Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Dale Hunter
Posted on: November 29, 2011 10:47 pm
 

Blues' Hitchcock on Boudreau: Bruce is a lifer

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- Ken Hitchcock has a message for everybody about Bruce Boudreau: Don't worry.

"Bruce is a lifer, OK?" Hitchcock said before his Blues beat Boudreau's former team, the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. "So, for me, Bruce will recover the quickest of anybody because he's a lifer. So it wouldn't surprise me if, within the next 72 hours, Bruce is back in rinks again. He's a lifer. So he's a guy who will bounce back the quickest of anybody because he loves the game so much, he loves the people in the game."

That's the kind of impression Boudreau made in his first and only NHL job thus far. He racked up 201 wins in his four seasons with the Caps, becoming the fastest coach to hit the 200-win plateau. He'll sometimes talk too much, but he's a prety well-respected coach and the NHL hasn't seen the last of him.

Some will say they don't feel sorry for him or any fired coach one bit. It's not like a hourly-wage employee being fired or anything. But Hitchcock says you shouldn't feel bad for Boudreau being out his salary, but instead the day-to-day operations of being a coach.

"Understand what we're going through as coaches, being on the outs and sitting at home," Hitchcock said. "All the money in the world doesn't help. It's about wanting to be part of something."

He will be, Hitchcock has no doubt.

"I would be surprised if he wasn't back watching American League, NHL games within the next few days and bouncing back and ready to go. He's a guy for me I worry the least about because he's had to bounce back lots and he knows how to do it. He'll mentally position himself very quickly and get back in the saddle again."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 29, 2011 10:01 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 11:01 pm
 

Caps need time before change seen with Hunter

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- Before the game, Dale Hunter had to feel like a rookie again. He had the incredibly rare opportunity to make a first impression for the second time, this time as a coach to a fan base that endears and reveres still from his playing days.

"I got the butterflies going," Hunter told a big scrum about two hours before his NHL coaching debut. "It's like the first game after being traded."

It probably didn't help when the fans gave him a standing ovation early in the first period when a video montage of Hunter was played with the final message being "Back where you belong."

For the first time in four years, the Washington Capitals played a game without Bruce Boudreau behind their bench. There wasn't a whole heck of a lot that was different in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues from the rest of the season, particularly the past few weeks. Part of the idea behind the firing of Boudreau was to spark the team, get them to start playing the way everybody thinks they are capable of. Or as general manager George McPhee put it a day earlier: "We have their attention now."

One thing that was different, according to Hunter, was the team's effort. He had no qualms there.

"We got better as the game went on," Hunter said, "and they competed real hard. That's the important thing. That's what you need to win."

That wasn't the end of the positives that Hunter is taking away from the game.

"We didn't give up odd-man rushes tonight," Hunter said. "There were no two-on-ones and three-on-twos and they competed. We played smart, but they're a good team [St. Louis] and we got to give them credit, too."

OK, so that was one big difference, the defense was much more solid than it has been. The leaky D was one of the reasons McPhee cited for canning Boudreau in the first place, so improvement there is a must. This was a good start.

"I think we did a good job from [a] defensive side today," goaltender Tomas Vokoun said. "You know obviously one goal is not enough."

I'm not here to make any swift judgments. Remember, 48 hours ago, Hunter was still the coach of the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. There's not a lot, if anything, he can be expected to get done on such short notice. All you can hope for so soon is hustle and effort, a department the Caps might not have been giving it their all in recent weeks.

More on Blues-Caps

"You can't set a time period to it," Hunter said about how long it will take to get the team playing how he wants. "By watching them live now, we have some stuff to work on."

But ironically enough, the man behind the other bench on Tuesday, Ken Hitchcock, was in the same position as Hunter a few weeks back, taking over a similarly struggling St. Louis Blues team. With the win here, the Blues are now 8-1-2 under his command. So it's a tough comparison right out of the gate for Hunter to compete with.

Of course, it's not entirely fair, either. They have each won championships, it's just that Hitchcock's was in the NHL while Hunter's was in the OHL. Hitchcock, who has seen a lot in his coaching days, offered up his thoughts on the transition that Hunter is making from the juniors to the bigs.

"Well I think the one thing, he said it best, he's got satellite on the bus so he watched all the darn games," Hitchcock said before the game. "So he has a handle on the players, but it's a lot different when you're standing on the bench. It's making the right decisions under fire."

One thing that isn’t going to start a fire yet but at least send off a few smoke signals was the ice time of Alex Ovechkin. The Caps captain has been a large focus of the recent slump in Washington, many saw -- while the two still deny it -- a rift between Ovechkin and Boudreau. His ice time was down this season. One of the things that has been repeated about a new start with Hunter would be a return to 21, 22 minutes per game for Ovechkin. On Tuesday he had just 16:46, well below his season average.

"In the second period there was all them penalties," Hunter said. "He wasn't killing so he didn't play as much. I thought he was pretty much out there a lot in the third."

Ovechkin did have an assist on the night, creating the play that led to the only Capitals score of the night. Taking the pass in his own zone from Vokoun, Ovechkin didn't try to race up the left boards as he has down countless times through his NHL days, instead he drifted to the open ice on the far side and waited for the cavalry to arrive. A backhand pass on the tape of Nicklas Backstrom from there gave the Caps their only lead of the game.

"Next step [is] to play hard like we play tonight, especially in the third period," Ovechkin said. "I think, I would say, energy was there, we make some hits, we did what he [Hunter] ask us to do and I think if we going to play the same way we going to get some success."

So it's funny how things flip. This team, this franchise which is in win-now mode, feeling that its window to a championship is wide open, is in a wait-now mode for the time being. Not every team can take off like the Blues under a new coach, but this was a start.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 28, 2011 2:41 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 8:49 pm
 

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

By Brian Stubits

ARLINGTON, Va. -- To most, it would appear that Bruce Boudreau is the classic case of a coach becoming a victim of his own success.

The Washington Capitals fired their coach of four seasons on Monday, breaking the news to him at 6:15 in the morning and naming one of greatest players in franchise history, Dale Hunter, his replacement.

Boudreau was as good of a regular-season coach as the NHL has ever seen. The Caps took off under him when he became the boss during the 2007-08 season, going 37-17-7. The four times he finished the season behind the Caps bench, they won the Southeast Division.

But he could never get over the playoff failures. In his tenure, the Caps were 17-20 in the playoffs. That lost him a lot of favor among the fans who were thirsting for more. To see a team doing so well season after season and failing to make a conference final? Still, the Capitals brass stuck behind Boudreau.

No, what cost Boudreau his job wasn't the losses in the playoffs -- although those didn't help -- but instead it was the loss of the team this season.

"These are always difficult decisions but, as I said, you don't want to make these decisions but when you see what I saw, you have to make the decision," general manager George McPhee said. "You can't look the other way. I've seen it in a few games recently, enough that I knew the team wasn't responding. We've got their attention now and hopefully they respond in the right way.

"He gave it everything. As I said, he emptied the tank, he gave it everything and he pushed every button he could push. It worked for a while, it's not working now."

The losing of the team was never on more display than the now infamous incident when Alex Ovechkin, the team's superstar and captain, was benched for the final shift of the game, one in which the Caps scored to tie the game, no less. On the bench, Ovechkin was seen mumbling something about his portly coach that was less than flattering (lip-readers out there know what was said). If there were any thing that signaled the beginning of the end, that was probably it.

General manager George McPhee declined to signal out one instance, but when talking about losing the team, that is exhibit A.

"I don't think this has anything to do with Alex Ovechkin," McPhee said on Monday at the team's practice facility. "I think this has everything to do with his team not playing well. The 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, not an individual. We have a lot of players that aren't playing the way they are capable of playing, and that's why a change was made.

"We've got to be good defensively. We haven't been good defensively. That's really my issue right now. We're just giving up too many goals."

Maybe the players put it best.

“For whatever reason, as a team we weren’t really responding well enough or as good as we should have been,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “And it’s kind of ‘Where do you go from there?’ And that’s when they come into play, the guys upstairs. And they do what they have to do.”

Or there was Brooks Laich's more succinct take.

"You should be giving your best effort all the time ... It sucks that he's the fall guy for it."

More NHL Coaching Changes

If that Ovechkin incident was just the beginning, than it was a recent road trip that was the end. The final nail in the coffin appeared to be an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

"A couple of games on the road last week, I didn't like them at all," McPhee said. "I was happy we bounced back early last week with a couple of wins, but then I started to see the same thing again. and that's when you know.

"It's probably been about a week that we've been kicking it around."

The hope, of course is that this will flip the switch and the Capitals will return to being the Capitals of the past few seasons, the team that romped its way to the Presidents' Trophy. There is hope among the Caps and their fans that this in-season change will work as well as it did for the Penguins and Flyers in recent seasons, with both teams representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.

The most intriguing aspect of this will be to see if Ovechkin, and to a lesser extent Alexander Semin, will play like we have seen them in the past. The local radio shows here are filled with what you'd expect: people thinking Ovechkin is done, wanting Semin gone, etc.

It's a worthwhile question: Can a new coach bring back the old players?

That's the task for Hunter. Many are betting he will. I'm not as convinced. I don't think we'll ever see the 50-goal Ovechkin again. I'm not even sure how much we'll see of a 40-goal Ovechkin. Power forwards don't last forever in the NHL, especially when they don't adapt. If Ovechkin is going to become the dynamic player he once was, he'll have to change. Maybe that is a message Hunter will be able to get through to him, because clearly Boudreau couldn't.

The inevitable happened in this coach vs. star battle: the star won. We all knew that would be the result eventually, you can't fire Ovechkin. In reality, Ovechkin doesn't come away looking any better than Boudreau in this case.

"I think everybody was in shock," the captain said.

Ovechkin continued, saying that sometimes a message can get a little tiresome.

"You can be tired from what the coach is telling you and maybe mistakes and some things like that," Ovechkin said. "But again, the decision is made and we just have to look forward, not look back. Or if you are going to look back at what happened, I think we don't have to talk to you guys about it. It's going to be between our family and our locker room."

That family no longer includes Boudreau, obviously. Not after his early morning talk with McPhee.

"We had a meeting at 6:15 this morning and he was a class act, all the way," McPhee said. "He said all the right things and he made me feel better. Bruce has got such a nice way about him. He made me feel better about the decision. If the worst thing you can say about the guy is that he's a hell of a nice guy, he must be a great guy, and Bruce has been a great guy here."

I can tell you this much. While Boudreau might night be missed a whole lot by the fans, he'll be missed as a personality in the sport. He became an even bigger star when he stole the show on HBO's 24/7 series. But he won't be out of hockey long at all. If he isn't coaching again, he'll find a spot on television for sure.

With his affability, that's a team he would never lose.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 28, 2011 8:44 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 6:17 pm
 

Capitals fire Boudreau, bring in Dale Hunter

bb2

By Brian Stubits

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals announced on Monday morning that they have fired head coach Bruce Boudreau and named former player Dale Hunter to be his replacement.

Hunter will make his debut as the Caps' new boss on Tuesday night in Washington against the St. Louis Blues.

The rumor mill picked up late Sunday night when Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported that he was hearing rumblings Boudreau could be out as coach in 24-48 hours. He had it wrong. Apparently it was more like 12 hours.

"The reason for the change was we weren't winning, obviously," general manager George McPhee said. "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 muc as you don't want to make a change you have to make a change.

"Bruce did a terrific job here, we're very proud of him, very proud of the work he did for us. But when the players aren't responding, you have to make a change."

Can you view the Boudreau, then, as a failure?

More NHL Coaching Changes

"I don't view this as a negative or a failure at all," McPhee said. "I think Bruce came in and did a great job, but his time was up."

Boudreau took over as the Capitals coach during the 2007-08 season, replacing Glen Hanlon, and in parts of five seasons behind the team's bench compiled an impressive 201-88-40 regular season record. The team qualified for the postseason in each of the previous four seasons but struggled to have the regular season success carry over to the playoffs, never advancing beyond the second round of the playoffs, and twice exiting in the first round. That includes the 2009-10 season when they won the Presidents Trophy with the best record in the NHL and were dismissed by the No. 8 seed Montreal Canadiens in seven games.

Replacing him will be the 51-year-old Hunter who has spent the past decade coaching the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and leading them to the Memorial Cup championship during the 2004-05 season. He owns the highest career winning percentage of any coach in the OHL's history.

Hunter, of course, also played for the Capitals between 1987 and 1999 during a career that saw him score 323 goals and compile over 3,500 penalty minutes in 1,407 regular season games. Along with the Capitals, he also spent time with the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche.

"This has been my team ... I shouldn't say my team, it's Ted's [Leonsis] team but it feels like my team because I played here for so long and I have good memories here," Hunter said at his meet the media session after Monday's team practice here at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "I taped every game for the last how many years?"

Asked what Hunter will bring as a coach, McPhee talked about the pedigree Hunter has.

"Hopefully [he brings] the same things that he brought as a player," McPhee said. "Obvioulsy Dale was an intelligent player, he had talent and he was tough, downright mean at times. We probably won't see a player like that again for a while. You don't see numbers like the numbers he's had. But he played 19 years in this league and I think the best thing you could ever say Dale Hunter was whether the game was home or away or he was injured or healthy or we were winning or losing, that guy played the same every night. And it was hard. So he had really a great NHL career over 19 years, played a heck of a lot of playoff games."

As for his jump from the OHL to the NHL? McPhee isn't worried.

"No one's been better at that level. In that Ontario Hockey League that's been around forever, he has the best winning percentage of all time. It's not a flash in the pan; one or two or three years. It's 11 years. He's turned that franchise into the best junior franchise going."

Hunter, the only player in NHL history to have 300 goals and 3,000 penalty minutes in his career, will bring his style back to Washington, a city where he is remembered fondly as one of only four retired jerseys in the rafters.

"We're going to be a hard team to play against," Hunter said. "We're going to be on the puck hard, forecheck hard, really responsible defensively, backside pressure coming back through the neutral zone so teams can't run-and-gun on ya."

Asked if his team will play the way Hunter did, he didn't exactly say yes.

"Too many referees out there now!" Hunter said, drawing a laugh from the massive media contingent. "There's an extra referee out there now."

One of the big concerns, then, is getting this team to respond. If Boudreau lost the team's ear, how can he expect to get it back? How will his approach differ from that of Boudreau?

"Every coach coaches differently," Hunter said. Sometimes the players hear your voice everyday and sometimes the players don't execute as well as they should.

"I'm a player's coach, but also the players will know when I'm mad at them. I'm stern on them, that's the way you have to be to win game. Mistakes ... everybody makes mistakes out there, but if he continues making mistakes than there will be repurcussions."

That sounds a bit like the accountability mantra Boudreau was preaching this season. One difference though is that Hunter will start with that attitude. It's much easier for players to accept it when you are always more stern than somebody like Boudreau who was a bit more of a player's coach who tried to turn into a demanding coach in the offseason. That's a difficult change to make.

This is already the second in-season coaching change of the NHL season, as the Blues, Washington's opponent on Tuesday night, replaced Davis Payne with Ken Hitchcock earlier this month.

The Capitals opened the season on a 7-0 record and the best record in the NHL, but have followed that up with a 5-9-1 run and have struggled the most over the past two weeks, getting blown out by Buffalo, New York and Toronto, while also dropping games to Nashville and Winnipeg.

Adam Gretz contributed to this report

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 27, 2011 11:04 pm
 

Talk about Boudreau's security picks up again

By Brian Stubits

From the completely unsubstantiated rumors department, we present to the latest from Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos -- a typically solid insider -- on the Washington Capitals coaching situation. This is just a friendly reminder to consume this with one healthy grain of salt.

As a guest on Rogers Sportsnet's Hockey Central, Kypreos was asked about the situation in Washington at the moment, a city he once played in. His response sent the Caps fan base into a tizzy (transcribed quotes from Washington Times).

“A lot of speculation something could happen in the next 24-48 hours,” Kypreos said. “The name being thrown out there is ex-Washington Capital, a centerman of mine, Dale Hunter.”

The Capitals denied the rumor, calling it just speculation.

Kypreos played with Hunter in Washington during their stints in the NHL. Hunter has been the coach of the London Knights in the OHL for 11 years and his family is tied in with the organization. For his part, he denied being contacted for the job through the London Free-Press.

I don't think anybody could be surprised if Boudreau were to get the boot now. Because of the team's lack of success in the playoffs, he has been on thin ice for a guy who has won as much as he has in the regular season. But since they started the season 7-0-0, the Caps have fallen on tough times. Since then, they are 5-9-1 and in the past eight games they have been outscored 34-17.

What makes this time different then all the past rumors of his demise? Well general manager George McPhee failed to give a comment on Boudreau's job safety earlier this month when asked.

There have been issues this season with some of his players this season. Things haven't seemed as harmonious for the Caps after Boudreau was encouraged by McPhee in a new accountability theme with the team. That led to the benching of Alex Ovechkin in the final shift of the game -- one which the Caps eventually did score on. He has been poking and prodding Alexander Semin to get the most out of him, including scratching the Russian winger for a game.

Through it all, none of it has seemed to work much. Would a new coach like Hunter be what finally brings those guys back to form?

With their 4-3 win over the Coyotes last week, Boudreau became the fastest coach in NHL history to 200 wins. Still, here we are talking about Boudreau's job security. Again.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com