AP Sports

Capitals, coach Laviolette part ways after missing playoffs

Peter Laviolette won’t be back as coach of the Washington Capitals, who now have a big decision to make after missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

The Capitals parted ways with Laviolette on Friday, less than 24 hours after their season ended, a decision general manager Brian MacLellan described as mutual. Laviolette’s contract was set to expire after he coached the past year without an extension.

“We are grateful for Peter’s leadership and dedication to our organization for the last three seasons,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Peter is a first-class individual who has represented our club with integrity and guided our team through many difficult circumstances in his tenure as our head coach. We wish him all the best moving forward.”

Laviolette, 58, coached the Capitals for the past three seasons, making the playoffs in each of the first two to extend the organization’s postseason streak to eight years before it ended amid a torrent of injuries and misfortunes. They had 440 man games lost to injury.

He and MacLellan brushed off questions from training camp on about Laviolette’s contract status and negotiations to keep him around. Each side seemed content to let the season play out.

It did not end well. The team’s play down the stretch was not inspiring, including a blown three-goal lead in the series finale.

Washington went 115-78-27 in the regular season under Laviolette, who coached Carolina to the Cup in 2006 and also took two other teams to the final: Philadelphia in 2010 and Nashville in 2017.

The Capitals have not won a series since hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2018 under Barry Trotz.

MacLellan, president Dick Patrick and owner Ted Leonsis will now begin the search for the eighth coach of Alex Ovechkin’s NHL career.

Ovechkin is 73 goals away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s career record. He turns 38 in September and has three years remaining on his contract.

Leonsis has told Ovechkin he would not rebuild while the longtime Russian captain is chasing Gretzky’s record. Laviolette’s replacement will be tasked with keeping the Capitals winning — and scoring goals — with an aging roster and limited chance for major change because of lengthy contracts and the salary cap only getting another modest increase for 2023-24.

If the front office opts for a first-time NHL head coach, former Washington assistant Spencer Carbery, who’s now with Toronto, and former captain Jeff Halpern — a two-time Cup winner on Jon Cooper’s staff with Tampa Bay — are considered two of the top candidates.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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