They were the preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup and played the role early on, starting the season 7-0 before miscues and underwhelming goaltending factored into the dismissal of Coach Bruce Boudreau.

Enter Dale Hunter, whose leadership and tenacity propelled the 1997-98 Washington Capitals all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. That same tenacity would be embraced by the team (and their fans), leading to an upset of the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in round one before succumbing to the New York Rangers, the top seed in the East, in seven games during round two.

Then all those good feelings turned to dismay as Coach Hunter decided to return home to his family and the junior hockey team he co-owns with his brother in London, Ontario, leaving the Washington Capitals in search of their third head coach in just two seasons.

It will be just the 22nd time a team has had three coaches in two years since 1994, when the NHL switched to the current playoff format. The results have not been encouraging.

SeasonTeamThird CoachW%PointsPlayoff result
1995-96LAKLarry Robinson0.29366Did not qualify
1996-97SJSAl Sims0.32962Did not qualify
1996-97TORMike Murphy0.36668Did not qualify
1996-97VANTom Renney0.42777Did not qualify
1997-98PITKevin Constantine0.48898Lost in Round 1
1998-99FLATerry Murray0.36678Did not qualify
1999-00NYIButch Goring0.29357Did not qualify
2000-01CHIAlpo Suhonen0.35466Did not qualify
2000-01NYRRon Low0.40271Did not qualify
2000-01PITIvan Hlinka0.51293Lost in Conference Finals
2001-02ANABryan Murray0.35466Did not qualify
2001-02BOSRobbie Ftorek0.52492Lost in Round 1
2001-02NYIPeter Laviolette0.51292Lost in Round 1
2002-03DALDave Tippett 0.561107 Lost in Round 2
2002-03NJDPat Burns0.561102Won Stanley Cup
2003-04BOS Mike Sullivan0.50097Lost in Round 1
2006-07 LAK Marc Crawford 0.329 68Did not qualify
2006-07MTLGuy Carbonneau 0.51290Did not qualify
2006-07NYITed Nolan0.48892Lost in Round 1
2007-08NJD Brent Sutter0.561 99Lost in Round 1
2008-09ATLJohn Anderson 0.42776 Did not qualify
2009-10MTLJacques Martin0.47688Lost in Conference Finals

More than half (12) of the teams riding the coaching carousel did not make the playoffs for coach number three. Of the 10 that did qualify for the postseason, six lost in round one and just the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils under Pat Burns hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Of the nine teams that made the playoffs in the year before the third coach was brought in, just three managed to improve their playoff results under the new leadership. Of the remaining six, three did not qualify for the postseason altogether, two others lost again in the first round and one failed to make a repeat appearance in the conference semifinals.

That’s not to say whoever is chosen to be the coach — and there are many fine candidates — cannot have success next season. But when there is this type of excessive turnover behind the bench it typically indicates team problems run deeper than a coaching change can fix.

Follow Neil on Twitter: @ngreenberg | Caps scoring chances

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