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Hanlon Out as Caps' Coach
Hanlon, who declined all interview requests yesterday, came to Washington as an assistant coach in 2002-03 after three seasons as the coach of the AHL's Portland Pirates. He replaced Bruce Cassidy as the Capitals' head coach 28 games into the 2003-04 season, which, after a salary purge gutted the roster, ended with a last-place finish in the Southeast Division and 59 points in the standings.
Hanlon was brought back after the 2004-05 lockout and faced a daunting challenge: Shepherd the league's most inexperienced (and inexpensive) team through a painful rebuilding process. Although the Capitals finished in 27th place (70 points) in the NHL in each of the past two seasons and were overmatched on many nights, Hanlon received praise from around the league for getting his teams to work hard and for his handling of a difficult situation.
This season, however, was supposed to be different. Ownership spent millions of dollars on free agents Michael Nylander, Tom Poti and Viktor Kozlov, who joined a core that already included Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Kolzig. Majority owner Ted Leonsis said the rebuilding was complete, and players spoke openly about their playoff aspirations.
But instead of taking a step forward, the Capitals, after a 3-0 start and injuries to key players, have regressed.
"It's hard for him, hard for the team," Ovechkin said. "If we win, nobody talking about coach. If we lose, everyone talks about coach."
Team captain Chris Clark said: "I'm disappointed. I take a lot of the responsibility on myself as one of the older guys on the team to come through for a great guy like Glennie. I'm taking this really hard."
Though Boudreau has been with the Capitals for only one practice, the contrast between his style and Hanlon's was obvious. The most noticeable difference was Boudreau's constant barking during drills. Known as a players' coach, Hanlon was more reserved.
Boudreau also demanded that everyone race over to him when he blew his whistle. The last one to the huddle had to skate a lap.
More importantly, he places a greater emphasis on generating offense, one of the Capitals' biggest problems. As of last night, they ranked 28th in the league in goals per game (2.24).
"He's more offensive coach," Ovechkin said. "He tell us shoot the puck more, move quickly."
Boudreau will make his debut against one of the NHL's hottest teams in the Flyers, who are coming off a 6-3 win at Carolina. Ironically, the Bears, Boudreau's former team, will play the Philadelphia Phantoms at Wachovia Center following the Capitals-Flyers game.
"The guys will get over it," Boudreau said. "They feel sorry, but in the end, they are concerned about their jobs. Because that's next. They've got to play to their capabilities. Hopefully the players get that message."