With the 2022-23 NHL season already entering it’s second month, the Washington Capitals are sitting on a steady 5-4-1 record and tied with the Philadelphia Flyers at 11 points each. Wait a minute, the Caps are tied with the Flyers? What has happened in the Metro Division this season?
The reality is that some of the “bottom feeder” teams likes the Flyers have made vast improvements with coaching changes prior to starting this season. The Capitals, however, seem to plod along with Peter Laviolette as their head coach and with a cast of aging veterans and injuries, they are probably destined for another season of relative mediocrity.
Sometimes fans and pundits alike need to remember that the Washington Capitals are just a few seasons away from hoisting the Stanley Cup as back in 2018. The NHL, just like any other professional sports league, is unforgiving to those franchises who merely rest on their laurels as the Capitals have made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs four consecuritve teams and exited those same playoffs every time in the first round.
Will Peter Laviolette stay with the Caps after this season?
Laviolette’s long term longevity with the Washington Capitals no doubt is a topic of discussion within the Caps front office and even GM Brian MacLellan has been little more than cryptic in his responses to this question. Peter Laviolette signed a three-year, $14.7 million dollar contract to coach the Capitals back starting in the 2020-21 season and this year enters the final year of his contract. The Caps finished up last season with a record of 44-26-12 and picked up the second Eastern Conference wild card spot en route to a first round exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The early exodus from th postseason seems to be a recurring theme for this franchise with two previous quick playoff runs prior to Laviolette’s hring in 2020.
To be fair to Peter Laviolette, he is an accomplished head coach with a Stanley Cup win in Carolina and took both the New York Islanders and the Nashville Predators to the Stanley Cup finals while coaching both respective organizations. Laviolette falls into a higher echelon of NHL coaches who have helped hoist the actual Stanley Cup before and the relative lackadaisical performance of his Capitals’ teams the past two years may indicate a deeper, more systemic problem at root with this franchise.
Last season, the Washington Capitals experienced numerous critical injuries to key players such as T.J Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Anthony Mantha. Combining injuries with the fact the Capitals top lines are getting older by the minute (hello, Alex Ovechkin), the Caps must infuse themselves with new prospects to breathe a sense of new life into this organization. These are explanations and as such cannot be solely used to cover the lackluster performance of any head coach. While Peter Laviolette remains the bench boss in Washington, GM Brian MacLellan has given only tacit approval for his continual role as head coach with the Caps: “I thought (Laviolette) did a good job. I thought the game plan in the playoffs-we had a good year.” Source: nbscports.com.
Whether Peter Laviolette can motivate the Caps to move forward and have a higher level of succ
ess during this season remains to be seen. Maybe the contract extension talks or the lack thereof is nothing more than a “wait and see” approach which of course is a prudent, methodical way of moving forward. It should be noted, however, that former head coach Barry Trotz, the head coach during the Caps’ Stanley Cup win in 2018, is currently unemployed and may be available for hire.
Before any more coaching drama unfolds, let’s see how the Caps’ season unfolds. Topping last year’s regular season performance and moving ahead in the postseason may be the key to keeping Peter Laviolette around in D.C.; anything equal or less than last year means more drama is soon to come.