With the hiring of Spencer Carbery as the Washington Capitals 20th head coach in franchise history on Tuesday, the team made a significant statement regarding the future direction of the organization, going with the younger, energetic, but less experienced candidate in Carbery, and passing over the usual seasoned, experienced, well-traveled, candidates.
However, with the hiring the Capitals current NHL coaching experience totals all of four years. That will have to change in the coming days with the hiring of Carbery’s assistant coaches. Here are a few names that could be in the mix, and would add valued experience to the staff.
Todd Nelson – Nelson was a candidate for the Capitals head coaching position but never got a chance to formally interview. It’s questionable if he would leave a head coaching gig in the AHL for an NHL assistant position, but the move would prime him for being “next in line”. The other roadblock to this is the fact that Nelson is already generating discussion in the rumor mill for vacancies with other NHL teams, although the longer the Bears postseason run continues the fewer the openings. Regardless, it’s very possible this is Nelson’s last season in Hershey, but the longer the postseason run, the fewer the outside opportunities.
Ryan Warsofsky – Warsofsky came up through the Capitals farm system, serving as coach and director of hockey operations for the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays and was with Carbery in South Carolina from 2013-2016. He was a candidate during the Sharks’ most recent coaching hunt before they opted for David Quinn. They ended up hiring Warsofsky as an assistant coach. Warsofsky won two Calder Cups as a coach in the Carolina Hurricanes system. The first came as an assistant with the Charlotte Checkers. The second was as the head coach of the Chicago Wolves after the Canes switched affiliates.
Bruce Boudreau – This would be a fan-favorite move. Bruce knows the players, Carbery, and Hershey, is good with young prospects as well as veterans, and has managed strong special teams in the past. It seems like a perfect fit, but would Bruce take an assistant coaching job? His head coaching years are likely behind him, but being an assistant is a whole other deal.
Jeff Halpern – This would be another side step, but one that would also position Halpern for the next opening in Washington. The good years in Tampa are rapidly winding down, so it’s conceivable Halpern considers other opportunities at this point in his coaching career. He interviewed for the Capitals head coaching job, so interest in returning home seems to be there for Halpern.
Joel Ward – Ward would be an ideal addition to the Capitals bench next season. He is currently serving as an assistant coach for the Vegas Knights AHL affiliate in Henderson, Nevada, and has filled in as head coach on occasion. This too would be a side step for Ward, but would also position him for the next opportunity in Washington.
Brooks Orpik – The 2018 Stanley Cup champion is already in the Capitals system on a part time basis, working with blueline prospects in Hershey. Orpik is the prototypical model for how to be an NHL player and would be a huge asset on the Capitals bench and in the locker room. Orpik also continues to provide instruction for his alma mater, Boston College. Would he want a full-time gig in Washington, with family separation, etc? It’s up to him, but Caps would love to have him.
That’s just a few of the early names in the mix. There are likely just as many more candidates we didn’t mention. We could see a coach come from Toronto, or from one of Carbery’s other previous coaching stops in South Carolina and Hershey. The Capitals will also likely have a candidate or two for Carbery’s consideration.
Carbery will have his input and the Capitals will have the final say. Regardless, look for the Capitals to add some NHL experience to the bench.
By Jon Sorensen