Capitals GM McPhee: New coach likely after draft, NHL experience not necessary

WASHINGTON, DC — Washington Capitals GM George McPhee will hire his second coach in about eight months when he decides who will be behind the bench for 2012-13.

"It's a thoughtful process," he said. adding that he greatly prefers the process in the offseason than when he fired Bruce Boudreau and hired Dale Hunter in Nov. 2010. "It really is. It's been a real enjoyable process. It's a fun process to doing it in the summer. If you do it midseason, it's a more difficult process and there are fewer people to talk to and time constraints."

It's a month to the day that Hunter stepped down as Capitals coach, after a playoff run that included a first-round victory over the Boston Bruins and a second-round loss to the New York Rangers. It was Hunter's first NHL coaching gig; McPhee said that having been an NHL head coach or associate coach is "not necessary" for his next pick.

The rumored candidates have ranged from people with ties to McPhee's tenure with the Vancouver Canucks — Marc Crawford and Pat Quinn — to coaches that went deep into the 2012 playoffs — AHL Norfolk coach Jon Cooper, Devils assistant coach Adam Oates, Kings assistant coach John Stevens — to an internal choice like assistant coach Dean Evason.

So what is he looking for in a coach? Someone that can build on how Hunter got his players to buy into his system. Although not necessarily his system.

"That's something we were trying to get them to do. They played their guts out. We want to maintain that kind of commitment. And play a little more up-tempo," he said.

Yes, up-tempo. Dale Hunter Hockey — defense-first, offense accidentally — helped the Capitals learn sacrifice in the postseason, but McPhee sees the League trending a different way.

"I think the whole league is trending toward an up-tempo style of play," he said. "But it's not necessarily the style of play that's important. It's the ability of a coach to sell it to the players.

"Do you hire the coach to fit the talent? Do you hire a coach whose system you like? It's usually a combination of both things," said McPhee.

As far as the remaining coaches for the Capitals, assistant coaches Jim Johnson and Evason are "probably not" back with the team next season, according to McPhee, that their status will ultimately be determined by the new head coach. (An interesting point on Evason, given his status as a head coaching candidate for the Capitals.)

McPhee doesn't anticipate naming a head coach before the NHL Draft next weekend, nor will he set an artificial deadline. "The Devils hired a guy in [late summer] and played in the finals."