Boudreau Out as Capitals Head Coach, Dale Hunter Takes Over
Bruce Boudreau has been fired as head coach of the Washington Capitals and replaced by former team captain Dale Hunter.
Bruce Boudreau is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals after being fired by General Manager George McPhee on Monday Morning. He is replaced by former Capital captain Dale Hunter.
“The reason for the change was we weren’t winning,” said McPhee when he spoke with the media Monday. “This wasn’t a slump. You can ride out slumps… The players were no longer responding to Bruce and when you see that, as much as you don’t want to make a change, you have to make a change.”
The last straw for McPhee was when the Capitals were blown out 5-1 in Buffalo on Saturday night by a team missing nine regular skaters. The loss was the team’s sixth in their last eight games and 10th in the last 15th after starting the season with seven consecutive wins. In those 10 losses, they were outscored by a combined 47-19 and are currently tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Hunter comes in with no NHL coaching experience, but an impressive resume with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). In his 11 seasons coaching the team he posted a record of 451-189-23-24 (.691), the best winning percentage in OHL history. He was named the Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year in 2004 and won the Memorial Cup with the Knights the following season. He was also the fastest head coach to 300 and 400 wins in OHL history.
Hunter played 19 seasons in the NHL, collecting 1,020 points (323 goals, 697 assists) and 3,565 penalty minutes in 1,407 games, 872 of which were with the Capitals. He was captain of the team from the 1994-95 season through the 1998-99 season and led them to their only Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history in 1997-98, where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings.
“I’ve been cheering for the Caps since I left here,” said Hunter, whose number 32 was retired by the team in 2000.
He is the only player in NHL history to record more than 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes. When his number was retired he was given the actual penalty box from the old Capital Centre by the team.
Hunter takes over at nearly the same time in the season Bruce Boudreau did in 2007. Glen Hanlon was fired on November 22 that season when the team was 6-14-1. Boudreau posted an impressive 37-17-7 record that year to lead the Capitals to their first Southeast Division title in seven seasons. He won the Jack Adams award as top head coach in the NHL that season.
Boudreau recently became the fastest NHL head coach to post 200 wins and leaves the Capitals with an all-time regular season record of 201-88-40, but posted back-to-back disappointing playoff exits the past two seasons. In 2010, the Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy as the best team in the NHL, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to eighth-seeded Montreal. Last season the team breezed through a first round match-up against the New York Rangers, but were swept in the second round by division rivals Tampa Bay.
The change came as a surprise to many players, with many feeling they were at least partially responsible for Boudreau losing his job.
“I think everybody was in shock,” said captain Alex Ovechkin, who had some disagreements with Boudreau earlier in the season. The biggest came in a game against the Anaheim Ducks Nov. 1. The Capitals pulled their goalie in an attempt to tie the game late, but Ovechkin was kept on the bench. Nicklas Backstrom would score the tying goal as well as the game winner in overtime. Ovechkin was on the ice and picked up an assist on the game-winner.
“When I first found out this morning, my first thought was ‘I wish I could have done more,’” said Brooks Laich. “I feel terrible for Bruce because he’s leaving his dream job.”
While the players were upset to see Boudreau leave, they were excited for the new opportunity with Hunter.
Jeff Halpern famously grew up as a Capitals fan in Maryland and was signed by the team in 1999, one season after Hunter left. He re-signed with team this past offseason after playing with Montreal, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Dallas over the past five seasons. Halpern said Hunter was ‘absolutely’ one of his idols growing up. “He was such a warrior on the ice. Anyone likes a guy who fights for his teammates,” he said.
“I think he’ll get us playing the way we need to play, getting pucks in deep and going to work,” said Dennis Wideman, who played three seasons for Hunter and the London Knights from the 2001-02 season to 2003-04.
Hunter’s first test will come against the surging St. Louis Blues Tuesday night at the Verizon Center. St. Louis also had a coaching change recently, firing Davis Payne and hiring veteran coach Ken Hitchcock earlier this month. The Blues have since gone 7-1-2 under their new head coach.
Hunter is ready for the challenge, but don’t expect the Caps to start racking up penalty minutes like he did.
“There [are] too many referees out there now. There’s an extra one,” joked Hunter when he was asked if the team would play similar to him. “Hockey’s changed a lot, but play hard, forecheck hard, finish your checks. No one needs penalties anymore. If you play hard on the ice, you’ll always be playing for me.”
- John Carlson also played for Dale Hunter during his 2008-09 season with the London Knights when he won the team MVP award.
- Mike Knuble played for the Detroit Red Wings when they defeated Dale Hunter and the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup in 1998. However, he only played three games in the playoffs and none against the Capitals.
- Hunter joins former teammate Olie Kolzig as a member of the Capitals organization. Kolzig was hired as an associate goalie coach over the summer.
- A larger than normal crowd was at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Monday morning to welcome back Dale Hunter.