Why Caps could hire an internal candidate as head coach

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Loose Pucks,Sports,Brian McNally

Time to read some tea leaves. The Capitals are still in the midst of a head coaching search and could be for a while yet. Just common sense here: If general manager George McPhee really felt he needed to be in on the high-profile NHL coaching candidates – Bob Hartley, Michel Therrien, Marc Crawford – he would have moved quicker. To beat the competition, he had to do so with openings in Calgary and Montreal. Hartley has already been hired by the Flames and TSN reported Thursday that the Canadiens are taking a hard look at Therrien after conducting a “diligent” search with multiple candidates interviewed - though other outlets are reporting Patrick Roy remains in the running.

Instead, things remain quiet at Kettler Iceplex. The Caps are working towards finalizing their draft board with the scouting combine in Toronto this week. Free agency is also swiftly approaching on July 1 with six players approaching the open market and qualifying offers needed for the team’s four restricted free agents.

TSN’s Darren Dreger said Thursday on his network’s “Insider Trading” segment that Caps assistant coaches Dean Evason and Jim Johnson are strong internal candidates that the organization will look at. Not to discount Johnson, but he was brought in from the outside by former coach Dale Hunter, a friend and trusted former teammate. Johnson was an enthusiastic addition who took a hands on approach with his defensemen. But Evason would be the man to watch here. He is respected by a decent segment of that locker room and there’s obviously a reason he’s been an assistant coach here for seven years – first under Glen Hanlon, then under Bruce Boudreau and finally with Hunter. He’s been with the organization longer than Alex Ovechkin. He knows the personnel better than anyone from the outside possibly could.

Not saying he’s the favorite. Not saying that's a slam-dunk move. McPhee plays his cards too close to the vest for that and there will be other viable candidates. But there has to be a reason McPhee is not in any hurry, going so far as to tell reporters on May 14 that it’s not unthinkable the search could stretch into August as it did for New Jersey last summer. That seemed to work out okay for them. Don’t think it’ll take that long – even with a lockout possible the labor uncertainty still means your new coach needs some time to prepare. But the fact that McPhee is okay with that prospect is telling.

There remain outside candidates with ties to the Caps organization – New Jersey assistant coach Adam Oates is one. Philadelphia assistant coach Craig Berube is another. And remember, the pressure to identify those external candidates isn’t over. There is still an opening in Edmonton that needs to be filled, after all. The Caps didn't wade into those early waters, which likely means McPhee has a different set of prospects in mind. It appears Evason, at least, has a legitimate shot.

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