Boudreau gets the boot as Capitals look to remain in the Hunt
Many people are spending this “Cyber-Monday” to search for the perfect gift. Bruce Boudreau, former coach of the Washington Capitals, will instead be looking for a new job.
Team General Manager George McPhee announced today that Boudreau has been let go and replaced with former Capitals’ captain Dale Hunter. The move shouldn’t come as a surprise though, as it has been speculated all season.
Boudreau had great success during the regular season, but never managed to guide his team further than the second round of the playoffs. Washington, who was favored to win the Stanley Cup this year, has struggled as of late. After starting the season with seven straight wins, the Caps have gone 5-9-1. The coach’s message seems to be lost on his players, especially captain Alexander Ovechkin.
Ovechkin is the undisputed face of the franchise. This season he has struggled offensively, putting up only 17 points in 22 contests. These numbers would be fine for some, but not for someone who is used to over a point per game and former league MVP. Ovechkin’s frustrations were never more apparent then when he was benched late in the game earlier this month, and proceeded to go on an expletive-laced tirade.
Ovechkin is not alone in his failure to respond to his former coach. Take Alexander Semin for example. Semin led the NHL in points per game a couple seasons ago, but this year his struggles have been monumental. So far he has only 10 points, and has even been made a healthy scratch recently by Boudreau. He is playing on a one year contract that pays him over $6 million, quite the price tag for someone on pace for less than 40 points.
The rest of the team has underperformed as well. Nicklas Backstrom has been in a slump since last year. Defensively they have struggled, giving up 3.4 goals a game. Their penalty-kill has been a disaster, ranking next to last in the league. Their power-play, which should be an area of strength, ranks 17th. It had become evident that Boudreau’s way was no longer working, and something had to be done if they wanted to salvage their season.
Enter Dale Hunter.
Hunter has his numbers hanging from the rafters in Washington; and while he has no NHL coaching experience, he does have some pedigree. He was formerly the bench boss of the OHL’s London Knights. He leaves junior hockey with the league’s all-time highest winning percentage, a Memorial Cup and as the fastest coach to ever reach both 300 and 400 wins. The Caps are in need of wins, and that is something Hunter is familiar with.
He also has 19 seasons of NHL experience as a player. He is the only player in league history with over 1000 points and 3000 penalty minutes, showing he knows how to play a gritty style and still contribute offensively. He is also the league’s all-time leader in PIMS during the playoffs, showing he is not afraid to get his nose dirty to win games when they matter most. All of these things should help him to be successful, but there is something else he brings to the table that cannot be overlooked.
I am talking about his prowess in player development. During his time in the OHL, he oversaw the development of several future NHL stars. This list includes last years MVP and goal-scoring leader Corey Perry, the man who scored the goal to bring a cup to Chicago in Patrick Kane, former goal-scoring champion Rick Nash, former 1st overall draft pick John Tavares and several other NHL regulars.
Washington is still a relatively young team, but more importantly has a lot of players in slumps. Having coached players like Perry and Nash, Hunter knows how to develop goal-scorers. He may be exactly what Ovechkin and Semin need to find their scoring touch again.
As for Boudreau, I wouldn’t expect him (or former Carolina Coach Paul Maurice, who was also fired today) to be out of a job for too long. Several other coaching positions are rumored to be on the verge of opening. This group includes the Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks.
Teams like the Avs and Isles have the makeup to be a perfect fit for Boudreau. He is best at developing young teams and works best in a fast-paced offensive system. Both Colorado and the Islanders have loads of fast-underachieving forwards. Its hard to imagine that players like Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and David Jones in Colorado; or John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner on Long Island wouldn’t benefit under Boudreau.
Boudreau is a character that many learned to love last year on HBO’s 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic. He is fiery and even though he is down right now, do not be surprised to see him rise from the ashes at some point this season.
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