BMitch & Finlay: Caps GM Brian MacLellan explains to why Spencer Carbery was the right choice for head coach

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Spencer Carbery was introduced as the next head coach of the Washington Capitals organization on Thursday, officially returning to the organization he left two offseasons ago for his first NHL opportunity.

And, when Caps GM Brian MacLellan joined BMitch & Finlay later Thursday afternoon, he was happy to have Carbery back in the fold.

“I think it’s a good day. I’m happy for Spencer, he’s put a lot of work in to get here, and it’s a big day for him and his family,” MacLellan said. “He’s done a really good job in both the ECHL and AHL, had a lot of success and been named Coach of the Year in both leagues, and he’s taken Toronto’s power play to the top of the NHL the last couple years. A lot of good experience in a lot of different environments.”

Prior to joined Toronto as an assistant, Carbery was the head coach of the AHL Hershey Bears, the Caps’ top minor-league affiliate, for three seasons, going 104-50-9-8 and winning the North Division title in the shortened 2020-21 season. He also led the Bears to the playoffs in 2018-19, the only year the AHL held playoffs in his tenure due to the pandemic, and helped develop some of the Caps’ current young stars.

He also was an assistant and then the head coach of the ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, from 2011-16, so he spent close to a decade in the organization after retiring as a player. That experience, especially, was important for both him and MacLellan as the two sides came together to bring Carbery to DC.

“I think there are a lot of relationships in our organization; he knows me well, all our scouts and player development guys, so I think it’s a natural fit for him to come in and coach our team,” MacLellan said. “I think the big thing for him and us was trust and comfort level with everyone working here. Relationships matter when you’re trying to win and go farther, so I think it was a comfort level for both. There won’t be a feeling out period of how he operates. I think he’ll fit in quickly. He is one of the best young coaches in the game right now, and you can tell by the amount of interest he garnered in coaching searches, so we feel very fortunate he’s with us.”

Carbery will be tasked with trying to bring together a team that has a lot of solid veterans – of course including Alex Ovechkin, who looks to set the NHL goals record sometime in the next two seasons – mixed with emerging young talent, and MacLellan thinks he’s the perfect man for the job.

“I think he has a track record of developing players; he spent a lot of time working with players at the lower levels, and we have a comfort level with him in our organization,” MacLellan said. “And, his experience in Toronto, handling those high-end veteran skill players, he did a really good job with them too. I think it will translate. I realize the balance is tough but he seems to have the skill set to do both.”

And, of course, MacLellan is hopeful it will be a quick return to the postseason after their eight-year streak was snapped this spring.

“You might want to call it a re-tool, because our vets who are established high-level players should come in motivated this year; we had a lot of injuries last season, so I think our guys have something to prove, and we have a good blend,” MacLellan said. “There’s a point where the young guys’ desire to compete and win rubs off on the older guys, and we’ve been spoiled by our success, so it made this past season hurt that much more since we weren’t in the playoffs.”

The balance is tough, but MacLellan thinks the team has it, and so does Carbery.

“I think for us next year...a fresh start with a new young coach, our older guys should be motivated, and we should have some hungry young players trying to crack the lineup and establish themselves at the NHL level,” the GM said. “Hopefully that balance leads to a successful season.”

Listen to MacLellan’s entire appearance above, which includes his thoughts on Stadium Series games and other NHL notes!

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