With Laviolette off the list, who's next for Caps?

With Laviolette off the list, who's next for Caps?
May 6, 2014, 5:15 pm
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Strike Peter Laviolette off the list of potential head coaches for the Capitals.

Considered one of the top two coaches on the free agent market along with Barry Trotz, Laviolette was named head coach of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, hours before leading Team USA to a 3-1 win over Germany in a preliminary game for the upcoming IIHF World Championships.

The Predators will be the fourth NHL team coached by Laviolette, following his stints with the Islanders, Hurricanes and Flyers.

Laviolette, 49, was not the only head coaching candidate who was taken off the market. Phil Housley, a former defenseman who spent two seasons in Washington from 1996-98, will join Laviolette as an assistant in Nashville, along with Kevin McCarthy and Lane Lambert.

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"Having reached the peak as a Stanley Cup champion [in Carolina], Peter knows the intensity and urgency it will take to help our team reach its ultimate goal," Predators general manager David Poile said.

“He is a great hockey mind who not only has a winning resume, but has done it with an aggressive offensive philosophy while also excelling in helping young players reach their potential. We look forward to Peter instilling his culture in Nashville immediately following his duties coaching the United States at the 2014 World Championship."

With Laviolette under contract in Nashville, the pool of experienced NHL coaches is a shallow one, headed by Trotz, who coached the Predators for 15 years before being relieved of his duties following the conclusion of the regular season.

Trotz, who went 557-479-100 with 60 ties during his tenure in Nashville, has said last week that he will begin listening to coaching offers in mid-May.

That means the clock is ticking if the Caps want Trotz to become their first coach with previous NHL head coaching experience since hiring Ron Wilson in 1997.

Last week, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis reiterated that he and Capitals president Dick Patrick would like to hire a general manager before hiring a coach and that the recruiting process may take time.

“We would prefer to have a general manager and have the general manger work with us to hire the coach,” Leonsis told DC101’s Elliot Segal.

“That’s kind of the plan right now but we’ve left it open that if we wanted to hire a coach we can do that as well. It’s not the preferred route, but it’s not the end of the world if that’s what we decided to do. But right now the main focus for us is in finding a general manager.”

There have been recent reports that there is a “mutual interest” in the Capitals hiring Wayne Gretzky to a management position. Leonsis declined to comment on those reports.

“I’m not going to say anything about anyone just because it’s not appropriate,” Leonsis said. “And the reason it’s not appropriate is, let’s say a name gets out there and we’re not interested. So now you have all sorts of swirl about that.

“Or, let’s say we are interested and we don’t hire the person; that someone else had come in with a better plan. All of a sudden that means that person [who was not hired] is a loser. If you admire the way we handled the departures [of George McPhee and Oates], I want everyone to admire the way we do the recruiting process.

“I’m just not going to talk about anything. We’ll let the bloggers and the media speculate. I just don’t think it’s appropriate.”