Capitals first-year general manager Brian MacLellan met with reporters for close to 30 minutes on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. In Part Three of his state of the team, he gives his thoughts on the team’s goaltending depth, the future of defenseman Dmitry Orlov and the window to win a championship with Alex Ovechkin.
On the goaltending plan for next season:
We have good depth, I think. Circumstances dictated that [Justin] Peters didn’t get off to a good start. We needed to establish [Braden] Holtby and work on his game and Peters didn’t get as many reps or as many games as he probably would have liked during the year and that was more centered around a focus on Holtby than it was him. And then we got to a point where he hadn’t played in a long time so we needed to have a guy [Philipp Grubauer] that had played, we thought, or the coaches thought. Unfortunately for [Peters] it hasn’t worked out, but I know [goaltending coach] Mitch [Korn] has worked with him a lot on his game and I would expect that he would come in and we’d see a good result from him next year.
On whether he would like to see Peters back up Holtby next season and keep Grubauer and Pheonix Copley in Hershey:
We’ve got two good guys there. Grubauer is pushing up and Peters has got something to prove to the organization here next year.
On the medical condition of defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who did not play the entire NHL season because of a broken left wrist suffered while playing for Russia in last year’s World Championships:
I think he’s good. I’m not sure he’s at 100 percent and I don’t know that he’ll ever be at 100 percent. But he’s good. It’s been frustrating he hasn’t played. We missed a year of development with him. He’s a good, young defenseman. We’re counting on him coming into our lineup from the beginning of next year and having our coaching staff work with him. I think we’ll see major strides in his development. I think he’s wondering about his options [for another surgery] but I think he’s good where he’s at right now.
On whether any Capitals will require offseason surgeries:
Not that I know of. I know a few guys are still getting things checked out. I would assume they’re not, but I’m not certain on that.
On Alex Ovechkin’s season:
I thought he was great. I mean, he’s more engaged this year and I think he had more fun this year than he’s had in a while. He produced offensively [53 goals, 81 points in 81 games] in a more structured, detailed, two-way game. He basically got the same numbers. I think he’s taken a lot of pride in that. The so-called guarantee [that the Caps would come back and win Game 7 in New York], I thought he did a good job. We had the best first period we had all series against New York. He came out and scored a goal and we were up 1-0 going into the second. I don’t know if I would label it a guarantee. He pretty much came out and said we’re going to beat them and I hope anybody in our room would have said that.
On the impact Barry Trotz had on Ovechkin:
I really think he’s bought in all along. From what I’ve observed he’s done what has been asked of him. We’ve had different coaches ask different things of him and I think he’s done it. Whether it’s been successful or not, that depends on your perspective or judgment of it. I think this has been the best message we’ve had since he’s been here from an experienced coach and he’s responded to it. And he’s bought in. He’s done what Barry’s asked him to do and he’s been successful at it and consequently our team has been.
On whether there are parts of Ovechkin’s game that can still grow:
I think he can grow his game. There are aspects of his game that you noticed more this year, where he goes to the net. There are goals you can get from being so strong. Tipping pucks, rebounds, things he might not have participated in. I know the one-timer involves his spot [in the left-wing circle] and that stuff he’s always going to get. But there are ways to add offense for him that he doesn’t always participate in. You know, the greasy goals. Overpowering a guy in front of the net, getting position on a guy, tipping pucks, that stuff. I saw him do a little bit more of that this year than he ever has. Backchecking, putting pressure on the puck on the way back. Being aware of where to be in our own zone when they’re cycling the puck. Moving it to his defensemen. He’s much more detail-oriented than he has been.
On if the window for winning a championship for Ovechkin, who is 29, is now:
Sure. I mean, we’ve got good young guys coming here, too. Yeah, I’d say the next three or four years is the window, for sure.