Washington Capitals Fire Bruce Boudreau, Hire Dale Hunter
In case you haven’t heard the news yet, as of 6:15 AM this morning, Bruce Boudreau is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals. He will be replaced by Dale Hunter. I was lucky enough to be able to secure a press pass for all of today’s events, so I decided to switch shifts with a coworker and go down to Kettler Iceplex, where the Capitals practice. My day started with General Manager George McPhee’s press conference where he confirmed that Bruce was, indeed, fired, and also that former Capitals star Dale Hunter was named his replacement. Here are some quotes from his presser:
On why the move was made
“You don’t want to make these decisions, but when you see what I saw, you have to make the decision. You can’t look the other way, and I’ve seen it in a few games recently, enough that I knew the team wasn’t responding.”
“The reason for the change was we weren’t winning, obviously. This wasn’t a slump. You can ride out slumps. This was simply a case of the players were no longer responding to Bruce. When you see that, as much as you don’t want to make a change, you have to make a change.”
I agree with those reasons. I love Bruce as a coach. He’s a terrific person, and he’s clearly got a future in the NHL as a coach. He just wasn’t the right guy for the Capitals. His message got stale to the players. I’m not saying that’s his fault, but as a coach, if you lose your team, changes have to be made.
McPhee immediately shot down the rumor that Alex Ovechkin’s struggles directly caused Boudreau’s dismissal:
“I think it’s got everything to do with this team not playing well. Our goalies aren’t stopping pucks. The defense aren’t getting the pucks out. And the forwards aren’t checking and scoring enough. It’s our whole team. It’s not an individual. We have a lot of players that aren’t playing the way they’re capable of playing, and that’s why the change was made.”
After all the questions about Boudreau, McPhee addressed questions regarding Dale Hunter and the changeover. The first thing he did was confirm that Alex Ovechkin would remain the team’s Captain. I agree with this for one major reason: The players vote on the captain. Excluding extreme circumstances, I believe that a team’s coach and front office should stay out of that business because it is up to the players.
On why he felt that Dale Hunter was the right hire:
“[Dale Hunter] is a no non-sense guy. He will push these guys.”
“[Dale Hunter] was intelligent, had talent, and was tough. When he needed to, he was downright mean sometimes.”
“I’ve always hoped that one day Dale [Hunter] could coach this team. Timing is everything, and the time is now.”
Something that I found interesting is that McPhee confirmed that Hunter and the Capitals had been in discussions for quite some time. Hunter wanted to get back into the Capitals organization in any way possible. Hunter now has what I would imagine is his dream job: Head coach of the Washington Capitals.
After that, as scheduled, the Capitals had their daily practice. Here are some notes from practice:
- Outside of Jay Beagle, every Capital was accounted for and skating. This included Mike Green and John Erskine. Green was clearly not 100%, but regardless it’s a positive sign to see him skating again.
- Hunter went with the following forward lines: 8-19-20, 50-90-28, 25-21-42, 26-85-15/22. That would be Ovechkin-Backstrom-Brouwer; Eakin-Johansson-Semin; Chimera-Laich-Ward; Hendricks-Perreault-Halpern/Knuble.
- As expected, Hunter spent most of the practice observing and chatting with players. Assistant coaches Dean Evason and Bob Woods ran drills.
- The Capitals ran more defensive drills than they normally do. Not a surprise at all to me because Dale Hunter’s emphasis on his OHL team was defense.
Immediately after practice, Dale Hunter was introduced to the media. He impressed me with how he dealt with the media. When he was a player, he wasn’t a huge fan of the media. He would do his interviews, but you could tell he clearly didn’t want to do them. Here are some quotes from his presser:
“I want this team to focus on speed. In hockey, if you have speed, you can do a lot of things.”
“I want this team to focus on playing hard and good forechecking. Nobody needs penalties.”
On Alex Ovechkin’s struggles and the team’s struggles:
“Alex is a big part of the team, but we have to play better as a team.”
On how he thinks he’ll react to the game tomorrow against the Blues:
“I imagine I’ll have some butterflies in my tummy… I know I have to keep calm… I can’t wait.”
On fan support:
“It’s pretty awesome. They’re proud of this team.”
Dale gave a lot of great quotes, but one quote drew a lot of laughs. A reporter asked Dale if he wants his players to play like him. Dale said, “No, there’s too many refs out there in today’s game.” Everyone in the room cracked up.
Here are some quotes from the Capitals themselves:
“Bruce Boudreau is a great coach, great guy. We learn a lot from him. I was shocked to hear he was fired. We’re responsible as players. We’re going to play our best, that’s all we can do.”
“[Dale Hunter] is a legend here… he knows how to win games, he knows how to play. Excited to play for him.”
“We have to win games. Simple as that… When you are in a slump, you have to fight through it.”
“I feel terrible for Bruce because he’s leaving his dream job. It would be like…if you ripped me out of the locker room.”
“When it comes down to it, brass tacks, the players weren’t getting it done.”
“I feel the players in here, we didn’t get the job done. It’s unfortunate. He’s going to be missed.”
“It was just too much of a roller coaster – with emotions, with play, with things that make us successful.”
Dale Hunter makes his coaching debut tomorrow night when the Washington Capitals play the St. Louis Blues at the Verizon Center.