Bruce Boudreau was a great coach, and there’s really not much more you could have asked from him as a fan.
He won the vast majority of the games he coached. He turned a young team that was floundering under Glen Hanlon into a President’s Trophy winner, and one of the perennial contenders in the league — a team that was always expected to make the playoffs and win the division.
But there comes a point where none of that matters anymore. The Caps have struggled famously in the playoffs under Boudreau, and the team was off to a dismal start to this season. No one is playing well, the team is not winning, and every day it seems like there’s another story of locker room strife or someone sniping in the media or talking heads prattling on about what needs to be done to fix the Capitals.
As great a job as Boudreau did, he’s not going to go out there and score goals, or throw big checks, or get in a fight to spark the team. There’s only so much that can be done before a change needs to be made.
The Dale Hunter move tells me two things. First, the organization is terrified of losing the fans as much, if not more, than losing the room, and in this economy, I can’t blame them. Fans can handle losses and bad hockey for only so long before the Caps are playing before empty seats, and that’s not good for anyone. Hunter is a traditional fan favorite, and someone the fans identify with as being tough and no-nonsense, which they hope will transfer over to the team.
Second, it tells me that there were no “real” candidates with NHL experience available. My position toward letting Boudreau go had always been to question who would be hired to replace him, and apparently retreads like Mike Keenan (thank God) or John Stevens or Michel Therrien or anyone else out there on the old coach scrap heap weren’t going to cut it.
I’m not real positive yet on the team under Hunter, but at least I know there’s precedent for this. The Penguins fired Michel Therrien and won the Stanley Cup. Ditto for Rob Ftorek in New Jersey. The Flyers fired John Stevens and made the Stanley Cup finals. I cling to sliver clouds because there’s just not much to be positive about at the moment.
Bruce Boudreau was a great coach. But it has become obvious that the team needed a new direction, and a new spark. I earnestly hope that Dale Hunter can provide that. Until then, it could be a pretty bumpy road ahead.
More on Boudreau firing/Hunter hiring:
Poll: Was it the right move?
Tracee Hamilton: Boudreau had to go
D.C. SportsBog: Top 10 Boudreau moments
Q&A: Boswell on firing
Photos: Boudreau fired
Box Seats: Why Bruce had to go