Abe Pollin, the owner of the Washington Capitals, yesterday fired General Manager Max McNab, Coach Gary Green and Assistant Coach Bill Mahoney. The team had lost 11 straight games and 12 of its first 13 games this season.
Roger Crozier, the assistant general manager under McNab, was named to replace all three, for now.
Crozier was given the dual titles of acting general manager and acting coach. His first duty is to help find a permanent coach and, presumably, his status as general manager will remain indefinite until it is determined whether he can reverse the club's downhill spiral.
Green was the sixth coach in the eight-year history of the franchise. The team never has had a winning season or made the National Hockey League playoffs.
Crozier said he hoped to find a coach before Wednesday's game here against Pittsburgh.
"I can do the job as coach temporarily," Crozier said, "but I'm going to come up with a list of candidates and Roger Crozier will not be on that list. I don't qualify in that department."
Crozier said he would contact potential candidates quickly. Mark Stewart, agent for former Philadelphia and Ranger coach Fred Shero, said Washington has been in touch. Crozier also said Bryan Murray, the Hershey coach, would be considered.
The circumstances in yesterday's action were much the same as surrounded the ouster of Coach Danny Belisle two years ago. The Capitals had lost at home to Edmonton badly, and the fans were booing loudly and calling for changes. Green was hired Nov. 14, 1979, when Pollin said: "He is one of the brightest young men I have ever met."
Pollin said nothing publicly yesterday. The changes were announced in a terse three-paragraph statement released by Capital Centre's executive office.
The Capitals were routed by Minnesota, 6-1, Wednesday night and many of the 7,567 in Capital Centre taunted them verbally.
Green, whose record was 50 victories, 78 losses and 29 ties, was informed by Pollin early in the morning, then went to practice and spoke to the players. He returned to the Centre, met with the media and left.
"Something had to happen," Green said. "Maybe I'm surprised it didn't happen a week ago. It was a case of make major player changes or fire the coach or fire both. The one they made is the one they made."
The surprise for most of the players and others connected with the club was the fact that McNab went, as well. He had been a voice of calm through previous crises spanning almost six seasons. When Pollin attempted to hire Scotty Bowman as general manager-coach in 1979, his ancillary plan was to elevate McNab to club president, a position Pollin has held since he took over for Peter O'Malley in April 1978.
"It's just a shocker," said Rick Green, oldest Capital in length of service, having arrived in September 1976, and the only dependable defensive performer this season. "I've just had coaches go before. A lot of guys are going to be doing a lot of thinking about this. I hate to see anybody lose their job, but I guess there had to be a change."
Wednesday night's loss to Minnesota was the first time the Capitals had been blown out this season. But they had suffered a number of defeats because of mistakes under pressure and the use of six rookies was cited by some veteran players as the cause. That alibi reportedly came up at a recent team meeting and Gary Green reportedly became angry, telling the veterans to work harder to set an example for the younger players.
Crozier cited disunity among the players as a major factor in the team's failure and said it was No. 1 on his list of corrective measures.
"After what happened last night, the way the team played, I guess Mr. Pollin felt he had to make a move," Crozier said. "We have too many guys going too many different directions, not playing as a unit. Things seemed to be going backward instead of forward. We feel the talent is there, that we just haven't been playing as a team.
"Naturally, we'll be looking first at unemployed ex-coaches, as well as people within our own organization. We're looking for a lot more discipline, a lot more respect and a lot more hard work.
"We have to have a coach who understands the trend of the game today, the offensive end of it. We need a good tactician, somebody who can adjust his style to the opposition or to the flow of the game that night.
"With all our young kids we have to seek out a disciplinarian, a hard-working person himself who demands hard work, someone who knows the game and can teach young kids."
Someone suggested that one person with all those qualifications was Gary Green. Crozier replied: "Gary Green may have had all those qualifications. It's not for me to judge. I didn't release him. At this time last year we had a .500 team and I think we're better now, but why it didn't jell is beyond me."
Crozier, 39, has been bothered by pancreatic problems for years and was forced to leave the Hershey training camp for a week in late September and early October to obtain hospital treatment. He was asked whether this might affect his ability to manage the team.
"There can't be any more pressure than I've been in for 15 years as a goaltender," Crozier said. "That was real pressure."