back of our net, and we’re playing a different game then.”

    This is easily solved, but isn’t because of not thinking outside the box. John Carlson doesn’t belong on the point anymore. He’s too immobile and Ovi isn’t the instant score from the office he once was (perhaps because he isn’t as mobile either, but the point is, he won’t score as much on the pp). IF you wish to keep Carlson on the PP, than put him down low somewhere. Gustafsson currently is hands down the best point option because of his mobility both helping to score and defend the position.

    • hockeydruid says:

      I would like to see Ovie down low on the PP as his size and skill would net a lot of goals! Frankly what this team needs is a rebuild starting with the GM and then getting rid of the lame duck HC and start trading some of the older players for young ones or picks. As there are 13 UFA/RFA on this team now and they all cannot be resigned this summer and as many of those making smaller salaries will want raises start trading them now to get something rather than letting them walk and receive nothing. The additional benefit of trading them now or at least by the trade deadline would be that the NEW Gm and HC could evaluate players from Hershey to see where they fit into this team for next year.

      • Dave says:

        The only player I want locked up of the UFA’s is Conner Sheary. He is a buzzsaw. Plays his ass off EVERY shift and SCORES. He plays PK, PP, and is always hustling. Perhaps Gustafson also and possibly Milano since they both should come cheap and aren’t too old

  4. James W Lewis says:

    “Our top players” are simply not consistent impact players. Only Oshie is earning his salary and he is old and will get injured before too long. Backstrom’s return (or not) won’t mean a darn thing. Connor Brown would have made a difference, but that’s just bad luck.

    • hockeydruid says:

      Ovie is doing what he has always done. As for the rest starting with Kuzy and followed by Oshie and Carlson and the rest trade them asap for picks or younger players.

  5. novafyre says:

    “He said that “hopefully” the Capitals will “be more competitive” by the time injured guys come back.”

    Lavi doesn’t know how to best use the JV players. All he can tell them to do is tread water until the varsity comes back.

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