At his introductory news conference in May, new Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan talked about the need to build a better relationship with the AHL Hershey Bears.
On Monday, new Hershey Bears coach Troy Mann said the upheaval of the Capitals’ coaching staffs the past three years -- when Bruce Boudreau was replaced by Dale Hunter, who was replaced by Adam Oates -- put a strain on that relationship and he hopes to form a stronger one with new Caps coach Barry Trotz.
“We went through some transitional periods there in Hershey with some different coaches here in Washington,” said Mann, who was an assistant coach in Hershey from 2009-13 before leaving to coach the AHL Bakersfield Condors last season and returning as head coach of the Bears.
“Barry’s path to coaching went through the American League as well, so he understands what goes on at that level and what the players go through on a day-to-day basis to make it to the NHL.
“That’s going to be vital thing going forward for Hershey and Washington. We need to have the pipeline coming back to where it was three or four years ago when Hershey was winning Calder Cups.”
To help foster that relationship Trotz instituted a “48-hour” rule with Mann in their first face-to-face meeting on Sunday.
“Where we make sure either I call him or he calls me,” Mann said. “We’ll make sure we’re communicating every couple days in terms of who’s playing well.”
Mann, 44, said he and Trotz will play very similar style this season and gave a glimpse into what that style will be in Washington and Hershey.
“He wants to push the pace, he wants to play an uptempo style and he wants to go after the puck,” Mann said. “And when you don’t have the puck, you want to be getting it back as soon as possible and that’s my philosophy as well.
“The ironic thing is a lot of systems Barry is going to install here I’m very familiar with. I’m sure there are going to be tweaks and you want to have your own identity as a head coach, but you want to make sure players coming up from Hershey can make an easy transition because they know what’s going on.”
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Mann also stressed the importance of the long relationship MacLellan has had with Bears general manager Doug Yingst during MacLellan’s 13 years as a Caps scout, director of player development and assistant general manager.
“Mac was a guy who did a lot of the work with Doug, and now that he’s the boss I don’t think much will change there. They’re on the same page.”
That was evident, Mann said, with last week’s signings of free-agent forwards Kris Newbury and Tim Kennedy. Mann said he thought the Bears were strong between the pipes and on the blue line, but needed to strengthen their depth up front and addressed that need, calling Kennedy a top-six, playmaking centerman and Newbury a hard-working, two-way forward.
Mann said he intends to bring a strong work ethic and accountability to Hershey and noted the T-shirts Caps prospects are wearing this week with “Earned… Never Given!”
“We had that slogan in Hershey five years ago when we won in 09-10,” Mann said. “Work ethic and structure are two components I’m huge on and anyone who has watched my teams play will bring up those two terms. In terms of that [Trotz and I] are on the same page 100 percent.”