Dick Patrick and I entered into our searches for the Capitals general manager and coach with open minds. As we had shared, our preference was to identify a GM first and then work on a coach hiring. We outlined our criteria, generated an extensive list of potential candidates, conducted numerous phone conversations and held a number of extensive interviews with a variety of candidates with wide-ranging experiences and excellent credentials.
We always had planned to interview our Assistant GM for player personnel, Brian MacLellan. We’ve always been impressed with Brian, but frankly our day-to-day dealings were with the team’s GM, not the Assistant GM who was traveling much of the year. So we wanted to get to know him a little better, and as we interviewed others, we found ourselves immediately comparing them with Brian.
While we felt we needed to make significant changes – and we did by moving on the GM and coach – we also didn’t feel we had to completely rebuild or start from scratch. Of course Brian has incredible knowledge regarding all the players in our system, but what impressed us was his philosophy when it came to all personnel matters – the draft, player development, minor-league affiliations and amateur and pro scouting. He was straight forward, confident and open with his ideas, and for the past six weeks has served as our interim GM, working on trades, signings and our new agreement with Hershey.
We promoted Brian to general manger because he better than anyone articulated a plan and a philosophy for all phases of our hockey operations department. While the interview process opened our eyes regarding Brian’s candidacy, it also reinforced how many talented, intelligent, high-character people are involved in guiding our sport and NHL teams. We appreciated the input and time provided by everyone in the process – we have so much respect for all of those with whom we spoke.
Once we were convinced Brian was the right choice to be general manager, the search for a coach was far less arduous. Through a variety of conversations with people we respect, it was clear that Barry Trotz was priority No. 1. Brian shared that he always admired how Barry structured his team, and when he was scouting Barry’s teams, he was impressed that they always were well prepared and difficult to play against. Brian spoke with Barry, and then Dick and I met with him. Nothing any of us heard gave us pause, and everything gave us the belief that Barry is the right leader for our team. We actually felt extremely fortunate that he was available to us. What he has accomplished thus far is amazing, and we hope that our environment will allow him and us to reach much greater heights.
Both Barry and Brian exhibit intelligence, passion, character and high integrity, and both are genuinely committed to doing the right thing the right way. We can’t wait for our fans to get to know them a little better.
One key component for Dick and me was to ensure Brian and Barry share similar philosophies regarding team structure, style of play and the changes we need to make as an organization. Some of those changes will be evident, others won’t be as obvious and a few will be confidential. While they both have their own opinions and strong viewpoints – and are unencumbered in sharing them – there is an alignment in their thinking. There is a belief in a common system that will allow individual talents – offensive, defensive and goaltending – to flourish while committing to a style of play that will be the most beneficial to our team. Both also have the utmost confidence in our drafting and are energized about the young players on our team and in our system. Their shared focus on a team and organization-wide identity, system and philosophy is paramount.
We want a strong, unified leadership team that will work in tandem to push our franchise to new levels, and we are confident that is what we have in Brian and Barry. There are a lot of positives about our team and organization, but new, critical eyes and voices will examine, evaluate and make the necessary changes in a decisive fashion.
Both Brian and Barry are familiar with the organization, the community and engaged fan base, and we all are excited about the short-term and long-term path to success.
This is a refresh, not a reboot. The naming of this management team is a vital first step – more on the horizon.