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Caps GM McPhee on Dale Hunter: “I didn’t expect him to play that defensively”

Aug 24, 2012, 12:30 PM EDT

George McPhee Getty Images

Over at SB Nation, Ted Starkey relays some intriguing quotes from Washington GM George McPhee’s recent speaking engagement — most notably, McPhee’s thoughts on his former head coach, Dale Hunter.

Here’s McPhee:

“With Dale Hunter, for example, I didn’t expect him to play that defensively. Once we got going, I allowed the coaches to coach the way they wanted to coach.

“Their necks are on the line, I don’t want to be telling them what to do and turn around and fire them for making the wrong decisions. It’s your team, do what you have to do. I try not to talk about what I’m seeing unless they ask.”

Pretty frank admission, no?

Credit to McPhee for not meddling, but it seems wild he’d hire (and continue to employ) Hunter without even discussing the team’s style of play.

Had Hunter been winning, sure, the hands-off approach is great — but the Caps were basically a .500 team under his regime (okay, 30-23-7, and I’m counting the shootout losses as real losses) before gaining a bit of steam in the playoffs (where they performed admirably, but still finished 7-7.)

All this said, and reading firmly between the lines, one can conclude that while McPhee didn’t expect Hunter to play so defensively, he certainly liked it.

When Hunter announced that he was leaving the team, McPhee said he “loved everything about Dale” and praised how Hunter “really taught club the ‘how’ of winning.”

All of which leads to the big, pressing question: Will he employ the same hands-off approach with Adam Oates?

  1. theawesomersfranchise - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    McPhee is a so-so GM overall but a very good talent evaluator. Does well in the draft but hasn’t figured out the right combinationdto fill out the roster and have a playoff winner. Bryan Murray clone basically.

    • jernster21 - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:23 PM

      Don’t give a GM too much credit for talent evaluation – that rests on the shoulders of their scouting staff – they do the leg work to provide the GM all the information he needs to make an informed decision. If the GM is the one who assembles the scouting staff, then sure, credit him for that, but the bigger pictures involves many more people.

  2. danphipps01 - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Man, if he was hands-off with Hunter, he’s gonna have to be hands-off with Oates. Oates is by far the most astute student of the game the Caps have had coaching in a long while. He’s the last person to be backseat-coaching for.

  3. 950003cups - Aug 24, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    I’m not sold on Oates as a coach just yet. He was in charge of the Devils PP which was not very successful at all. Not that it’s all his fault. But I still have to say, NJ’s PP won’t miss him.

    I did hear that he played a behind the scenes role helping players improve on their weaknesses. Something in the likes of Jacques Lemaire.

    I still miss Lemaire’s post game media sessions. YouTube him. They’re quite hilarious.

    • danphipps01 - Aug 24, 2012 at 3:01 PM

      In his first season with the Bolts, Oates ran a power play that ended with the eighth best success rate (19.3%) in the NHL, despite the team not making the playoffs, and this season led the power play of the traditionally defense-first Devils to a 17.2% success rate – not stellar, but when you consider the team it was with, that number’s actually not bad at all.

      The Caps, meanwhile, have gone from leading the league with a 25.1% success rate in 2009-10, to finishing 16th and 18th respectively over the past two seasons. Oates is only going to make an anaemic power play look better in Washington.

  4. stakex - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    I think McPhee is next on the chopping block if Washington has another bad season, or an unexpected playoff exit. They have tried new coaches, they have shaken up the roster, and theres not much else left to try but a new GM…

  5. davebabychreturns - Aug 24, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    If I’m not mistaken, did the Caps not get as far in the playoffs under Dale Hunter as they had in any post-lockout season?

    Whatever their record was during the regular season (and given the various adversity the team faced, from a petulant franchise player to a complete change in approach to the game, I don’t think it was that bad) this is an organization that has identified post-season success as its measuring stick.. getting within spitting distance of the third round is not too shabby in that light.

  6. muir6 - Aug 24, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    Not a Caps fan but jeeze if not for the Rangers pullin a rabbitt out of the hat the caps r in conference finals. Before Hunter got there Caps had some nice seasons and their usual first round chocking dog routine

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