Former Caps defenseman John Erskine didn't get the best goodbye in team...
The Case for Crawford
Ever since Dale Hunter stepped down as the head coach of the Washington Capitals Monday morning, the Caps blogosphere has blown up with articles outlining what qualities the next head coach should have, with some even naming coaches who should be the next bench boss come training camp. Caps Outsider’s very own Samantha Bass gives great reasons as to why she feels the Caps should bring back Ron Wilson. Mike Stancik over at Capitals 101 outlines his idea for a three part offseason plan for the Caps, with this part endorsing either Bob Hartley or Paul Maurice to be the next head coach. Harry Hawkings over at Rock The Red does an impeccable job outlining his thoughts on the matter, and I’m going to expound on this.
The first thing the Caps should look for is a coach is one with NHL coaching experience. Yes, this might sound logical, but the last time the Caps hired an NHL-experienced coach was Ron Wilson. At this juncture, in regards to what most people would call the “championship window,” now is not the time to experiment with someone who hasn’t been an NHL head coach before. Ideally, the next coach should also have also have Stanley Cup experience.
The next coach must also be tough; a “drill sergeant,” if you will. The reason for this was evident over Bruce Boudreau’s time in Washington. You cannot let the inmates run the asylum. By the time Gabby tried to take control of the team and started to preach “accountability,” it was too late. This was also the reason why Hunter’s team started to play well toward the end. Everyone had bought into what he was teaching; nobody was above the team. With this team full of egos (sorry fans but we can all agree Alex Ovechkin has an ego) it is crucial for a coach to be able to keep everyone in check. He must be able to put his foot down when needed and show the players who is in charge of the team.
Also, the next head coach must be able to bring a balance of an offensive and defensive system (Hawkings touched upon it in his article). A run-and-gun system with no defense will never win a championship and neither will a system that preaches in which the cornerstones are dump-and-chase and shot blocking. You simply cannot have a Fenwick score in the negatives and expect to win anything either. I know this is very cliche, but I am a firm believer that “offense wins games but defense wins championships.” There is a delicate balance between the two. The team needs to be able to not get outshot every night while having positive Corsi/Fenwick scores, but also block shots and play defense.
The final thing that the coach must possess is the ability to turn Alex Ovechkin back into Alex Ovechkin. He is the Caps’ $9.5 million man and over the last few seasons his numbers have declined significantly. He is a mere shell of what he once was and it seems like he has lost his confidence. While some fans have said that Ovechkin finished 5th in the league this season in goals, it is important to remember that he was 22 goals off of the league lead, which is a very sobering stat. The organization has invested too many resources (see: money) in him, and while there are people writing that the Capitals should look into trading him, it would be in their best interest to keep him and let the new coach get a crack at turning him into the player he used to be (besides, that no-movement clause would make that difficult, no?). So, the next coach needs experience dealing with superstars and also must be able to come up with a gameplan to make Alex Ovechkin the goal scorer he once was.
Who fits this criteria?
Yes, that’s right- Marc Crawford. He would be the best person available to coach the Capitals next season. This past season he was an analyst for TSN, but before that had coached since the 1989-1990 season. He has worked his way from the OHL ranks to the AHL before setting into an NHL role. Crawford coached the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in the 1995-1996 season, which is the same year he won the Jack Adams Award. He has experience coaching superstars (Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, and Patrick Roy just to name a few) and is known as a disciplinarian who’s toughness would be a great addition to the Caps locker room.
For the Capitals to succeed next season, the right coach must be in place to ensure a deep run into the playoffs. For me, Marc Crawford is the only logical choice to take the reins of this team.