In a wide-ranging interview with reporters on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan addressed a variety of topics, from the team being “angry” and “agitated” about their second-round exit from the playoffs to the need to having better forward depth.
In Part Two, MacLellan discusses his trade deadline decisions, the future of Jason Chimera and the NHL’s playoff format:
On his decision to add Mike Richards through free agency and Daniel Winnik at the NHL trade deadline:
We tried to reconfigure that top six on the run here, with (Mike)Richards and adding (Daniel) Winnik and the priority for us was to solidify our penalty kill. (T.J.) Oshie was killing penalties, (Justin) Williams was killing penalties and (Nicklas) Backstrom was killing penalties. There’s a lot of energy that goes into that, so we filled that hole in the bottom six with some good guys. Winnik did a great job for us penalty killing. Richards did a good job. And then it’s good to have that, but you still need a little offense from your bottom six I think.
On his summer wish list:
I’m pretty content with the core. I think the 9th, 10th forward are where we’re going to look to improve.
On if he regrets not being more aggressive at the trade deadline, when he picked up Winnik and defenseman Mike Weber:
I don’t know that that type of player was out there. We were restricted because we had a contract situation (Brooks Laich), and most of our conversations were based on taking a contract back to add a guy. And I mean, sometimes the timing doesn’t work out as far as getting that contract out, it doesn’t align with conversations you have, trying to trade for players, and that was the case this year. I mean, we had some conversations of guys we had interest in, as long as they would take the one contract back, and teams weren’t interested, and then we finally traded the contract and it didn’t line up perfectly, timing wise. I mean, we did try to address it.
On the chances of Jason Chimera re-signing with the Capitals as an unrestricted free agent:
Yeah, there’s a chance. I mean, I think our priorities are going to be our restricted guys. I think everything will fall into place off of that, depending on what level of salary we need to get our guys signed and what do we have left and what his contract demands are. I mean, we’re going to have to weigh all those options out, and what the free agent market’s going to look like, too, we think, salary-wise. We’re going to have to balance all those things out, whether we bring him back or not.
On if he thinks the Capitals need to get faster:
I think speed needs to be a factor for us considering any players. Overall, I don’t think we’re a slow team, but I think at times, we get exposed with the really fast teams. Dallas, Pittsburgh, we did struggle sometimes with the pace of the game. I don’t think all of the time. I think sometimes I see it more as we don’t enforce our style of play on the speed team. We sit back and let them do the speed game. The Pittsburgh series, I think at times their speed took over, and then at times, we took over with a physical, pressure style, physical strength style of play. It went back and forth quite a bit. I think it’s on us, the style we want to play, upon the speed teams, so while speed is a factor, I think we need to enforce the way we want to play on teams, and more consistently.
On speed along the Capitals’ blue line:
“Ideally, you’d like to have a balance. For me, I try to give the coaches as many options as we can. That’s part of what trading for Weber was. I mean, did we need a higher caliber defenseman? Maybe. But it was difficult to trade those off because you’re going to bring in a guy that’s going to jump in front of Schmitty (Nate Schmidt) and jump in front of (Dmitry) Orlov and jump in front of (Brooks) Orpik.
Or do you just try and protect your depth with a physical, stay-at-home, net-front presence guy for when you play teams like Philly or play teams like the Islanders? I mean, I felt we had Schmitty, we’ve had Orlov, we had (Aaron) Ness in the minors, skating, puck-moving guys. You just try to cover the bases for the coaches, so if they needed to add that element or they felt they needed to add that element, then they could.
On the play of Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov in the post-season:
The level of play in the (regular season) is different than the playoffs. I think they got exposed at times, just like the young defensemen on Pittsburgh did, too. I think it’s important for us to know that our guys made a few mistakes that resulted in goals, but so did their guys. You know, there’s turnovers on both sides. (Brian) Dumoulin turned over a puck. (Derrick) Pouliot turned over a puck that resulted in goals.
They had guys making mistakes, just like our guys were making mistakes. It’s not just, let’s hold our guys accountable. Schmitty did a good job during the year filling in at top four.
I think the issue becomes there’s not much room for error in the playoffs, and when you make a mistake, it gets magnified and the confidence of the player gets shaken a little bit. I think with both Schmitty and Orlov, you see them – they wavered a little bit and became less offensive, less willing to join the rush, less their style of play and more conservative. I think it hurt them in the long run. I know we were well aware of it. I think it’s a process that young guys need to go through. Basically, it was the first year in the playoffs for them, you know? Orlov missed a year. Schmitty, this is his first full year. I think we’ll take that into consideration as we’re evaluating them. We’ve just got to get them to the next level.