After Brian MacLellan finished his playing career at the close of the 1992 season, he was a 10-year NHL veteran at a crossroads -- would he continue in hockey or explore another avenue? MacLellan chose the latter -- for a while, at least -- and he said that brief foray from the ice could pay dividends in his new role as the Washington Capitals' general manager.
After earning his MBA in finance from the University of St. Thomas in 1995, MacLellan then spent five years working for an investment consulting firm in Minneapolis, Minn., before coming back to hockey, and the Capitals, in 2000 as a scout.
"It was good," MacLellan said of his time away from the game. "I got to learn a lot about investment people and process, and how they go about finding companies. It's much the same as analyzing players.
"You're looking for certain characteristics and qualities in a company and a player, and you're putting a group of players or stocks together, and they have a disciplined sell process where they max out their value. I think it's a tremendous value to have that outside work experience to help you think better and make decisions."
Among other qualities, that outside-the-box work experience was one of the things Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said had appealed to him in deciding to hire MacLellan as a rookie general manager.
"He talked a lot about assets -- where the assets are and when you sell assets, just as when you sell stocks," Leonsis said. "He also talked about advanced stats and his love of mathematics, and I thought that was really interesting, because we want to be a leader, and continue to be able to mash up both stats and what you see."
MacLellan certainly knows what he has seen with the Capitals, having been with the organization since 2000, when college teammate George McPhee convinced him to return to the game. His goal during the first few months of evaluating the Capitals, he said, will be to determine what pieces they need to supplement the players already under contract.
"I think we can get more out of this roster," MacLellan said. "I think this coach (Barry Trotz) will bring more out and then we'll try and add from there."
MacLellan noted that he wouldn't shy away from tough situations for the roster if the math didn't work, an analytical approach that may not always sit well with fans who follow their hearts instead of their heads.
"You have to put a value on a player in a salary cap," MacLellan said. "There's a proper time to move on from guys and a proper time to pick up guys. There's a number on that for certain players -- age group, contribution, where they fit in the lineup. You have to stay disciplined to it."