Speculation around whether or not Bruce Boudreau would still be the head coach of the Washington Capitals began long before his team fell down three games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boudreau’s long-term viability as head coach in D.C. has been the subject of conversation as far back as last spring when his Capitals were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. Here we are again, a little over a year later and Boudreau’s Capitals find themselves on the brink of elimination and the angry mob is swelling with its impending efforts to call for the coach’s head. This leads us to the inevitable situation of posing the question: what happens when if the Capitals are eliminated, and what will that mean for Bruce Boudreau?

With each passing week of the 2010-11 season, Boudreau’s future employment prospects ran from one end of the spectrum to the other and back again several times:

  • An eight game losing streak: Boudreau’s gotta go
  • A defensively responsible Caps team turns its season around: Boudreau’s the engineer
  • The Capitals can’t score: Bruce Boudreau doesn’t know how to motivate his players
  • Bruce Boudreau loves ice cream: Bruce Boudreau does, in fact, love ice cream
  • Washington rallied for their second consecutive Eastern Conference title: Bruce Boudreau deserves a lot of credit
  • The Capitals are in line for yet another playoff disappointment: fire Bruce Boudreau

Barring the premise for the next great ‘History Will Be Made’ video unfolding over the course of four straight wins by the Washington Capitals, Boudreau’s crew should be unpacking the golf clubs as early as tomorrow morning. Which brings us to this: should Bruce Boudreau ultimately be held responsible for the Capitals post-season failures?

The Washington Capitals blog On Frozen Blog, for one, denotes that a regime change may be what’s required for the Capitals to overcome critical fundamental miscues and achieve future second season success:

How many poor line changes have you seen from Tampa in this series? This is a symptom, somewhat small but oh so telling, of why regime change must follow this series. The good ones get the little things right, the fundamentals of the game — always.

More than a few observers, including some inside the Capitals’ organization, weren’t comforted by what HBO cameras revealed of the Capitals’ head coach, especially relative to the portrait of the Penguins’ bench boss. That, too, is worth meditating on this rainy Washington Wednesday morning.

That’s not a sentiment shared across the board in Washington, by any means. An equally distraught Capitals blog in Russian Machine Never Breaks was more inclined to include Boudreau as solution to what ails this team:

The Capitals don’t have soldiers. Not enough anyway. Instead they have divas: players who only care when they have to and do so only on their own terms. The regular season saw players sleepwalking through games, perhaps even literally. We saw some players vacillate between disinterest and self-interest. We saw players ditching Dean Evason’s and Bob Woods’ systems at will. Those bad habits became a pattern, and those swift postseasons became reckonings. Case in point: Alex Ovechkin’s suicide run into the Tampa Bay Lightning’s trap when the dump-in hard-around was the right and authorized move.

Bruce Boudreau isn’t the problem in the organization, but maybe he knows what that problem is now. It’s not tactics or strategy, it’s attitude.

No, Bruce Boudreau isn’t the problem in the organization. He’s just the guy who’s gotta solve it.

Opinion is varied in D.C., but a sense of disappointment is consistent throughout. At this point, only owner Ted Leonsis really knows what the future holds for Boudreau, George McPhee, or some of Washington’s superstar players. Playoff failure will always overshadow regular season dominance, and eventually the former will become the catalyst for change.

Like an expensive toy, the Washington Capitals can only offer so much fun before they break. At which point it may be time to question their makers.