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Capitals GM Gives His Assessment on Copley Signing, Team's Performance

Brian MacLellan met with reporters Monday to discuss recent signing, the team's play and the looming trade deadline.

by Zach Shapiro @ShapZach /

The Capitals re-signed Pheonix Copley to a three-year contract on Monday. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan met with reporters to expand on the move, as well as address the team's recent performance and their plans for the NHL trade deadline.

(On signing Pheonix Copley)

"We like the person, we like the work ethic, we like the progress he's made. He continues to improve, continues to work at his game. I think the goalie coach (Scott Murray) really likes him, thinks there's upside still, that he's going to continue to get better. We felt comfortable in committing to him."

(On if signing backup goalies is to prepare for expansion)

"That's not the sole consideration, but it is one consideration. It's important for an organization to have goaltending depth, guys who can come in and play. I think we have a guy who looks as if he's going to solidify himself as the No. 2. I don't know what the upside is but we'll find out, and it was important for us to keep him in our organization."

(On Copley signing affecting future at goaltending position)

"I think we have four good guys right now. I like Vitek (Vanecek) too. (Ilya) Samsonov is coming along. They're both playing really well in Hershey. Holtby's Holtby, an All-Star goalie, and Copley is finding his way as a good No. 2. I think it's important for us to have depth as an organization, protect ourselves on injuries. You watch the league, when injuries happen you need good guys to come in and play. I feel good about all four of these guys right now."

(On if Samsonov is on schedule)

"I think so. Probably took him a little while but he's playing well now, and we feel good about where he's at."

(On facing a decision down the line on Holtby and Samsonov)

"It'll work itself out, I think. We'll see how Samsonov comes along, and what our situation is, cap-wise, and the signings we make - there are a whole lot of things that go into what happens there."

(On team's recent stretch)

"I think we kind of petered out before the break, came back and had a good game (against Calgary) and then last game (against Boston) was a bit of a disappointment. I thought we were flat, emotionally. Pretty decent start, then a couple penalties kind of took the energy out of it and we had trouble getting back. We were a little more desperate in the third. It was a disappointing game overall, considering that we thought we were reenergized and played really well against Calgary. So I don't think anyone is too happy about (Sunday's loss)."

(On fatigue playing a factor)

"I think there are a lot of things. Fatigue may be a part of it, but I don't know that we're going to sit here and use it as an excuse. We have other issues too. The penalty-issue has continued, and it keeps setting us back. We're not happy about that. Some guys continue to take minor penalties in the offensive zone, which hurts momentum. That's not a fatigue thing, that's a choice. And that's bothered us. I think we've had some key guys who have not played up to their standard, which has affected us in that last little stretch there too. So, it's important for us to get going and get everyone on the same page."

(On if they addressed penalties before Boston game)

"Yeah, we lead the league in minor penalties. Power play goals against, we lead the league. Specialty teams are important. I think we've been addressing it verbally for quite a while now, and there hasn't been a response, so hopefully this will work."

(On where the team stands with trade deadline approaching)

"I think it's the same as normal. People are feeling each other out. There are teams trying to sign some unrestricted guys. A decision will come down on whether they get signed or not, and that'll have a big impact on the trade market."

(On if winless skid changed trade-deadline plans)

"Not necessarily. This is the same team that found it at the end of last year and went on to win a championship, the same players. I think there are aspects of our game that need improvement and we're looking for that up until the trade deadline. If we feel there's something there that can help us get over that hump in certain areas, we'll pursue it."

(On wanting more depth at a certain spot)

"I think we have depth. Like every other year, you have some performance issues and you try to anticipate whether guys are going to figure it out by playoff time or not."

(On penalties the No. 1 killer, or other issues plaguing team equally)

"I think we've had different issues at different times. It's never been, we've found (the problem) and we've maintained. The power play played well, then it didn't play well. The penalty kill, we take too many penalties, stress our PK and hang our goalies out to dry. A lot of different things have gone on and we haven't figured out a way to correct all the things at the same time."

(On if there are attractive trade opportunities)

"Everybody evaluates players differently, every organization. There are 31 teams that are trying to upgrade, trying move certain guys to certain areas. They examine everything."

(On approach around trade deadline)

"We're always active. We're trying to see what's happening in the market. If you like certain guys, are they going to be available? Does it fit your long-term plans? Does it fit cap-wise? We continually talk to teams and monitor what they're thinking and try to find matches."

(On if potential trade partners are reasonable)

"No (laughter). They never are. Sometimes I think it drags out a little bit. I think people get frustrated - but they're just trying to get full value for things they perceive are a certain value. It takes until the end sometimes to figure it out."

(On if they're flexible on trade parameters)

"I think we look at everything. I'd like to think our chemistry has stayed the same, but it's changed a little bit. If we could affect the forward group, we'd try to affect it a little bit, if we thought we could solidify the (position)."

(On plan when Christian Djoos returns)

"We're going to wait and see how he does here, make sure he's good. He had a good game yesterday (in Hershey), I hear. We'll give it another a game, and then he'll come back, and we'll have another game and see what's gone on with him and make a decision based on that."

(On if Djoos hopeful return changes trade deadline plans)

"He's been a good player for us, so getting him back at full speed is good. Getting Orpik back from his injury - those two played well together last year. So we're comfortable with that pair. We like what Siegs (Jonas Siegenthaler) has done, he's played really well for us. And Madison (Bowey) has improved this year too. We feel good about our D, but that doesn't mean we're not going to examine who's available."

(On Braden Holtby)

"The play in front of him, too, sometimes creates a little inconsistency. You can't just say it's the goaltending. The way we play in front of him can sometimes assist how he plays. I think if we get a little more stable … last two games we were better. There was a comfort level as far as where the shots were coming from for him, the PK was a little better, the shots were from the outside. The team in front of him can also help him play better and see better shots."

(On difficulty replacing Jay Beagle)

"I mean he's a good teammate, first of all. It's hard to lose good guys like that. The faceoffs - I don't think he's as high this year. What's he's at, 53-54 percent? (53.1). What's Dowd at, 51-50? (49.7). A couple percent is not that big a change on right-handed faceoffs."

(On if he's a believer in the significance of faceoffs)

"I'm in the middle. I think there are certain key faceoffs. Specialty teams' faceoffs are important, possession-wise. You get a clear right away on the PK in your own end. The offensive end, on a power play, is also important. Other than that, I think you could make a case either way. You always want to have the puck. I'd like to start with the puck in every situation, but it's more important on specialty teams."

(On if he expected Wilson to be this good after re-signing)

"We did. He played great in the playoffs. I think he ran a hot streak there; the puck was going in for him a lot. But he's a good player. You can just watch and see that he's going to score more, he's going to make more plays. He's just developed to this point. I think if we got him in more power play time, he'd score even more goals."

(On Evgeny Kuznetsov)

"I think for our organization - for our team - to do well, we need him at the top of his game. Depending on how you look at it, it was Ovi or him for MVP last year in the playoffs. That's why we did well, because Kuznetsov played well. I think if he's not going to play at that level, then we're not going to do as well. He's that important to our team."

(On managing Kuznetsov and maximizing his ability)

"I think it comes from your teammates, your leadership group, your coach, assistant coach, your manager, your organization to try to find a way to get him to always play at his highest level."

(On assessment of Orlov and Niskanen pairing)

"A little disappointed. They were our main pair last year, played great for us in the playoffs. I don't think they've played at the standard that they're used to playing at."

(On why Orlov and Niskanen have been inconsistent)

"I don't know. We've been trying to figure it out. I think they both seemed to just be a little bit off. We're trying to do everything we can to help them find their game."

(On Andre Burakovsky)

"I think he played well against Calgary. He didn't get a lot of ice time last game, probably a little inconsistent. He's working at it. I think everyone is working at it with him, trying to help him find it. Sometimes confidence comes in, sometimes ice-time comes in and that can make it difficult for him to find his game."

(On if he feels obligated to discuss trade rumors in the media with Burakovsky)

"Not necessarily, no. I want him to do well. He's a good young player, he's got upside. We've all seen it, where he's played in the playoffs in a top six role and played well. That's the player we want. We still have two more years of rights on him and we hope he gets back to that level."

(On Alex Ovechkin)

"He's had a great year so far. Obviously the goal-scoring is there. He's brought it, emotionally and physically. I don't think we can ask much more of him."

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