The Washington Capitals found themselves in rather unfamiliar territory this season. Despite their best efforts, Washington entered the final week before the NHL trade deadline outside of the playoff picture. And things just didn’t look promising.
So, the Capitals did what some teams in their position do. They saw the writing on the wall and decided to bolster their future a bit. Washington traded Dmitry Orlov, Marcus Johansson, Erik Gustafsson, and Lars Eller for future assets. They acquired a load of draft picks and young defenseman Rasmus Sandin from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Washington missed the playoffs, as was expected after the deadline. And the changes didn’t stop, as the team announced the departure of head coach Peter Laviolette. The veteran bench boss spent three seasons in the nation’s capital, holding a record of 115-78-27 during that time.
The future of the Capitals remains uncertain. Washington certainly doesn’t want to tear the whole thing down, especially as Alex Ovechkin continues to chase historic milestones. However, it may not be a quick fix for the Capitals.
First things first, the team needs a new head coach. With that in mind, here are three candidates that could take the reins in Washington as the next head coach of the Capitals.
3) Joel Ward, Henderson Silver Knights assistant coach
Ward represents the first in a major theme for the candidates on this list: he has connections to the Capitals organization. Before retiring and joining the Vegas Golden Knights organization, he played four seasons in Washington.
In fact, Ward played more games for the Capitals than any of the other teams he played for in his career. As a member of the Capitals, Ward scored 57 goals and 121 points in 276 games.
After retiring in 2020, the former Capitals forward joined the Golden Knights organization as an assistant coach for the Henderson Silver Knights, their AHL affiliate. Ward is seen as a rising star in the coaching ranks thanks to his easy-going personality.
Ward was a fan favorite wherever he played, Washington included. That could go a long way with team owners, and his familiarity with the Capitals organization could make his transition to NHL coaching much easier.
2) Spencer Carbery, Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach
Carbery, much like Ward, has connections to the Capitals organization. However, he didn’t play for the team. Rather, the Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach has connections behind the bench.
Carbery spent three seasons as the head coach of the Hersey Bears, Washington’s AHL affiliate. In 2021, he won the AHL’s Coach of the Year for his efforts in leading Hersey to the top record in the North Division.
Carbery left the Capitals organization for his current role with the Maple Leafs. He runs Toronto’s power play unit, where he helped the team rank as the league’s second-best power play behind the Edmonton Oilers.
The Maple Leafs assistant coach is highly thought of around the league, but especially within the Capitals organization. Perhaps a reunion is in order, this time in the NHL.
1) Jeff Halpern, Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach
Much like Ward, Halpern also spent the majority of his playing career in a Capitals sweater. Halpern, an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning, brings added experience as an NHL coach.
The recently-turned 47-year-old Halpern spent seven seasons with the Capitals during his playing days. He scored 91 goals and 230 points in 507 games in the nation’s capital.
The 47-year-old began his coaching career with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate. He received a promotion to Tampa in 2018 following the departure of current Winnipeg Jets head coach Rick Bowness. He has held his current role ever since.
As an assistant with the Lightning, Halpern won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021. Tampa went to a third straight Stanley Cup Final in 2022, losing to the Colorado Avalanche.
Halpern has a lot of qualities that make him the perfect hire. He played over 500 games with the Capitals, and he has coached at a high level with the NHL’s model organization for years now. The former Capitals forward will get his chance to lead a team of his own. Washington should be the team to give him that chance.
The post 3 best candidates to replace Peter Laviolette as Washington Capitals head coach appeared first on ClutchPoints.