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Laviolette is starting 'fresh' with every player, including Kuznetsov originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
When Todd Reirden was relieved of his duties as head coach, the lack of consistency and holding players accountable was a big reason cited by general manager Brian MacLellan.
"I think we had an underperformance from a couple guys in the last two playoff series," MacLellan said.
He added, "I think consistent compete level from some guys would help our goal moving forward and I think you know those buttons do need to be pushed. We need to hold guys accountable when they don’t perform up to standards."
Though MacLellan never specifically mentioned Evgeny Kuznetsov, it is hard not to think he was one of the players MacLellan was referring to.
After a brilliant run in the 2018 postseason in which he scored 32 points in 24 games, we have yet to see Kuznetsov return to that level on a consistent basis.
But as Laviolette takes over in Washington, he is not doing so with any preconceived notions of any of his new players.
"From my standpoint and where I sit right now, there hasn't been anything with any of the players good or bad," Laviolette said Tuesday in a video conference. "There hasn't been inconsistencies or consistency problems. I'm the new coach going in there and it's my job to get these guys up to speed, to get them on an identity, to get them to play hard for each other, to play hard for the team, for the city."
Even if Laviolette does not want to single Kuznetsov out, Kuznetsov remains one of the most important players on the team. Without his contribution in 2018, the Capitals do not win the Stanley Cup. But that level of play has proved elusive since.
In 2018-19, Kuznetsov scored 72 points in 76 games, followed by six points in seven playoff games and only one goal. In 2019-20, he scored 52 points in 63 games and five points in eight postseason games. Penalties are also an issue has he ranked third on the team last season in minors taken with 20.
But being able to build a rapport with Kuznetsov, or with any player for that matter, has proven difficult for Laviolette due to the coronavirus.
"I've had conversations with [Kuznetsov]," Laviolette said. "It's been a bit different, not your normal, not being in there and being around the guys, even though we can't work with them, but just to say hi or to move with them. Everything's kind of been over the phone."
But for fans who are hoping to see players held accountable in the upcoming season, you really have nothing to worry about.
Laviolette has a well-earned reputation for being a no-nonsense coach. It is why he was hired and, though every player will start with a blank slate, Laviolette made clear what his priorities will be for his players as a coach.
"For a new coach coming in, your job is really try to get the most of the team, the most out of each player," Laviolette said. "That won't change from Kuzy or Alex Ovechkin or whoever you might talk about. That's the responsibility of the coaches to try to push guys to be their best, try to push your team to be their best."