While the Washington Capitals have been one of the elite teams in the NHL over the past few seasons, they’ve consistently been unable to get over the hump when it matters most: playoffs. So, they tinkered with the line-up to get more grit, and decided to place a higher emphasis on defense.
Under Boudreau’s watch, this was the new plan: focus on keeping pucks out of the net, and hope your offense is good enough to win consistently. After a 7-0 start, it looked like things were right on track.
Well, that train has de-railed.
As @JesseSpector noted, the caps have given up 28 goals over the past six games, and won a mere three times in their last 10 contests. Not a good sign, not good enough.
And so, Bruce Boudreau - who had been coaching with an extra large set of stones this season, benching and scratching the likes of Ovechkin and Semin – is out, and ex-Washington Capital star Dale Hunter is in.
Exactly, Mr. Reaugh.
Hunter comes from the London Knights of the OHL, where he’s racked up 451 wins over a span of 11 seasons, and had become a fixture in the organization. It’ll likely be a tough situation for him to walk away from, but you can’t pass up a chance like the one he’s been offered. There’s Stanley Cup potential in Washington.
Hunter’s career, while somewhat marred by his reputation as a dirty player, was still an impressive one. He’s the only player in NHL history to rack up over 1,000 points and 3,000 PIMS. ….That’s a lot of both. He’s also one of four Capitals with his number retired.
ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun reported that Caps GM George McPhee said that the performance over the past 10 days was the tipping point for the move to happen.
I find one thing odd about the hire: bringing in a rookie head coach who’s never coached a pro team is a bold move. As Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo sports put it – it’ll probably be an unqualified success or a flaming failure. Coaching kids on the way up (who can be motivated through fear, taught to change their game, etc) and coaching adult, successful men are entirely different animals.
I’m sure he’ll figure it out quickly enough, you’d just think they’d have him as an assistant coach first, or running the AHL club before you drop him in the hot seat. Maybe that’s why the deal is only for the remainder of the season - to see how he reacts to coaching in such a high-profile role.
So here we are now: tomorrow we’ll be watching the ice-cold Washington Capitals with rookie coach Dale Hunter behind the bench versus the red-hot St. Louis Blues with veteran coach Ken Hitchcock behind the bench. Just like everyone predicted.