Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

When Dale Hunter’s made his decision to resign as the coach of the Washington Capitals, the disappointment of his players was manifest as they conducted their exit interviews at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. For all the talk of Hunter’s defense-first game plan, the coach’s strategy was barely mentioned by the players. Instead, they praised something else: the accountability he brought to the team. Gone were the days of stars — or captains — getting a free pass. Every player was forced to work together, no matter what line or how much ice team they got.

“He taught us as much about leadership and the team aspect and respect amongst players and trust in your teammates as he did about hockey,” Brooks Laich said at the time. “There were some things culture-wise that had to be adjusted in order for our team to succeed and I thought he did a great job of doing that, put it a step in the right direction.”

Now, as Washington’s General Manager George McPhee continues his search for the next bench boss, he isn’t looking for a coach just to mirror Hunter’s system, but one who can pair his temperament and ability to motivate players with a higher-powered offense more reminiscent of the Presidents’ Trophy winning Caps of yesteryear.

“It’s not necessarily the style of play that’s most important, if you’re the coach you’ve got to sell this to the players and have them buy in to it and that’s what works,” McPhee told reporters in the Capitals locker room Thursday morning. “We really like the way the team competed. That was something we’ve been trying to get to, to have them complete like that and they were terrific. They played their guts out. It was great. We want to maintain that kind of commitment and play a little more uptempo.”

“This team has sort of grown up together, they’re getting to that point where they get it,” he added.

McPhee, expectedly, was mum on which names are in the running for the job. We already know that Flyers assistant Craig Berube will not be tapped. McPhee did say the decision would likely not come until after the NHL Draft next weekend, and that current assistant coaches Jim Johnson and Dean Evason would “probably not” be back with the team. But it does seem as if McPhee realizes it’s not the smartest decision to go with another players’ coach like Bruce Boudreau. And Caps fan should be happy about that.

“When you do it in the summer it becomes a real thoughtful process, real comprehensive, you can talk to a lot of people, come up with a plan on how you’re going work,” said McPhee. “We’ve enjoyed it. There are some terrific people out there, some real good candidates. We like where we are in the process, we like where we are so far, and we’ll just keep working our way until we’re making that final decision.”

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  • Mike

    I hope its Adam Oates.

  • Gigatronik

    Bring back Ron Wilson

  • Ben Reed

    If it has to be another rookie HC, I could live with that. But my first criteria would be someone with experience. I’m sick of that learning curve.

  • I know my comrade Peter is going to hate this, but I would actually
    really love to see Ron Wilson brought back. This is more of a veteran
    team now and I really think he would be a natural extension of what Dale
    and Bruce Boudreau did here.

  • There are many things I’d hate more than seeing Ron again.

    But RULE #1 is still: Don’t date your ex-girlfriend.

  • Gotta say: I think it’s stupendously dumb to staff up the team (at draft and 7/1) before finding a head coach.

    With the roster set before the coach is hired, the new guy will have all the same excuses (or “mitigations”) as Hunter had. “The team doesn’t match my style” and that tired, old yarn.

    What is the Capitals identity? They inherit it from their coach, and the team roster needs to support it. This seems backwards. The whole purported advantage of making these changes in the offseason is having enough time to be careful and deliberate.

    That ain’t happening. Instead, GMGM will draft and sign free agents without a clue as to how they’ll be coached and deployed and worked and talked to. He won’t know what parts his eventual tactician needs.

    He’s flying blind. Boo.

  • I thought RULE #1 was have only ONE girlfriend.

  • Darla Doxstater

    “When Dale Hunter’s made his decision to resign as the coach of the Washington Capitals…”
    When his *what* made his decision? Family? Friends? Left nut?

  • ADJUNCT REJOINDER TO RULE #1: Having a girlfriend is a moral failing.

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    Any chance of getting a new GM? This is a mess. I…I I agree with Peter. We have no direction, no logic. Is this a smart path to take with so many important UFAs? Who wants to make a long term commitment with a confused, directionless team (or girlfriend)?

  • Sean L

    I want Cooper.

  • I upvoted 20 times but it only counted the first 🙁

  • his trifling, pedantic volunteer copyeditor perhaps?

  • Please not another inexperienced coach. You know what the definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

  • Livia

    GMGM said today that he’s trying to build a team that is hard-working, defensively responsible, and can play in an uptempo style, and then hire a coach who is well suited to lead this kind of team. Hey–maybe Darryl Sutter is available!

  • Guestz

    ooorrrr he’s planning each together at the same time and will go forward in one fell swoop with everyone on board. BB was brought in mid-season, same with DH. this time they have the summer to get their ish in order. im not feeling so pessimistic any more.

  • JOHN. STEVENS. Just won the stanley cup, and former Hershey Bear.

  • Pingback: DMV: Nats Fans Talking Playoffs | Mr. Irrelevant, a D.C. Sports Blog by the Brothers Mottram()

  • serpent

    Sutter would be perfect, sort of Hunter on steroids.I really don’t think LA is going to cough hin up any time soon,though.

  • Rhino40

    Peter, there is much merit to what you say, but please consider the following:

    1) Like him or not, Ron Wilson did coach the Caps to the only Stanley Cup Final appearance in team history.

    2) Nobody could have stopped Detroit that year anyway. They had Scotty Bowman and too many weapons.

    3) The Caps roster that year featured 1 (one) 50-goal scorer in Peter Bondra; nobody else even had 20 and only 5 players broke the 10-goal plateau. Just think what could have been accomplished with the more-offensively potent rosters this team has iced in recent years.

    4) He is experienced in coaching both offensive juggernauts (San Jose) and more balanced clubs.

    5) Caps goaltending corps today is at least equal to the duo of Kolzig and Ranford that they had that season.

    6) Most importantly, he is available.

    Will he be chosen as the next Caps bench boss? I don’t know. But if it isn’t Wilson, then my money is on Adam Oates, an alumnus of that squad who was its second-leading scorer (18 G), chief playmaker (58 A), and excellent two-way forward.

  • Rhino40

    D’OH! sorry about the multi-post.

  • Good points all around.

    I don’t have any rebuttal really.

  • Jonathan

    My prediction is former Capital Adam Oates, who has been given a lot of credit for the re-emergence of Kovalchuck and is considered a very smart assistant. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ron Wilson in DC, again. He is an excellent coach who simply didn’t have the players in Toronto.
    By the way, am I the only one who thinks Hunter was, at best, overrated as a coach. Where it not for our stellar goaltending, which was better than any of the previous playoff years with Boudreau, we would have lost to the Bruins. Period. Remember that putrid power-play in G7 vs NYR that had GMGM seething in the owners box. Hunter was the self-absorbed numbskull who thought it was a good idea to scratch Knuble for games 1-3 vs BOS. He only put him in because Backie was suspended and what did Knuble do: tally 2 goals and the series-winning assist in 4 games. Yes, the Caps blocked more shots, something everyone including Boudreau wanted them to do; but they were not going to play that way for an 82-game regular season next year. If they did they would be limping into the playoffs battered and bruised. Good riddance, Dale.