WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — First-year Washington Capitals general Manager Brian MacLellan addressed a wide-ranging degree of team related activity in his interview with the Junkies Thursday morning.
Specifically, he addressed the decision to sign free agent defenseman Brooks Orpik, 33, to an astonishing 5-year, $27.5 million deal, how the Capitals players seemed to have “checked out” on ex-head coach Adam Oates in his final year, and how he definitely does not want to be nicknamed ‘GMBM.’
What went wrong with Adam Oates?
Asked what went wrong with Adam Oates, or rather, what was missing with Oates, MacLellan said, “I’m not totally sure. I think at some point, some of the players probably checked out a little bit.”
“I think as it evolved, it turned into something that it wasn’t the year before. The strike year, I thought everything was good,” he said of the Capitals’ 27-18-3 lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. “I think people were buying into what he was doing, and it was working really well. We had a good finish to that year, and the following season, the chemistry wasn’t there, the philosophy shifted a little bit, and there was disconnect between the players and the coach.”
The Capitals would go on to finish the 2013-14 season with a 38-30-14 record, enough to finish 5th in the new Metropolitan division and miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
Prior to the hiring of Barry Trotz, the Capitals had gone through three coaches in four seasons. Trotz becomes the fourth in five.
MacLellan was asked if he’d been in agreement with previous general manager George McPhee over all those coaching hires, prior to Trotz. “I think in the end, the guy in charge makes a decision,” he said. “My role was not to make a decision; my role was to give an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of anybody that he was considering, so that’s what I did during that whole process.”
On decision to give Brooks Orpik the fifth year on his contract
“I mean the Brooks Orpik signing is the type of guy that we’d been coveting for a number of years,” MacLellan said. “I know back in, I think it was 2010, we went hard after Willie Mitchell. He was 33, 34-years-old at the time, and we lost out to him in the finals. It was down to two teams. And I thought it had a big impact that we did not get him. You know, you mentioned we had a young guns era; we had a lot of good young players, and I think in hindsight, you say we didn’t compliment them with veteran players to help them get through the rough periods that happen during the season.”
MacLellan would go on to describe what Orpik brings to the table, that the Capitals had previously been missing.
“Our PK wasn’t very good last year,” he said. “He’s the first penalty kill guy. He’s a shot-blocker, he gets a lot of hits, he’s a good complimentary player to puck-moving defensemen. I mean, we’ve lacked that element in our lineup for a number of years, and we’ve addressed it.”
MacLellan specified he did not have the autonomy to make the decision on giving Orpik the fifth year without the consent of team owner Leonsis’ and team president Dick Patrick.
“No, I don’t have that autonomy,” he said. “I was in and out of Ted and Dick’s office a number of times, with the progress of the negotiations. I did not want to do the extra year and I did not want to go that high, but that’s what it took. There was another team bidding against me, and they went to five years. And it was the same thing when we did it in 2010 with Willie Mitchell. We did not go the extra years and we lost out on him, so at some point you gotta make that decision.”
Did you think the Caps should have won a Stanley Cup by now?
Asked if he thought the Capitals, with the once young core of Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom, would have won a Stanley Cup by this point, MacLellan, now thirteen years in with the organization, said, “I did. I did. I thought we’d be really close, and obviously you need breaks and you need to make a couple of really good decisions along the way, and I think we took a run at it and missed it.”
“One of the things I think we’ve failed to do is get a veteran defensman that’s played in the league and has good leadership qualities, and it’s been hard to find that guy, and this free agency, I thought we found one,” he added.
MacLellan wants to be called ‘Mac’ not ‘GMBM’
At the top of the interview, the Junkies mentioned to MacLellan his predecessor, George McPhee, had colloquially been referred, by fans and media, as ‘GMGM,’ an abbreviation, of course, for ‘General Manager George McPhee.’
“I’ve been told that some people call Brian MacLellan, the new general manager of the Washington Capitals, ‘GMBM,'” JP said. “Does that work, Mr. MacLellan?”
“Not for me, no,” MacLellan laughed. “I’m not sure I have a choice in it though.”
That conversation would resume at the tail end of the interview, when host Eric Bickel brought up the Junkies nearly non-existent media relationship with McPhee, saying, “I think I can already tell Brian likes us.”
“We’re off to a good foot here with Brian MacLellan,” Lurch said.
“GMBM likes us,” Bickel said.
“Yea, let’s get rid of that ‘GMBM’ thing,” MacLellan was quick to thwart the nickname from becoming solidified.
“He’s not a huge fan, clearly,” Cakes said.
“I know it’s not you, but I looked on Twitter and there is an @GMBM Twitter,” JP said.
“Oh, God. Yea, no, it’s not me,” MacLellan said. “I don’t know where that came from.”
“Anytime you have ‘BM’ as part of your nickname, it’s probably not that great,” Cakes said.
Asked what he’s been called throughout his career in the NHL, MacLellan said, “Mostly it’s been ‘Mac.'”
“Alright, we’ll call you ‘Mac’ then,” Lurch said.
“Yea, that’s better. That’s a lot better,” MacLellan said.
Mac it is.