What a Monday morning, eh? I was a little blown away, not necessarily by the news of Bruce Boudreau’s firing (though I’ll admit I didn’t see it coming), but definitely by the choice of Caps legend Dale Hunter as Boudreau’s successor as head coach.
First, on Boudreau. The fastest coach to reach 200 wins in modern NHL history. The fifth-longest tenured coach in the league at the time of his firing. The man who guided our team to its first Presidents Trophy, but likewise to repeated playoff disappointments. I’m going to go ahead and take the cop-out approach here: change is good, and in professional sports it is often necessary.
Instead of lingering on Bruce, let’s look at the road ahead. If there is Caps royalty, Dale Hunter is it. His jersey hangs from the rafters, and the way the Caps are playing right now, none of them can hope for the same revered status anytime soon. His 872 games in a Caps sweater (and over 1,400 NHL games in total) make Alex Ovechkin look like a child, and if it takes a captain to coach a captain, Hunter’s five seasons wearing the “C” for the Caps should do the trick.
Doesn’t it sound like something out of a movie? Totally. No matter how you spin it, on paper it’s dramatic and exciting. You know, dramatic and exciting like bringing back Joe Gibbs. Like trading for Jaromir Jagr. Uh oh. Dramatic and exciting is a D.C. specialty and indulging in it is fun, but if I force myself to think rationally about this choice, Hunter is missing something he may need to be able to do this job well: coaching experience at the NHL level.
For the last 11 years, Hunter has co-owned and coached the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. If you’re looking for a Caps head coach with NHL experience prior to taking the job, you’d have to go back 15 years to Ron Wilson. Since then Bruce Cassidy, Glen Hanlon and Bruce Boudreau have all called the Caps their first (and so far only) head coaching gig in the NHL. At least coming directly from the Caps’ AHL affiliate, Boudreau was a logical choice. But the OHL?
When you have talent like we do, and well-documented problems with accountability, discipline and consistency, doesn’t it seem like a veteran coach would be an obvious choice? Ask me who I have in mind and I’ll start to draw blanks, but I can’t help feeling like the Caps may have gone for the storybook choice, not the sensible one.
I’m as nostalgic as the next person (no, I’m more nostalgic than the next person), but I have reservations about Hunter’s qualifications. That being said, I have bought my tickets and I will be there tonight to welcome him back to the Caps. Falling for things like this is my forte, so I’m ready to dive in, but I just wanted to go on the record with a little disappointment that the Caps didn’t opt for someone with experience coaching in the NHL.
More on Boudreau firing/Hunter hiring:
Thomas Boswell: Dale Hunter will mold the Capitals in his own image
Box Seats: Why Boudreau had to go
Photos: Dale Hunter named new head coach
Timeline: Bruce Boudreau’s coaching tenure
D.C. Sports Bog: Old school Dale Hunter giveaway signs
Poll: Was it the right move?
D.C. SportsBog: Top 10 Boudreau moments
Box Seats: Caps say “Goodnight Bruce”
Photos: Boudreau fired