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Capitals' Mike Green: 'We're going to win it'

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Capitals' Mike Green: 'We're going to win it'

Mike Green had every reason to be bitter about his 2011-12 season. Injuries limited him to just 32 games and resulted in his lowest offensive totals three goals, four assists in six years.

So why was the Capitals 26-year-old defenseman smiling days after his teams second-round playoff elimination by the New York Rangers?

I feel mentally, as far as the game, the best Ive ever felt, and physically the same, Green said. You get your bumps and bruises, but I feel great. I feel like I did four or five years ago on the ice and thats comforting.

An ankle injury and abdominal tear forced Green to miss 50 of the Capitals first 57 games this season and when he returned on Feb. 18 his offensive game suffered. Green failed to record a goal in his final 22 games.

Under Dale Hunter, Green was asked to focused on his defensive game and by the playoffs he believes he was playing some of the best two-way hockey of his career.

I felt that I played strong when the time was right, as far as playoffs, said Green, who in 14 playoff games recorded two goals, two assists and was a plus-5 while average 23:45 in ice time.

I was just starting to get my feel back again and unfortunately its come to an end at this point. I felt good, but I wish that I didnt have to go through what I went through this year. I was really excited about this season but Im focused now mentally on next season.

Of the Capitals four restricted free agents John Carlson, Jay Beagle and Mathieu Perreault are the others placing a value on Green may be difficult. He is coming off a four-year, 21 million contract signed after establishing himself as one of the NHLs most explosive offensive players.

Under the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, to retain his rights the Capitals are required to make Green a qualifying offer equal to his 2011-12 salary of 5 million.

Thats something that well talk about, Im sure, after things settle down here, Green said, Im excited to come back if thats the game plan. Thats what I want, but well see.
After four seasons of playing no fewer than 68 games, Green has missed 83 games the past two seasons and that could impact the term and value of his next contract. In all likelihood Green will accept only a one-year deal that will take him into unrestricted free agency at the age of 27 next year.

If the Caps cannot come to an agreement with Green, they likely would receive a first-, second- and third-round draft pick, dependent on his 2012-13 salary and the rules of a new CBA.

Green made no bones about his desire to return to Washington for an eighth season.
Absolutely, I love it here, he said. This is a great organization, a great city and I believe that were going to win a Cup here and I want to be a part of it.

Green believes that although the Capitals have not made it past the second round of the playoffs since his arrival, they are closer to winning a Stanley Cup than at any time during his tenure.

Weve been improving each year, especially this year, and I feel like were close, he said.
Maybe if a few more bounces go our way and we work a little harder and focus a little harder, were right there. Were going to win it. Its just unfortunate that it wasnt this year.
Green said he saw the Capitals grow closer together under the direction of Hunter, a step he feels is necessary if the Caps want to be considered serious contenders.

I think that over the course of the year we became really tight and I think it was evident in the playoffs with the way we played for each other and guys going down to block shots, he said. We had a young goaltender Braden Holtby come in that a lot of guys didnt know and we played our hearts out for him and he played his heart out for us and that just goes to show the character in the dressing room.

We have the talent and the skill. It comes down to one game and thats the tough part about this sport. You lose by one goal and thats the end of your season. It wasnt a lack of effort or heart or determination, it just didnt work out for us.

Green said the final two rounds of the playoffs are sometimes the most difficult to watch, especially when he thinks about what the Capitals could have done against the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.

I usually follow whats going on, he said. Once you see who wins and you see who you could have beaten, then you can kind of put it to rest.

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What's next for Barry Trotz?

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USA TODAY Sports

What's next for Barry Trotz?

Barry Trotz is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals and, after resigning, he is officially free to pursue other opportunities. So what's next for the now former Capitals head coach?

For those who believe Trotz will simply retire, that seems unlikely. Trotz is only 55 years old. Plus, general manager Brian MacLellan indicated the main issue in the contract negotiations between him and Trotz was term. If Trotz was, in fact, seeking a five-year contract, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready to walk away from the game.

There is only one head coaching vacancy left in the NHL, that of the New York Islanders. New President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello cleaned house after getting hired and fired both general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight earlier in June. Now, suddenly, there is a Stanley Cup-winning coach on the market.

While it certainly makes sense for the Islanders to pursue Trotz, there's one big reason why Trotz, or anyone, would likely be hesitant to accept the job on Long Island and that is John Tavares.

New York's franchise player is a pending free agent and, until his contract situation is resolved, convincing anyone to take the head coaching job with the Islanders is a tough sell. If the Islanders re-sign Tavares, improve the defense and bring in a dependable starting goalie, then there is no reason to think they cannot be a playoff team.

But those are a lot of "ifs" and Tavares is a big one. If he goes, suddenly the situation on Long Island is much different. Tavares' decision could be the difference between the Islanders being a playoff team or getting a high lottery pick.

For Trotz to walk away from a team that just won the Stanley Cup to go to a New York team that may or may not have its best player back next season does not make a lot of sense.

But just because there may be only one head coaching vacancy open doesn't mean Trotz does not have any options.

The 2017-18 season saw no head coaching changes made during the season for the first time since the league expanded in 1967. Chances are jobs will begin to open up during the season especially if those teams believe they can land a Cup-winning coach as a replacement.

If you're Trotz, you just won a Stanley Cup. There is no reason to rush into another opportunity. Trotz will instantly be near or at the top of every wish list for teams in need of a head coach.

Don't just assume that Trotz will be on Long Island to start the 2018-19 season just because it is the only opportunity currently available. He can wait for the perfect opportunity to come to him.

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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