Coaching is a tough profession. As the saying goes, coaches are hired to be fired. But that’s not the case for Capitals assistant coach Blaine Forsythe.
Forsythe is now in his 13th season with the Capitals and 10th as an assistant coach. He first entered the organization in 2006 as a video coach, became an amateur scout in 2008 and later returned to the coaching staff in 2009.
Since 2006, the Caps have had six different head coaches and two general managers. And yet, Forsythe has remained a part of the organization throughout. He did not expect his career to go that way.
“You never know,” Forsythe said to NBC Sports Washington. “You're always hopeful given whatever situation you get lucky to be in, but I've been obviously pretty fortunate in a bunch of different areas to be able to obviously survive this long and work with different people and them having enough trust in me to keep me around through all those transitions. It's been pretty mind-blowing, but at the same time, pretty good. Pretty lucky.”
Forsythe’s tenure in Washington is made all the more remarkable given the changes the team has gone through during that time.
“I've seen a bit of everything,” Forsythe said. “When we first came in, it was obviously a rebuild and we got to a point where I think the second year, we were the worst team in the league at the Thanksgiving break and we ended up making the playoffs that year and you can just see the transition. Not only the group of players, but the city itself.
“In the first few games, I was like, this is an NHL city? The building was not even half full and I think by the end of my second year, the Rock the Red stuff started and all of a sudden it was one of the best buildings in the league within a year.”
Forsythe was a major part of that turnaround and continues to be a major part of the coaching staff today.
While Forsythe is modest about his career calling his lengthy tenure in Washington “lucky,” you don’t survive in one city in a profession as competitive as coaching just by luck.
“[Forsythe’s] someone that we've gone through the last four years together and we see the game quite similar,” Todd Reirden said in training camp. “Obviously he works with the forwards and in the past I've worked with the defensemen, but just we've worked together on the power play and he's a real creative mind in terms of where the game is headed and has a really good feel for the players. He's been here for quite a while so I lean on him in a number of different situations.”
The aspect in which Reirden leans on Forsythe the most is the power play.
Forsythe is responsible for coaching the team’s centers, one of the Caps’ biggest strengths as a team, and the power play. In Washington’s Stanley Cup run, the power play scored on 22 of 75 opportunities for a rate of 29.4-percent. The Caps’ 22 power play goals were the most scored in the postseason over the last eight seasons.
This season, as the Caps continue adjusting to a new coaching staff, one aspect in which they have remained dominant is the power play. Washington has the top power play unit in the league scoring on 37.1-percent of their opportunities.
The fact that he remains effective even after so many years in Washington is a credit to his abilities as a coach as is the fact that each new coach that is hired in Washington chooses to keep Forsythe on staff.
What could have been just a stop on the road of a lengthy coaching career has now turned into a home for Forsythe who has seen and been a part of the growth of Capitals hockey in his 13 years with the team.
Said Forsythe, “To see them grow and then become a really good team and not get over that hump and then obviously last year going through what we did to see them finally get over that hump, it was almost like three different lives I've lived personally within a city that I never would have expected to live in 20 years ago.”
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