Dale Hunter’s decision to not return to the Capitals next season caught the players off guard, but for the most part they all understood his desire to return to London, Ontario, to his family and the junior team he co-owns with his brother.
“Family is always in the first position. It's his decision,” Alex Ovechkin said. “It's his decision so we have to live with it.”
Ovechkin admitted that personally it was “pretty hard” for him to adjust to Hunter’s defensive system early on. but that he tried to shelve his expectations and do what was best for the team, even if that included playing less than 15 minutes in some playoff games.
“It doesn’t matter if I like it or not, because he’s my coach and I have to listen,” Ovechkin said. “How he said, you have to be a plumber. So I was a plumber.”
Ovechkin, who will leave to join Team Russia at the IIHF World Championships later this afternoon, said that despite some of the growing pains he “learned a lot” from Hunter and that the rugged former NHLer reminded him of an old coach he had growing up in Russia.
Capitals franchise centerman Nicklas Backstrom said he knows the team will be able to adjust to a new coach next season, but was blunt in expressing his disappointment in Hunter’s decision not to return to Washington.
“We played good hockey in the playoff and I think he’s been doing so many good things for this team,” said Backstrom, who will also travel to the World Championships later today. “I really wanted to see him back next year but unfortunately he’s not. It’s not good.”