Who knows? By the time Laviolette’s contract ends, the Capitals could be the beginning of a rebuild.
“Just looking at it from the outside, this is a team that’s been successful,” said Laviolette. “It’s difficult in the playoffs to get all the way to the end and everybody knows that. And I think that’s what drives you as a coach and an organisation or a player is to get all the way to the end. To play for the Cup and get your hands on it.
“To me, I’ve seen a team that’s had success recently: regular season success, some post-season success. And for me, that’s a great opportunity. I don’t necessarily look at it and say, ‘well, it’s got to happen this year or it’ll never happen.’ I’m excited to go in and be here and be a part of this and add any layer that I can as a coach to try and help get to that next step.”
Lucky for Laviolette, he has a team that now knows how to do it.
Ovechkin may have been mistakenly labelled as a me-first player after burning through four coaches in his first nine years in the league, but his reputation dramatically changed after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. He no longer needs another Dale Hunter to teach him any lessons. But he still needs structure.
That’s why Trotz was so important. And it’s why Laviolette was ultimately hired.
Like Trotz, Laviolette has a history of getting his players to buy in and play winning hockey. He won the Cup in Carolina and went to the final with Philadelphia and Nashville. The expectations in Washington are that he will do more than just make the playoffs and try and win a round.
It’s all about the Cup.
“Peter has a track record of establishing a culture,” said GM Brian MacLellan, who interviewed several other candidates for the position. “It’s one of his priorities. And part of that culture is getting guys to play the right way and holding them accountable to play the right way … that’s a big reason why we hired him.”
Had they done things differently with Trotz two years ago, maybe they wouldn’t have had to.