Scott Allen’s task is not a small one.
The Capitals’ newest assistant coach was promoted from AHL Hershey on Monday, which sent the Bears looking for a new head coach and Allen looking for a solution to a big challenge Washington faces early in the 2022-23 season.
Allen will be responsible primarily for the forwards and penalty kill, the latter of which will undergo some changes to start the year.
“I’d like to keep it in the upper part of the National Hockey League, that’s for sure,” Allen said of the penalty kill. “I think the penalty kill can be a difference maker, night in and night out, in the National Hockey League. In the past, I’ve been a big believer and a builder on trying to be fairly aggressive. It certainly plays into personnel. I think the Caps certainly have the personnel to play an aggressive style.”
That aggressive style might have to come without two of the team’s top penalty killers from a year ago, though. Tom Wilson is recovering from a torn ACL and his return is slated for some time from late fall to early winter. Carl Hagelin is still working his way back from an eye injury and his future is uncertain.
Meaning, the Capitals will have some open spots on the team’s penalty kill. Per Natural Stat Trick, Wilson (125:57) and Hagelin (100:45) were first and fourth, respectively, in minutes played on the penalty kill. Allen mentioned new addition Connor Brown as someone who could thrive in the Capitals’ system, but reiterated that spots will be up for grabs when training camp starts in September.
Perhaps the biggest thing working in Allen’s favor, though, is the fact that he’s familiar with a handful of players both on Washington’s roster -- and candidates just trying to make the squad -- due to his three years in Hershey as an assistant and head coach.
“I think it’s a tremendous help,” Allen said. “I think it makes a big difference, especially knowing some of these younger guys, who are hoping to break through and become regular National Hockey League players. What they’re capable of doing, I’m excited to see these guys after another full offseason, back in camp and the gains they’re capable of making in the offseason.”
Allen will join coach Peter Laviolette’s staff in his fourth stop in the NHL. He previously coached with the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes as an assistant.
“It’s always a special feeling,” Allen said of the promotion. “It’s the best league in the world, it’s the best players in the world. It’s the only league you can win a Stanley Cup in. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in the minors. People use the terms “paying their dues,” I don’t look at that for one second. I’ve been so fortunate and extremely lucky.”