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Capitals Want To Develop Two-way Relationship With Hershey

July 23, 2014

In hockey parlance, a two-way contract gives players an opportunity to sign a deal that will pay them more in the NHL and less in the minors. In addition, it also gives the parent team flexibility in moving players between leagues. 

It also represents the closely intertwined nature between NHL parent clubs and their affiliates. To have a good two-way relationship means both teams work almost symbiotically in developing systems, players and organizational philosophies. 

Some franchises do this better than others. The Washington Capitals have been affiliated with the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears for the past nine seasons, and during that span, the Bears reached the Calder Cup four times. Yet, as the Caps shuffled through coaches, and philosophies, during the past few years, the relationship between Washington and Hershey weakened. 

New coach Barry Trotz, echoing the desires of owner Ted Leonsis and general manager Brian MacLellan, said he wanted to change that, building a bridge to connect the Capitals and Bears both on and off the ice. 

"We want to be a first-class organization in the NHL," Trotz said, "and we want them to be the class of the American League."

To that end, Trotz has instituted a 48-hour rule with himself and new Hershey coach Troy Mann. The pair plans to communicate every couple of days to keep both sides abreast of any and all information. 

"It's really important to have the right message and the right players," Trotz said, "and I think it's really tough on a coach in the minor leagues if you call up a player who doesn't deserve to be called up or is entitled. The right message is the player that deserves to come up should come up, and I think we want to have that communication so [the opposite] doesn't happen."

Mann, a former Capital and longtime Hershey assistant who returned to the franchise after coaching the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL during the 2013-14 season, said Trotz's background would help make the connection between the clubs more smooth. 

"We went through some transitional periods there in Hershey with different coaches here in Washington," Mann said. "And I think now, Barry's path to coaching went through the American League as well, so he understands what goes on at that level and what the players go through on a day-to-day basis to make the NHL. That's going to be a vital thing going forward."

In order to make the transition from Hershey to Washington seamless, Trotz and Mann have discussed running similar systems in order to get everyone on the roster familiar with what the Capitals are doing, allowing players to step in without needing major adjustments. 

"We want to have the same terminology," Trotz said. "Every coach everywhere has things they call something different, so I want to have the same terminology. I want to show Troy the things we're going to do in Washington so he can try to mirror it as close as possible. I think the concepts of how we attack things and how we defend things, I think we can mirror it pretty well, and he's all for that." 

This year's Hershey squad figures to have several names that could be quickly making an impact in the NHL, including center/winger Andre Burakovksy and defenseman Nate Schmidt, among others. Having them play in the same way as the Capitals benefits their long-term development.

"When guys get called up to the NHL, they've got a lot of stuff going through their minds," Mann said. "The last thing they need to worry about is system play. You want to have your own identity when you're a head coach, but at the same time, you want to make sure that players coming up from Hershey, they know what's going on."

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