The Washington Capitals fired head coach Adam Oates on Saturday after two seasons, leaving yet another vacancy behind the team's bench. Upon hiring a new coach, the Capitals will have had four since the start of the 2011-12 season.
It is now time for the organization to once again turn its attention towards finding a new voice to lead its players. Below are five potential candidates.
Laviolette's fifth season as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers lasted three games when he was fired on Oct. 7, the earliest firing to start an NHL season since 1971-72.
Since then, the former Stanley Cup-winning coach (2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes) has served as an assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team in Sochi and will serve as the head coach of the national team at the upcoming IIHF World Championships.
Laviolette-coached teams are built around an aggressive, uptempo offense with plenty of "jam." The Flyers were regularly among the league's highest-scoring teams under Laviolette and that should be enough for Washington to give him a hard look.
Since the Nashville Predators' inaugural season in 1998-99, Trotz is the only coach that the franchise has ever known. Yet after missing the playoffs for the second straight season, the Predators elected to move on from Trotz after 15 years. He is the longest-tenured of any coach from the start of an NHL franchise in league history.
Under Trotz, the Predators played a conservative, defense-oriented style of hockey not unlike the system utilized by former Capitals coach Dale Hunter. Offense has long been an issue for the Predators, who have finished in the bottom half of the league in goals per game 10 times in 15 seasons. As a result, no Nashville forward truly blossomed offensively under Trotz's guidance, which seems to clash with the personnel that he would manage in Washington.
Yet Trotz is an effective communicator. He would bring an established and stern voice that the core of Washington's roster has never experienced before.
Stevens, a former Flyers head coach, has spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Kings. The 47-year-old is in charge of guiding the Kings' highly regarded defensive corps and penalty-killing unit, two areas that the Capitals are in desperate need to enhance.
This season, the Kings were arguably the stingiest team in the NHL, allowing a league-low 105 five-on-five goals and only 26.2 shots per game, second-fewest. Under Stevens' watch, Los Angeles' penalty kill has finished no lower than 11th.
Stevens received permission to interview for head coaching jobs last summer and he could very well be in demand again.
Boucher, currently coaching SC Bern of the Swiss National League, led the Tampa Bay Lightning for nearly three seasons and took them to within one win of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final (including a semifinal sweep of the Capitals).
The 42-year-old was a relative unknown when he was hired in June 2010, but caught the league's attention with his maddening 1-3-1 forechecking scheme. Boucher was also lauded for his personal approach to coaching.
"For me, I'm not coaching systems, I'm coaching individuals," Boucher said during his introductory press conference. "Managing people comes first on my list before managing either the group or systems. If I have 24 people on my team, I need 24 ways to coach. That's the way I approach the game."
At the time, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman praised Boucher for his ability to adjust his style of play to maximize the talent available to him, flexibility that could be beneficial for a Capitals team that has lacked an identity for years.
Boucher is under contract with SC Bern through 2015-16, but if he has an out-clause to return to the NHL, there will be teams interested in his services.
Housley simply fits the mold of a prototypical Capitals coaching hire: a novice head coach with ties to the organization. Not since Ron Wilson has Washington hired a head coach with previous experience at the NHL level (Bruce Cassidy, Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau, Hunter and Oates were all first-time NHL head coaches upon their respective hirings).
The former defenseman, who played in Washington from 1996-98, has coaching experience at the high school and world junior levels. That extensive involvement in developing young players and his standing as one of the greatest offensive defensemen in NHL history would certainly be enticing considering Washington's well-documented defensive woes.
Even if Housley is not hired as a head coach, he could ultimately end up in Washington if the Capitals hire Trotz, who Housley worked under as an assistant coach in Nashville this season.
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