Capitals first-year general manager Brian MacLellan met with reporters for close to 30 minutes on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. In Part Two, he gives his thoughts on re-signing Mike Green, the team’s progress under Barry Trotz and the team’s quest for a top-line right wing:
On if there is any conceivable way defenseman Mike Green returns for an 11th season with the Capitals:
Yeah, sure. I like what Mike Green’s done this year. It’s been a good fit for us. I like our group overall, it’s a good group. I think it’s going to come down to if he’s comfortable with that role [as a fifth defenseman] and what do you pay for that role going forward. It’s probably going to be a little complicated. There are a lot of moving parts around that. I think the best thing we can do is keep in communication. Tell him what we’re thinking and he can tell us what they’re thinking and if it works out, that’ll be great. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I have [his exit interview] this afternoon. To play in that spot as a fifth guy that can move up, there’s a dollar value on that and if we can afford that we’ll try to work it into the cap.
On UFA Eric Fehr:
He had a great year. We missed him in the playoffs. He’s comfortable with that third-line center spot now. He did a good job on faceoffs [52 percent], really improved in that area. He’s good defensively; he’s got a good stick. And he contributed offensively 5-on-5 [17 goals], which is hard to do in this league while playing against good players. And so, we’d love to have him back.
On having so many free agents have career years:
Funny how that works. It will make it tough. It’s going to be the same philosophy. If you want to come back and you believe in the group, maybe you’re not trying to maximize the dollar amount and term amount.
On the job Barry Trotz has done in his first year:
I thought he was outstanding. He set the tone for the culture and bringing in structure and a system of accountability. I thought the whole coaching staff was incredibly good this year. Barry obviously has been in the league a long time and knows what it takes to be successful. He got star players and your bottom six [forwards] and bottom two defensemen to buy into what he was doing, philosophically and off the ice. It’s amazing the change in environment that’s happened from last year to this year. The same guys, who were incredibly close this year, had some issues at the end of last year. And I think he’s a big part of creating that. And you’ve got to give the players credit, too. It’s not just the head coach and assistant coaches, it’s the players. I think they were at the point where they could receive the message that Barry brought to them and they bought into it.
On, despite the team’s progress, how much failing to get to the conference finals is gnawing at him:
“A lot. It’s a really good point. I think we’ve got to take not finishing New York off [seriously]. What do we take out of that, to get past that hurdle? I thought we struggled a little bit with the pace of New York at times during the games. Our starts weren’t where they should have been. I thought the pace of their penalty killers, they put a lot of pressure on our power play [1-for-15] and I thought that hurt us. And there were some times when details of our game got exposed. Turnovers in the middle of the ice, taking three penalties in a row, a bad [line] change, a missed assignment on a faceoff. I think we have to get to that next level on the detail stuff. We’ve come a long way and the coaches emphasize it every day. I saw the Joel Ward quote about randomness. Those bounces are created because a bunch of stuff goes on in front of it. If you’re not detail oriented, you’re going to suffer because of it. I think in the New York series it might have gone a little bit against us. They are 2-1 games and it comes down to one mistake every game. We took advantage of a couple of their mistakes early and we made some at the end that we shouldn’t have made.
On filling the void at top-line right wing, where center Nicklas Backstrom and left wing Alex Ovechkin played with several different teammates:
It’s on the shopping list. I think it would be a priority for us if we can find a guy that can play there. I don’t know that the UFA market is going to provide that for us. We’ll see what happens in the trade market here coming up, see if we can find that. Otherwise, we’re going to have to develop a guy. We’re going to have to look at [Andre] Burakovsky. We’re going to have to find a guy. But it is a priority. You don’t like to see revolving players go through that spot all year. You’d like to have some more stability there, where a guy is there permanently, or almost permanently. You’re always changing lines, but we’d like to have a guy play there.
On the futures of trade deadline acquisitions Tim Gleason and Curtis Glencross, each of whom will be unrestricted free agents:
I thought Gleason did what we thought he’d do for us. He was a good teammate, provided us with a physical presence, filled in on the PK when Brooks [Orpik] or Karl [Alzner] got penalties. I thought he did what we thought he would do. He played great against the fourth line of the Islanders. We’ll consider [re-signing]. That will be down the road, I think, depending on what happens with Mike Green. We’re going to have [Nate] Schmidt and [Dmitry] Orlov integrated into our lineup, so there might not be room for the guy. But we’ll see how it works out. Glencross, it looked like it was going to work early. I mean, I’ve been watching Glencross since he broke into the [AHL] in Cincinnati. He came in and scored some goals for us early and then some things went on and he kind of lost his game a little bit and I don’t think we had time to wait around for him to find it again. There’s a good player in there. We saw a little bit of it. I made the point to the coaches that if we won that game 1-0 when he scored that goal [a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 5] it’s a great trade. That’s the fine line. They came back and unfortunately they scored. We’re going to talk. That’s going to be down the line. We have a lot more decisions to make in front of that.
On if there is anything on the shopping list other than a top-line right wing:
That would be the main thing. I’d like, ideally, to get an established forward in our lineup somehow, to complement young guys and Ovi and Backstrom.
On where Andre Burakovsky should play next season:
Probably at wing. I’ve discussed it with Barry a few times. I think there’s a natural center there that hasn’t been developed. But I think he can be able to play anywhere, basically: left wing, center or right wing. I think we’re going to want to incorporate him into our top six, so probably right [wing].