Bruce Boudreau was fired on Monday as the head coach of the Washington Capitals despite his team starting 12-9-1 in the 2011-2012 NHL season. That record may cut it for some coaches, but for the Capitals, expectations were much higher than that, and the team’s recent play suggested a change might be in order to jump-start the languishing Caps. Boudreau’s replacement? Former Capitals legend Dale Hunter. Hunter has been a coach and co-owner of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights for the last 11 seasons.
Capitals GM George McPhee felt his team was no longer responding to Bruce Boudreau, so he was left to make a change. The Capitals have lost 8 of their last 11 games and are tied for 8th in the Eastern Conference. Alexander Ovechkin has also struggled offensively, which didn’t help Bruce Boudreau’s cause. Dale Hunter looks to change the style of play in Washington.
Dale Hunter joined ESPN 980 in D.C. with The Sports Reporters to discuss hearing about the opportunity to coach the Washington Capitals, being surprised that the Capitals head coaching position was open, what his first move as Capitals head coach will be, the Capitals needing to be more disciplined, getting Alexander Ovechkin going offensively and bringing a different coaching style to the Capitals.
When did you specifically hear about this opportunity?
“Yesterday I talked to George McPhee. [Host: Were you surprised?] Well Bruce Boudreau did a good job here and got them into winning the division. They were in a little bit of a funk, so it’s part of the business where they are in a funk and tough choices gotta be made. It must have been a tough decision for George.”
So it didn’t strike you out of the blue that this job was open?
“No. Definitely. I watch as many Cap games as I can because I enjoy watching them and rooting for them.”
What’s your first order of business?
“Well we had practice today and I am changing a few things in our systems and hopefully we can play better defensively and get some goals.”
Is making this team more disciplined high on your list?
“Well definitely. Every team has to be disciplined and you are accountable for your system. You gotta follow by it definitely and bad penalties are a killer with the power play and stuff. You can’t take bad penalties and gotta be to detail. You gotta be a particular for detail and I demand it.”
The face of the franchise as you know is Alexander Ovechkin, who is down on the scoring list. He gave us a lot of excitement in previous years. What do you plan to do to get him going?
“It’s one of those things where players always go into not scoring as much as they like. I guarantee he would like to score more, but teams are keying on him. Every game plan will – every team will come in here or you are on the road – [everyone] is going to say shut down Ovechkin. Ovechkin we gotta shut him down. Definitely he’s got the keys and everyone has a target on him, but he’s a hard working guy. He finishes hits, so when he does that good things will come around.”
What is your new system like? Which way does it go?
“I am definitely a hard forechecking team and getting no odd man rush. You gotta dump the puck in and forecheck and finish your hits and cycle the puck and create havoc on the other end and then the puck turns over and you gotta bust your ass back. You have to commit yourself – that is when defensive play starts. You gotta really work hard. It’s a lot harder working the other way, but I gotta get these guys doing it because that is part of hockey now where there’s not a lot of odd man rushes, so you gotta make sure you are back.”