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Capitals fire Bruce Boudreau, name Dale Hunter new head coach

Nov 28, 2011, 8:32 AM EDT

Bruce Boudreau AP

The Capitals were in desperate need of a change, and now they’ve got it. Bruce Boudreau is out as head coach, fired by the team this morning and replaced by former Capitals captain and tough guy Dale Hunter.

The move comes after speculation ran hot last night that a potential move was coming thanks to a report from Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. Turns out Kypreos had it right and now the Capitals, who have been mired in an awful funk all season, will get the change they’ve been in need of since last season.

Hunter comes in in the same position Boudreau was in when he was named head coach of the Capitals years ago in that he’s never been a coach in the NHL. Instead, Hunter comes via junior hockey where he was the owner and head coach of the OHL’s London Knights. Much like Brent Sutter in Calgary, Hunter will put aside his ownership duties to coach in the NHL. Sutter is owner of the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL.

This time, however, Hunter comes into a situation where the Capitals absolutely have to get things turned around. Alex Ovechkin has slumped all season long and his scoring numbers have fallen off hard, Alex Semin leads the team in penalties rather than being anywhere near the top in goals, and the defense and goaltending have been sub-par to put it nicely. Hunter comes in with one designation from his playing days: He’s the one captain of the Capitals that led the team to a Stanley Cup finals appearance.

Adding to all that, the team just appeared to not enjoy playing hockey anymore. If Hunter coaches at all the same way as he played, business is about to pick up in a big way in D.C. One thing is for sure, Hunter’s got a lot of work to do get these Capitals back to normal. If a change at the top is all that they needed to make it happen, GM George McPhee will be the smartest guy in the world.

  1. Exiled1 - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    How long until Boudreau is named the Hurrican’ts coach?

  2. govtminion - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    Sad that he had to go, but the writing has been on the wall here in D.C. for a while now- unless things made a huge turnaround the way they did last year after the Winter Classic, and it happened fast, there just wasn’t any way Leonsis was going to allow this to continue. He’s a pretty good coach, and a really funny person- I wish him well wherever he goes next (agreeing with Exiled1, Carolina is possible, or Columbus?), but this situation was out of hand.

  3. jbandit2116 - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    Sad to see the portly fellow leave

  4. michiganhockey11 - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    Didn’t Boudreau just make a record for the quickest coach to get 200 wins?

    I had heard that he was trying to make Ovie into a 2-way player and he wasn’t having it (Ovie’s quote was something close to- “I’m here to score goals not check people”. Star forwards made into 2-way players do have success. Well, at least Scotty Bowman had success turning a star forward into a 2-way player. And that player went on to win 3 Stanley Cups….Ovie’s got to be able to play both sides of the redline.

    • govtminion - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:53 AM

      I’ve never really had trouble with Ovechkin playing two-way- frankly, if anything he tends to hit everything that moves a little TOO gleefully. Getting that kind of effort out of Backstrom and Semin would be a very good thing though.

      Actually, Hunter never has struck me as being a guy who deals well with slacking players, so if Semin’s days in Washington were numbered before, he’s almost certainly getting moved now. (I admit, I’m basing that off of his playing career, because I honestly have no idea what he’s like as a coach.)

      • michiganhockey11 - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:59 AM

        Yeah, I can agree with that. He does tend to pursue hits a bit long when we does go after people.

    • xotoyaxo29 - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:32 PM

      He,needs to take a page from,the book of Steve Yzerman

  5. nhlbruins90 - Nov 28, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    Sad to see him go, but that’s the coaching biz. I imagine he’ll be employed again very soon.

    Agree with govtminion – given the way Hunter played the game, players may look back and long for the good old days with Boudreau.

  6. yettyskills - Nov 28, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    Like Bryan Murray needed to be dumped despite a ton of regular season wins by the Wings.
    Once they did and hired Scotty Bowman they were able to take the next step.
    Yzerman learned to play both ends

    And a dynasty was born.

    Too bad that Dale is no Scotty, but Bruce had to go

    • whipplesan - Nov 28, 2011 at 12:05 PM

      I think the biggest difference between Stevie Y and Ovie is the latter is just too stubborn to learn to change his playing style. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Ovie charging forward as much as anyone, but there is an immense difference between these two players’ personalities.

      Kudos to Big Bruce for trying. Hopefully he won’t be hitting the ice cream hard for long.

      • stakex - Nov 28, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        Thing is whupplesan, when you have the best goal scorer in the league whos putting up the numbers Ovi was…. you don’t mess with that. Besides, In 09-10 he didn’t just have has 50 goals, 109… but he was also a +45 on the season (and a career +13 in the playoffs). Sindny Crosby has never had a +- even half as good…. yet everyone talks about him as a much better defensive player. Kinda doesn’t make sense to me.

        Theres no doubt Ovechkin was never the greatest defensive player, but you just don’t mess with a guy when was a +45 the year before. Theres no need to since thats a hell of a number. Now however, trying to force Ovechkin into a more balanced role has seen his scoring drop… but his line is still giving up just as many goals. Hence the -7 he has this year. Thats called poor coaching decision.

        People need to learn there is no one magic fix all solution. What worked for Yzerman, will not work for Ovechkin… at least not yet. Right now the best solution is to let Ovi do his thing and prove his best defense is his offense.

      • michiganhockey11 - Nov 28, 2011 at 3:54 PM

        Not always the case, but if Bowman told Ovie to change, he’d either change or be gone. That’s the shame of it though.

  7. stakex - Nov 28, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    Bruce Boudreau seemed like a really likeable guy who was really passionate about his team and winning. Its really sad to see him fired. At the same time however, it was exactlly what had to happen. Under him the Capitals have under achieved in the playoffs, and his switch to a more defensive system has really screwed the team up. A change was needed and its about time.

  8. vikesfansteve - Nov 28, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Alex Ovechkin is the problem. Step on babies toes & you are fired. This team will go nowhere again because they let the hens rule the roost.

    • stakex - Nov 28, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      Ovechkin, Semin, offense, defense, goaltending…. they have all sucked for Washington. Its NOT just Ovechkin. When the team as a whole is playing bad, you can’t blame one player.

      • vikesfansteve - Nov 28, 2011 at 6:52 PM

        Ovi didn’t listen, can’t be coached. It is all him.

      • vikesfansteve - Nov 28, 2011 at 6:56 PM

        Even though Caps GM George McPhee said firing Bruce Boudreau wasn’t just about one guy, chances are it was mostly about one guy — Ovechkin. CBC’s Tim Wharnsby pinned Boudreau’s firing entirely on Washington’s captain, claiming the infamous benching against Anaheim was Boudreau’s undoing.

        “After that, Ovechkin pouted,” Wharnsby wrote. “He scored only three times in the next 12 games and the Capitals record was a poor 3-7-1. Boudreau had lost his team. He no longer had the support from the Capitals ownership nor general manager George McPhee.”

        McPhee had to know his star player couldn’t languish 38th in goalscoring (tied with Travis Moen!) much longer, or continue to score at a 63-point pace. McPhee can say the coaching change wasn’t about Ovechkin…but it was about Ovechkin.

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  10. myopinionisrighterthanyours - Nov 28, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    Right now the best solution is to let Ovi do his thing and prove his best defense is his offense.

    And this has resulted in exactly how many Stanley Cup trips, much less wins, for the Caps???

  11. xotoyaxo29 - Nov 28, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    Now that Bruce is gone the pressure is the “great 8 ” to produce. He has a lot of maturing to do. This is hard because I like Ovie but I think his and the other players refusing to listen to him and their immaturity caused Bruce his job. It’s easier to replace a coach than a whole roster. The Caps need to grow up and play hockey. If they can continue to spiral downward they have no one to blame but themselves.

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