Peter Laviolette has been the head coach of four different teams and has had very different rosters over the course of his 18 seasons as an NHL head coach, but he's never coached someone like Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin is arguably the best goal scorer in the history of the NHL and is still winning Rocket Richard Trophies for leading the league in goals at the age of 34. Now, for all intents and purposes, the final years of his Stanley Cup window have been entrusted to Laviolette who was named as the head coach of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
"I'm really excited about the opportunity to work with Alex," Laviolette said.
Coaching superstars is always a double-edged sword. Their presence on the roster should make the job of the coach easier, but you also have to get them to buy-in. That's not specific to Ovechkin, that's true of all elite players and leaders. If they don't buy what a coach is selling, the coach will never be able to reach the team.
But, while general manager Brian MacLellan expressed concern with the team's slipping culture and motivation following the dismissal of Todd Reirden, Laviolette is not concerned about that at all when it comes to Ovechkin.
"In watching [Ovechkin] just going back and watching the playoffs and Washington play, for me, there was a lot of really good things that he did from using his physicality and his size," Laviolette said. "Obviously his offense is there, his willingness to block shots in the defensive zone and his leadership, all things that when you're looking at your team, you want your captain to be the guy to set the example and to lead that way. I thought he was doing that."
Laviolette said Tuesday that he had not yet spoken with Ovechkin. As both the captain and the team's best player, one of Laviolette's top priorities now will be to reach out and get on the same page with the superstar winger.
Said Laviolette, "I'm looking forward to the first conversation and certainly looking forward to next year working with him."