Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt (he’s tall) has lived an eventful hockey life. Originally a producer and videographer for the Capitals’ website — and occasional Verizon Center DJ — he became known throughout the hockey world when he served as an emergency goaltender for a game in December 2008.
After Jose Theodore injured himself during a pregame skate, Stretch signed an amateur tryout agreement before the Caps faced the Ottawa Senators. Leonhardt later left DC for a job in the NHL’s war room in Toronto before coming back as Washington’s video coach in 2012. In 2013, Leonhardt, a former junior hockey and NCAA Division III goaltender, once again served as a backup, preforming his usual video editing duties during the intermissions.
Now, he’s added a notch in his storied career: wearer of absurd Barry Trotz themed socks.
When Barry Trotz took over as the head coach of the Washington Capitals the summer 2014, the team was in disarray, with a myriad of self-inflected wounds from the tenure of Adam Oates, who was soon run out of town.
Just two years later, Trotz led the Caps to a 56 wins, the most in franchise history, as the team captured its second Presidents’ Trophy. Now he’s won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year as voted on the league’s broadcasts, picking up the trophy at the NHL Awards Show at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino here in Las Vegas.
Ovechkin poses with the Rocket Richard Trophy, which he won again this year, at the 2014 NHL Awards. (Photo: Harry How)
The Washington Capitals had a domineering regular season in 2015-16, running away with the Presidents’ Trophy by 11 points. On Wednesday evening in Las Vegas, their personal feats from this past season will be honored. Well… most of them.
One Caps player already has hardware locked up: Alex Ovechkin, who won the Richard Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer. It was his third straight 50-goal season. But there will be no crazy blue suits on the red carpet this year. Ovechkin will not be in Las Vegas to claim his prize.
“Alex will not be attending the Awards this year,” a Capitals spokesperson said in an email to RMNB, declining to elaborate further. A spokesperson for the NHL also confirmed Ovechkin’s absence.
On Thursday, the Capitals gathered at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to discuss another season that ended prematurely. The players were more visibly emotional than in years past at the annual end-of-season confab with reporters, promising Stanley Cups to the fans and articulating their frustrations with plenty of “failures” and “sucks.”
The news, however, came in the form of injuries revealed publicly for the first time. Karl Alzner’s ailment was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Referred to by Braden Holtby as the team’s most important player, Alzner missed most of the final game with a torn groin. He played just two shifts early in the second period before being pulled from the game.
“I know that the first four games of the series, I was just out there filling a spot, Alzner said. “I was out there and I was not hurting the team I don’t think, but I also wasn’t helping in winning in the game. That’s when you know you can still do things, but once I’m getting beat up the ice trying to chase a guy and not able to at least stay in battles, that’s when you know it’s time.”
It’s been a big weekend on the NHL coaching beat. Former Caps coach, former Ducks coach, and always awesome dude, Bruce Boudreau, immediately got a new gig with the Minnesota Wild, where he will be great. The other team courting Boudreau was the Ottawa Senators, who settled for Guy Boucher, former coach of the Lightning and architect of that team’s 2011 sweep of the Capitals.
Those new coaching deals come with cash. We know Boudreau will earn $12 million over the next four years. We suspect Boucher will earn, um, a lot less, but we don’t know the details. Of the disclosed data provided by Cap Friendly, Sean Tierney of Today’s Slapshot created a helpful visualization that makes one thing clear:
Thursday evening, Barry Trotz was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach. Trotz led the Capitals to a franchise-record 56 wins and its second ever Presidents’ Trophy. Trotz was named a finalist along with the Panthers’ Gerard Gallant and the Stars’ Lindy Ruff. The recipient is determined before the start of the playoffs each year by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association. Trotz has never won the award, but this is the third time he’s been named a finalist, also having done so in 2010 and 2011.
For 30 minutes a crowd of reporters and cameramen stood in front of the white board in the Capitals locker room at CONSOL Energy Center. Numerous players entered the room and went to their stalls after Washington’s morning skate on Monday, but the assembled media stayed right where they were, waiting for Brooks Orpik to address the three game suspension levied by the NHL for his late hit to the head on Olli Maatta. Finally, after everyone else was already off the ice, Orpik walked into room, took off his equipment, and walked in front of the lights. While the rest of Capitals defended Orpik or refused to comment earlier, the offender made no excuses.
“I think it was fair,” Orpik said of the punishment given to him by the league’s Department of Player Safety. “It was a bad hit. It was intended to be a hard hit, definitely not at his head, but I don’t think there is anything that you can argue that it was definitely late. I think that was pretty black and white. I said that during my hearing yesterday.”
Karl Alzner missed Saturday’s morning skate with what the team is calling a “maintenance day.” Alzner missed two days of practice earlier this week but played in Thursday’s game despite being “banged up.” Skating in Alzner’s spot on the second pairing alongside Matt Niskanen was Mike Weber, though Weber stayed out late with the heathly scratches.
Dmitry Orlov looks to be healthy scratch as well following a misplay on Nick Bonino that led to a goal in the second period. Capitals coach Barry Trotz benched Orlov for the second half of the game, save for one short shift in the third period. Orlov has not missed a game all season.
Capitals defensemen Dmitry Orlov went for the big hit, hoping to take Penguins center Nick Bonino out at the blue line. Instead, Orlov missed, colliding with Nate Schmidt. Bonino was left with an unfettered path to the net. He shot the puck on Braden Holtby before Ben Lovejoy cleaned up the rebound at the midway point of Game One on Thursday, tying the score at one.
Orlov, who, like Schmidt, is playing in his first postseason in the NHL, didn’t see the ice for the rest of the game, save for a brief 25-second shift early in the third period. He finished with less than six minutes of time on ice.