Did Dale Hunter Even Want To Be Here?

DC Sports Nexus ---- Monday, May 14, 2012

On November 28th of 2011, Bruce Boudreau was fired from the Washington Capitals.  Boudreau had become a Caps hero after leading the team to the Southeast Division title in each of his 4 seasons.  But a lack of playoff success and a start to the 2011-12 season that was not up to par with previous teams led to the Capitals parting ways with Boudreau.

In a somewhat bizarre move, the Washington Capitals hired former Caps center Dale Hunter.

Boudreau worked his way up through the coaching ranks from the CoHL to the IHL to the ECHL to the AHL all the way up to the NHL.  He had won championships in the ECHL and AHL and became the fastest NHL coach to reach 200 wins in the history of the league.

Hunter on the other hand, spent his entire coaching career in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) where he helped coach & develop junior hockey prospects between the ages of 15 and 20.  He coached there for 11 seasons, compiled a lot of wins, won a championship, and coached lots of future NHL players but never accepted any opportunity to coach in a higher level league...until the Capitals came to him in 2011 to replace Boudreau.

Dale Hunter came in and told everyone he was a farmer and that he only owned one suit. So why would a simple man who seemed to love mentoring young players and farming up in Canada want to coach an NHL team?

Perhaps because George McPhee has been trying to get him to do it for the past several years?  According to a Washington Post:

"McPhee added that he’s been in constant contact with Hunter for 12 years and that he always hoped that the timing would eventually work out so that the former Washington captain would return as coach of his former team." -Katie Carrera

If Dale Hunter didn't want to really be here, and he had to be convinced to give it a shot, then what was the plan by Capitals management?  Did they hope he would love coaching NHL superstars with egos instead of young mold-able minds?  Did they just want him to "temp" for a season so the team could stay under control before a dismantling next season?

We don't yet know the reason that Hunter isn't coming back, but if it was because he liked his old life better, than what was McPhee thinking?  Or was Hunter just an interim coach the whole time?


Chris Conway said...

As a ranger fan, I was thrilled that in a series that was decided by 1 goal in game 7, and in a series that the Rangers won 3 of their games by 1 goal, that Hunter had one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league playing reduced minutes. Especially after the Caps knocked the Rangers out of the playoffs twice in the last 3 years.

Chris Ford said...

I would have loved for the Rangers to do a similar thing. Gaborik went from 19:31 to 20:54 in the playoffs, Ovi's average time actually went up a few seconds in the playoffs, but was down 2 minutes from previous playoffs. Either way, as a guy who watched hockey for the 1st time, every game I wanted to see Ovechkin on the ice for 60 minutes a game. I don't understand it.

Chris Conway said...

In the game the Penguins were eliminated back in round 1, Malkin had 27 minutes of ice time, and Crosby had 26. Granted, a lot of that was PP time, but Malkin for example still had 19 minutes of even strength time (same as Ovechkin in game 7), plus 8 more minutes of PP time. Certainly Hunter could have found at least a couple of more minutes for Ovechkin at even strength.

Speaking of lack of offense, if I were a Caps fan, the thing that would gnaw at me all summer is the fact that the Caps had no sustained offensive momentum in the 3rd period of game 7 - I mean, they trailed the entire 3rd period, facing elimination, and they had just 4 shots in the period! That would be a bad job in a January game vs Minnesota, much less a game 7.

I am of the opinion that the Caps had success in the playoffs in spite of Hunter, not because of him. Holtby was the star of the show. If the caps had even just average goaltending, they probably don't get by Boston, no matter who the coach is.

Chris Ford said...

Stop bringing back these terrible memories!

Chris Conway said...

Not to dredge up more painful memories, but I though you'd find this article interesting...it's by Larry Brooks in today's NY Post, and he said essentially what I said, but with more data:


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