Outside hire for coach, but GM's far from new

After a monthlong search, the Washington Capitals have decided who will be the next to lead them behind the bench and in the front office.

Washington named Brian MacLellan general manager and Barry Trotz coach Monday, giving the organization familiarity and experience, respectively, as it aims to usher in a new era.


MacLellan, 55, has been a fixture in Washington for the past 13 seasons, serving first as a pro scout, then director of player personnel and, for the past seven seasons, assistant general manager under George McPhee. Promoting MacLellan doesn't fulfill what owner Ted Leonsis explained in April as a need for a "fresh set of eyes and new voice" to assess the team, as the Guelph, Ontario, native has been involved with Washington since 2000.

"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," Leonsis wrote on his blog, "Ted's Take," Monday night. "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."


But even with his close ties to McPhee — they were teammates at Bowling Green from 1978 to 1982, long before they worked together in Washington — MacLellan has a player-development background, and it's unclear how much their approaches to building a team will overlap. In the weeks since McPhee was fired after 17 years at the helm, MacLellan served as interim general manager and made a few moves, including trading pending unrestricted free agent Jaroslav Halak to the New York Islanders and renewing Washington's American Hockey League affiliation with the Hershey Bears.

There is uncertainty with all first-time general managers; they've never held the top job and there's no track record to evaluate. But in selecting MacLellan, the Capitals opted to go with an unknown they're familiar with rather than bring in someone new from the outside. As a player, MacLellan appeared in 606 NHL games during a 10-year career that included winning the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.

"Over the course of my career I have worked in acquiring the necessary skills to excel in this position. We have built a solid foundation, and I look forward to implementing my ideas to get us back to competing for the Stanley Cup," MacLellan said in a news release, in which he also welcomed Trotz to Washington. "Barry's teams have always played with structure, discipline and intensity, and I look forward to him leading us to success for many years to come."

Trotz, 51, spent the past 15 seasons as coach in Nashville. When he was fired in April after the Predators failed to reach the playoffs for a second consecutive season, the Manitoba native quickly became a highly sought-after candidate for every team with a vacancy behind the bench.

"This is a great organization with a strong foundation and a tremendous fan base," Trotz, who replaces Adam Oates, said in a news release. Both he and MacLellan are scheduled to speak with reporters today. "I look forward to working with this group of talented players and the quality front office staff this team has assembled."

Well respected around the league, Trotz couples a no-nonsense style with demanding expectations, but is viewed as approachable by players. But while Trotz guided the Predators through various stages, from expansion team to postseason threat, in the seven years they qualified for the playoffs, they never advanced beyond the second round. It's a dubious distinction shared by the Alex Ovechkin-era Capitals he is joining.