Longtime defenseman to serve as an assistant
The time was finally right for Calle Johansson to return to Washington.
The player who donned a Capitals jersey more times than any other was hired as an assistant coach Wednesday. He joins the staff of new coach Adam Oates, a former teammate for parts of six seasons.
Johansson, 45, primarily will work with the team's defensemen. The smooth-skating Swede, who played in 983 career games with the Caps and still holds team records for points (474) and assists (361) by a defenseman, has only one prior season of coaching experience. He previously worked as an analyst for Swedish television covering NHL and Swedish Elite League games. But did he ever think he would be back in Washington?
"Imagine? Yes. Hoping? Yes. Thinking it would be a reality? Maybe," Johansson said. "I've always loved that organization. I've always wanted to come back in some form. So now I'm just really grateful and lucky to be there again."
Oates still has one more position open on his staff. Assistant coach/video coordinator Blaine Forsythe and goalie coaches Dave Prior and Olie Kolzig were already slated to return.
Johansson, who spent one season scouting for the Caps in Europe 10 years ago, also spent one season as an assistant coach with Frolunda HC, his hometown team in Sweden, in 2006-07. But his experience was cut short when the head coach was fired. It didn't hurt that Johansson's 21-year-old daughter moved back to Washington two years ago for work and that his other children are 18 and 15 now. Johansson said he's also looking forward to working with the Caps' defensive corps, with seven players under contract and restricted free agent John Carlson expected to be signed soon.
"You look at the defense in Washington today, and it has great potential," Johansson said. "To me when I see them, they play pretty much the same way I did or wanted and tried to. They're great skaters. They're great two-way defensemen, all of them, and I think there is great potential that they can become easily the best D-corps in the league."
Johansson was acquired in a trade with Buffalo on March 7, 1989. The deal included a second-round draft choice that became goalie Byron Dafoe. In return, Washington traded Clint Malarchuk, Grant Ledyard and a sixth-round pick in 1991. Johansson played parts of 15 seasons with the team. Now he moves on to his next challenge.
"There are a lot of things for me to learn both in practices and on the bench," Johansson said. "Fortunately I've been with a lot of coaches, and I've always been fascinated by how they work, and I've tried to collect the best from every coach, and hopefully I can use some of that."