The Washington Capitals are preparing for the NHL Draft without a new head coach in place.
General manager George McPhee expects his search to carry past this week. He has interviewed several candidates and has, according to the Washington Post, ruled out veteran NHL coach Paul Maurice, Flyers assistant coach Craig Berube and Capitals assistant coaches Dean Evason and Jim Johnson.
Previous coach Dale Hunter convinced the Capitals to work hard, but his defensive-minded approach shackled Washington’s skill players. So McPhee is looking for a coach capable to getting the team to work hard AND play a more up-tempo offensive style.
“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,” McPhee said, according to the Post. “Who can coach this group of players, and do we like the style of play that this coach likes to use.
“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.”
Whoever coaches this team will have a different group than the one Hunter coached. To wit:
Veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun has already moved on to Pittsburgh to back up and potentially push starter Marc-Andre Fleury.
Winger Mike Knuble will move on as an unrestricted free agent. The power-play specialist turns 40 this summer and he looked his age during the season.
Jeff Halpern, 36, is also departing as a UFA. He seldom played down the stretch for Washington and McPhee informed him that no offer will be forthcoming.
Winger Alexander Semin is eager to become an unrestricted free agent after a difficult 2011-12 season with the Capitals. Despite his rapport with Washington star Alexander Ovechkin, Semin seems ready to seek a fresh start elsewhere.
Defenseman Dennis Wideman, another UFA, has a chance to get rich in a thin market this summer. He is one of the few puck-rushing defensemen up for grabs.
Given the team’s high number of UFAs, it is more than $25 million under the projected 2012-13 NHL salary cap. McPhee will have an opportunity to become a major player this summer.