Washington Capitals assistant Blaine Forsythe will remain on staff in a tweaked role, even though the team is expected to bring aboard three new coaches, General Manager Brian MacLellan confirmed Thursday.
Speaking in a video interview with the team-affiliated Monumental Network from Philadelphia, site of the NHL draft, MacLellan said that though the Capitals are currently in talks with a third and final assistant – reported and confirmed to be former Nashville forwards coach Lane Lambert – Forsythe will be welcomed back for a ninth season with the organization, albeit with different duties.
“We’re working on our final guy right now,” MacLellan told Mike Vogel. “Barry has a relationship there, and we’ll see if we can get it done and finish out the staff. Then we have Blaine Forsythe also, his role’s going to be changed a little bit, but he’s going to still be involved with the coaching and the players.”
In the most likely scenario, Forsythe will continue to work with Washington’s power play, which led the NHL in goals last season, with possibly some other tasks related to his background in scouting and video sprinkled in. Lambert will handle the forwards and penalty kill, with recent hire Todd Reirden coaching the defense and longtime Barry Trotz assistant Mitch Korn managing the goaltenders. In discussing Reirden’s hire, MacLellan only mentioned the former Penguins assistant “as a defense coach.”
“He’s been an impressive guy for us and has done a great job in Pittsburgh developing their defensemen,” MacLellan said. “I’ve interviewed him a couple times, and Barry’s interviewed him. There seems to be a real good chemistry between Barry and him also and with me and Barry.”
MacLellan later expanded on the qualities he and Trotz, fresh off 15 seasons with the Predators, found attractive in Reirden, who was fired by Pittsburgh and hired by Washington all on Wednesday.
“Probably his communication,” MacLellan said. “Very good communicator, the effect he’s had on the defensemen in Pittsburgh. We had a parallel situation, I thought. We’ve got some young guys coming up in [Connor] Carrick and [Dmitry] Orlov that I think he can have an effect on. And even [Karl] Alzner and [John] Carlson, I think he’ll have a big effect on all of them. He seems to have a really good relationship with players. They respect him and have a very strong work ethic.”
If MacLellan and the Capitals get their way, both Reirden and Korn will have some new pieces to coach. The priority remains upgrading the blue line, with a backup for Braden Holtby following thereafter. MacLellan has expressed confidence in Washington’s in-house second-line center options, naming Brooks Laich, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson as candidates, should the Capitals not be able to re-sign Mikhail Grabovski.
“We’ll see how it goes over the next week or so,” MacLellan said “But the priority is defense for me. And then we’ll find a good backup and go from there, depending on how much the defense is going to cost us.”
Though the Capitals are unlikely to find a prospect at No. 13 in Friday’s first round to impact the NHL roster next season, they have found value in low picks before under current assistant GM and former director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney. MacLellan said he believed two defensemen – unnamed, but presumed to be Aaron Ekblad and Haydn Fleury – will go in the top 10, along with three centers. But he didn’t rule out the possibility of swapping picks.
“I think we spent a lot of time tweaking the list,” MacLellan said. “Guys move maybe a couple spots, up or down. We finished up some interviews and maybe some second interviews where we’ve had questions in the past. We’ll go over a little draft strategy with Ross and his group, possibilities of who might fall to where we’re picking, or do we want to move back if it plays out a certain way. Mostly draft strategy.”