Brian MacLellan: ”Trying To Stay Competitive While Getting Younger, It’s Gonna Be Challenging, But That’s The Stage We’re At”

Screen cap: Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals held their annual “breakdown day” on Saturday. Players held their final meetings with management and the media. Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan also met with the media one final time.

MacLellan first spoke about the departure of head coach Peter Laviolette. He said the meeting with Laviolette on Friday was premature and unplanned.

”I personally wanted to get through meetings with the players and coaches. Go back to Ted (Leonsis) and Dick (Patrick) and make some decisions. But I ended up meeting with Lavi, yesterday. I had a conversation. The conversation went in a certain direction and we both decided we’d make changes,” said MacLellan.

”I think he’s a good coach. I think he’s a good person,” added MacLellan. “I liked working with him. I think we were open (to bringing him back). I guess I wanted some time with players. Wanted some time with everybody around. Just get some opinions, and kinda go from there.”

MacLellan said he hasn’t had the opportunity to meet with the coaches and hasn’t made any decisions regarding the current assistant coaches. He will meet with them in the next few days, and then make decisions based on that.

MacLellan said he hasn’t formally started the process of looking for a new head coach. Following the departure of Todd Reirden, MacLellan said he wanted to find an experienced coach to restore accountability, but those needs have changed, and thus the coaching requirements have changed.

“I think we’re more open. Our group’s changing. We’re trying to get younger. We’ve brought in some younger players. It’s gonna be different,” said MacLellan. “You want a coach that can work with young guys and we’re gonna have a veteran group at the top that kinda needs a veteran coach. So it’s going to be challenging to find the right guy for that. Probably a combination of what we’ve had would be the ideal candidate. I don’t know that we can find it, but we’ll do the best we can.”

MacLellan said the goal remains the same, to stay competitive while continuing to get younger. It’s possibly his biggest challenge so far as Capitals general manager.

”Trying to stay competitive while getting younger, it’s gonna be challenging, but that’s the stage we’re at. That’s the decision we’ve made here. We want to finish out a couple careers  of important players in our organization and we want to stay competitive, but we also want to get younger. It’s a challenging position to have all three of those things, but we’re gonna try.”

MacLellan also spoke briefly about a couple of the Capitals prospects as the Hershey Bears approach the AHL playoffs.

“It’s important. McMichael’s had a good year. He’s played a pretty good two-way game down in Hershey. So playoffs will be the next level for him, so that’s good. Lapierre’s had some ups and downs, but has played well lately. We’ll be monitoring them as we always do throughout the playoffs. It’s exciting because they have a good team. They got a deep team down there. It’s a well rounded team. We’ve got some young guys there that hopefully do well.”

Full Interview:

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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31 Responses to Brian MacLellan: ”Trying To Stay Competitive While Getting Younger, It’s Gonna Be Challenging, But That’s The Stage We’re At”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Laviolette definitely pressed the issue. Whether he didn’t want to wait around to hear his fate, he had another opportunity or was just unhappy, only time will tell.

    • franky619 says:

      Feels like he could’nt wait to get the ”f**k outta here.”

      • Anonymous says:

        I definitely agree with your take. Now, the million dollar question. Why?

        • Anonymous says:

          His sense was that the eventual decision would be not him and so he moved on. The analysis would be that players like Mantha and Kuznetsov regressed and it is his job to optimize the talent.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It will be real interesting to see who the next head coach is. As Mac described, the ideal coach may not be attainable. Good with vets and younger players.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nor was he beaming about Backy. He did not sound optimistic about him being able to improve performance at all.

      • hockeydruid says:

        Players generally do not improve as they get older especially after radical surgery. Ego is what is keeping Backy from retiring. Time for management to make him an offer to retire that he cannot refuse.

        • Anonymous says:

          Trying to come back and end his career on his own terms, ideally getting the assist on Ovechkin’s record breaker isn’t ego .. it’s what tens of thousands of Caps fans want.

      • franky619 says:

        Yeah he said ” he’s going to have to make a decision on his career” so maybe there’s hope after all.

        • Anonymous says:

          He could also sit the season out a la Kucherov and come back for a playoff run and the following season, during which O will likely be breaking the record, then retiring after that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mac did not seem happy with Kuzy and Mantha

  4. hockeydruid says:

    Might just be time to take a long look at GMBM moving on also.

    • Anonymous says:

      David Poile Midget Mcphee and GMBM Stanley cup architect. Please take a minute to think what you post.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hardly architect. Core pieces were drafted before he became GM. Credit goes around but mainly to Trotz. Or the architect would have won more than one. Think first.

        • Anonymous says:


          MacLellan was promoted to GM on 26 May 2014. Only two Caps draft picks during this time won the Cup, both in 2014: Vrana (1) and Walker (3).

          However, importantly, in his role as Assistant GM, per the team’s website, he “oversaw the club’s professional scouting staff and worked closely with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, who won the Calder Cup in 2006, 2009 and 2010. MacLellan, who served as a pro scout for the Capitals from 2000-03 prior to his promotion to director of player personnel, assisted and advised the general manager in all player-related matters.”

          Further, as GM, MacLellan importantly brought in core pieces Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen via free agency, and traded for Michal Kempny.

          To say that MacLellan was not instrumental in the Capitals Stanley Cup win is profoundly ignorant.

          • Anonymous says:

            Didn’t say he didn’t have role but Ovi, Backy, Wilson, Carlson, Holtby, Kuzy, etc were acquired under McPhee. He added role pieces and the right coach. Give him credit. Since then he has been in charge as we have descended to mediocrity. To disregard all that is profoundly ignorant.

            • Anonymous says:

              Under McPhee with MacLellan as his right hand man. Decisions aren’t made in a vacuum.

              To that point, don’t blame MacLellan for following Ted’s direction.

              • Anonymous says:

                You can blame Ted all you want. Did he give the long term contracts to old guys or did the GM? Did he make bad trades or did the GM? GM doesn’t get a pass on the mess he created.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Yes I believe it’s clear that Ted was influential in signing Oshie, Carlson, Backstrom, and Ovechkin to their current deals.

                  We can all moan about the Vrana deal, but most people thought it prudent given the circumstances (namely Mantha’s cost certainty, Panik’s bad fit, and Vrana’s clashing with PL). The return for Siegenthaler was fair, the Caps were all-in to win (and failed), and the team wanted to do right by Siegenthaler and give him a chance to play. Which other trades were “bad”? And if Mantha shines with a new HC next year, does that trade still look bad? Or if the Caps get a decent return for moving him? You’re quick to judge.

                  MacLellan played with the hand he was dealt. He’s not Don Sweeney, but he’s also not Mike Millbury.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree, this offseason is Mac’s greatest challenge. Should be interesting

  6. Jeremy says:

    If he actually put more effort into the farm system all these years and properly developing young talent; they wouldn’t be in this spot.

    • Eric Lord says:

      The farm system is fine. There have been solid players in the system for a few years now. The problem is that they haven’t been getting shots in the NHL because the Caps chose to ride with veteran players. So, those some players went elsewhere looking for opportunity. There are players currently in Hershey that can help the Caps if given the opportunity by a coach who believes in them.

  7. novafyre says:

    It’s clear that the Caps organization did not agree with most of the posters here — they were open to bringing Lavi back. It was Lavi’s decision to leave and go seek greener pastures.

    I think two things will be very telling before a new HC is named. First, which assistant coaches stay. If Blaine stays, do not expect major changes. Second, if they start re-signing our vets or signing new vets, don’t expect major changes. Head coach selection isn’t going to mean much if saddled with current assistants or a team roster. For change to be made, the HC must be selected first.

    • dwgie26 says:

      There were open to it for sure. Don’t think it was a foregone conclusion. I think BMAC was direct with direction of the team and Lavi doesn’t want that. Was equally direct back and said no thanks. Let’s move on now and not drag it out. I suspect GMBM was fine with that.

      • novafyre says:

        Want to move on but am waiting to see the Caps’ next move. Or moves. Just saying that to me the actions so far do not indicate a major shift in direction, not as major as many here would like to see. I think we are more extreme in our view of the coaches, coaching, schemes, direction than Caps management. We’ll see. I hope the Caps do what Madden is advocating for the Pits. But Lavi deciding to go doesn’t prove that to me yet.

  8. Darby says:

    “Trying to stay competitive while getting younger, it’s gonna be challenging, but that’s the stage we’re at.“

    That’s the stage you are at because of the decisions you made. The team’s current goal is chasing a record for one man And that’s fine, but just be honest about it. To me, this attitude has always been the single biggest difference between Washington and Pittsburgh’s outcomes in the post season. One team is build around a single man, the other is built around a philosophy. Pittsburgh has generally been the better run team – and the results speak for themselves. One day I hope the Caps can bring more cups to Washington with an eye toward winning cups, not achieving personal records.

    • novafyre says:

      Pits just fired their office. Fans and articles have been complaining about Pits being an old, tired team, of not retooling, of missed opportunities to stay competitive. And Fenway just stated that Sid will only wear a Pits jersey.

    • Anonymous says:

      …do you think this is MacLellan’s idea? Or Ted’s?

  9. dwgie26 says:

    I don’t think there is much to look into here. Both Lavi and GMBM are professionals and not afraid to get right down to the heart of the matter. 3 years ago we need a veteran coach to lead veteran players. that hasn’t worked for a variety of reasons including injuries and COVID. But bottom line it didn’t work.

    Caps (GMBM) has been clearly stating since the trade deadline that the next phase for the Caps is getting younger and that is not Lavi’s strength. He is smart and so they made the decision quickly. Doesn’t mean it was confrontational. I think there is mutual respect between these two professionals.

    It was different with Reirdon. I suspect more confrontational. And Trotz is no savant. Most wanted to run him out the year we won the cup and he hasn’t held a job for any amount of time since.

  10. novafyre says:

    Mark Madden in the Pittsburgh Trib speaking of the Pits:
    Looking at the roster, lots of players need to go. That’s easier said than done. These are rotten, flawed talents who other teams won’t want. The three-man core is aging but played well. To surround them with older, fading players was insane. Sullivan needs to ditch his phobia of not giving young talent a legit chance. It’s difficult to get younger in the NHL, especially when you’re largely devoid of prospects like the Penguins are. Free agency is mostly for older players. The Penguins are beyond stale. I’m tired of saying that. They need youthful spark and desperate-to-stay-in-the-NHL energy. I’m tired of saying that, too. The new GM must demand that Sullivan adjust his coaching to fit the team’s talent, not continue to live in some 2017 fantasyland. If Sullivan won’t, fire him. When a business is failing, you often hear this uttered: “This is way we’ve always done things.”

    Does this sound familiar?

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