Capitals Hire Woods as Assistant Coach

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For the second time in less than two years, the Washington Capitals have turned to their farm team to fill a coaching vacancy.

Yesterday, the team promoted Bob Woods from the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears to assistant coach in Washington, where he will join coaching mentor and close friend Bruce Boudreau behind the Capitals' bench.

Woods guided the Bears to the AHL championship this month and was an assistant under Boudreau when the Bears claimed the Calder Cup in 2006. The 41-year-old Saskatchewan native replaces Jay Leach, whose contract was not renewed, and will coach the defensemen.

"With the talent [the Capitals] have and the experience they've had the past couple of years in the playoffs, we're very close," said Woods, who has no prior NHL coaching or playing experience. "I wanted to be a part of that."

Woods amassed an 83-47-15 regular season record in Hershey and went 17-10 in the playoffs, including a six-game victory over Manitoba in this spring's final.

"Hershey is a tough place to leave," Woods added. "But we're in this business to make it to the NHL. It took me almost 20 years to get there and I'm just excited to finally make it and be back with Bruce."

Woods played for Boudreau with Mississippi of the ECHL when the Sea Wolves won the Kelly Cup in 1999. He retired as a player in 2001 as the ECHL's all-time leader in games played with 559, then coached Mississippi for four seasons before joining Boudreau's staff in Hershey in 2005. Woods took over for Boudreau with the Bears when Boudreau was promoted to the Capitals in November 2007.

"He's coached all of our young guys," Boudreau said. "From a defensive standpoint, he's coached Mike Green and Jeff Schultz and Karl Alzner and John Carlson. He already knows what makes them tick."

The Capitals received nearly two dozen résumés for the assistant coaching vacancy, but no one was interviewed for the opening -- including Woods.

"Our criteria was [for the candidate to be] a former defenseman," Boudreau said of Woods, who was drafted 201st overall by New Jersey in 1988. "We asked him, we knew what we wanted and it was simple. Bob was the only guy I was looking at."

General Manager George McPhee said he believes Woods's winning record, chemistry with Boudreau and familiarity with the organization's prospects offsets his lack of experience at the NHL level.

"He was our man because he did very well developing our young players and leading Hershey to the championship," McPhee said. "Bruce and Bob have been together a long time. They won a Cup together in the ECHL and in the AHL, and they've also done well separately. So now they're reunited and we'll see if they can win a third Cup together."

The Bears have not hired a replacement for Woods.

In other news, McPhee said he doesn't think the Capitals will be in next year's Winter Classic, despite recent reports that have suggested they are a leading candidate to face the Bruins at Fenway Park on Jan. 1.

"You think we would know by this point," McPhee said. "It doesn't sound like we will be part of it. Maybe that's not a bad thing. When you go, you have to play in front of 40,000 or 50,000 of the other team's fans. I would just assume if we were in it that we would know by now."

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