It’s been a month since the Capitals learned that Dale Hunter would not return as coach, but on Thursday General Manager George McPhee reiterated that he is taking his time to find the franchise’s next bench boss.
Not surprisingly, McPhee was vague when discussing the coaching search with reporters and did not want to divulge names of possible candidates, but he did say not to expect an announcement before the NHL entry draft June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.
“It’s been narrowed down a little bit but we’ll get there when we get there,” McPhee said. “I don’t anticipate doing anything before the draft. We’ll work on that, but we’re working on other things as well.”
This will be the fifth coaching hire McPhee has made during his tenure as general manager, but it’s only the second time — and first since 2002 — that he’ll have found a coach in the offseason. Bruce Cassidy was the only other coach McPhee hired in the offseason.
“I think you want to make a real thoughtful decision. You have certain things in your mind in what you want in a coach and when you do it in the summer, you just have more time,” McPhee said. “There’s no need to set an artificial deadline, to have it done before the draft or have it done by summer camp.
“The Devils hired a guy in [mid-July] last year and they end up in the finals,” he added. “I think in terms of housekeeping some people like to get it done before the draft but I just don’t think it’s that important. What’s important is hiring the right person and really being able to come to your team with a terrific head coach and knowing that you’ve really done a real comprehensive job in the summer of talking to these people.”
So what is McPhee looking for? Every coach he’s hired previously did not have NHL head coaching experience, but asked if time spent on an NHL bench even as an assistant was a prerequisite, McPhee said “not necessarily; we’re wide open.”
Possible candidates range in experience and background from those with plenty of head coaching experience like Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford and Terry Murray; to NHL assistant coaches Adam Oates, Mike Sullivan and John Stevens; to up-and-coming AHL coach Jon Cooper, who just won the Calder Cup with the Norfolk Admirals. Paul Maurice and Flyers assistant Craig Berube were both interviewed but according to numerous reports, both have been told they’re no longer in the running.
Capitals assistant coaches Dean Evason and Jim Johnson are believed to have interviewed for the vacancy as well, but when asked if either would be returning to the organization, McPhee said “not sure; probably not — we’ll see.”
While McPhee wasn’t expansive in the qualities he’s looking for in a coach, he did provide a window into the style the Capitals will play, which likely won’t be the system Hunter utilized.
McPhee said he wants to see a more up-tempo style, but in conjunction with the work ethic and commitment level the Capitals showed with Hunter at the helm.
“Do you hire the coach to fit your talent? Do you hire the coach whose system you like? It’s generally a combination of both things. Who can coach this group of players, and do we like the style of play that this coach likes to use,” McPhee said. “But as I said when we met right after the playoffs, it’s not necessarily the style of play that’s most important. If you’re the coach, you’ve got to sell this to the players and have them buy in and that’s what works. If you can get everybody to buy in.
“We really liked the way that the team competed, that was something that we’ve been trying to get to,” McPhee said. “To have them compete like that, and they were terrific. They played their guts out; it was great. We want to maintain that kind of commitment and play a little more up-tempo.”
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