Screenshot: Washington Capitals
While the Washington Capitals have much to prove following a disappointing 2022-23 season and a change behind the bench, as the team commenced their 2023 training camp today at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, the organization seems determined to put their critics to bed as a new chapter in franchise history begins under Head Coach Spencer Carbery.
And while the team has yet to play a meaningful game, judging by General Manager Brian MacLellan’s comments in his press conference with local media today, the new bench boss and his charges have a wide array of opportunities to realistically compete for a Stanley Cup in an ever-changing, young NHL.
“I think he’s mature beyond his years”, said the ninth-year general manager of his new head coach, “I think his message is right on all the time, I think he reads situations well.”
“I think it’s a good situation…he’s bringing positivity energy, he’s bringing a little different philosophy, and I think the older guys can feed off of it”, finished MacLellan, highlighting the organization’s familiarity with Carbery as ways the team’s veteran core can relate to the 41-year old coach.
The Capitals look set to infuse their lineup with a number of younger players after an injury-ravaged season last year that highlighted the Achilles heel of possessing such an experienced lineup.
“You know I think the injuries killed us”, admitted MacLellan, “Took all our momentum away, our ability to compete at the end due to man-games lost had an effect on our overall season. We’re going to need our core guys to compete with the best guys in the league, that’s as far as we’ll go here.”
“I think our guys do a good job of it [monitoring the ice time of veteran players], I think…it’s tough when you’re playing three to four games a week to accomplish that. You’re going to have to get through games that are tired games or injured games, same as everyone else.”
“I think it’s days off, making sure there’s rest days, I think ice time is a big thing, how much back-to-backs seem to have an effect on older players. Again you have to have guys that can handle that ice time too to be successful so it has to be managed by the coaching staff and strength and conditioning.”
As the Caps play their first season under Carbery, longtime lineup anchors Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will be suiting up for their 19th and 17th seasons, respectively. Ovechkin, 38, and Backstrom, 35, each dealt with ailments last season; Ovechkin was hampered down the stretch and Backstrom returned to game action in January following hip resurfacing surgery last summer.
“He wants to compete as a team”, MacLellan said of Ovechkin, who continues his chase for the all-time Goals Scored record, “I don’t think it sits well with him that we missed the playoffs, he didn’t have fun down the stretch last year; he wants to win, he wants to compete, he wants to be at the highest level and he’s going to do what he needs to do to help us get there.”
“I’ve got to give him credit”, MacLellan continued, revealing that the injuries that nagged the Caps’ captain hurt his play more than it may have appeared, “Age is a factor too, I think the wear and tear got to him at the end of last year. He played through some things, I’ve got to give him credit.”
As for Backstrom, who has his sights set on proving he can still be a highly-productive player in a full offseason to train, MacLellan also expressed his confidence in his ability to return to form.
“I think he had a really good offseason, I think everything’s positive. I think it’ll be how he progresses here through camp, and exhibition games and into the season. I think it’s all positive right now.”
To hear MacLellan’s full comments, see below:
General manager Brian MacLellan discusses head coach Spencer Carbery leading his first Training Camp, early thoughts on the club heading into the preseason opener on Sunday and more from MedStar Capitals Iceplex.#ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/Gu4KmosveR
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 21, 2023