Bruce Boudreau Fired – When Washington Capitals GM George McPhee fired coach Bruce Boudreau on Monday morning and replaced him with hard-as-nails Dale Hunter, McPhee played his final card.
McPhee has handed over the keys to one of the league’s most talented and successful teams to a man who has never coached a single NHL game and has no experience coaching adults despite building and coaching a wildly successful major junior franchise with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
He has tinkered and toyed with this enigmatic Capitals lineup since bringing in Boudreau during Thanksgiving weekend in 2007 but has never quite hit on a combination that could translate terrific regular-season accomplishments into sustained postseason success.
Taking a chance on Hunter is in some ways an end game then for McPhee. The move will mark the end of the team’s confounding playoff futility or be the end of the line for the Capitals in their current form.
Now that McPhee has made this play, the team’s direction will fall at the feet of its captain, Alex Ovechkin.
This doesn’t mean the Caps’ play of late is solely Ovechkin’s fault. It’s not. The defense has been hampered by the loss of Mike Green and the sudden aging of offseason free-agent acquisition Roman Hamrlik. The goaltending has been mostly average and often worse than that. As of Monday, the Caps were 29th in goals allowed per game and 21st on the penalty kill.
But where the rubber hits the road for this team is with No. 8.
Ovechkin has eight goals and 17 points (54th). He has scored just once at home this season and is a minus-7. Perhaps most telling: He is averaging just 18:47 in ice time, 68th among NHL forwards. The team’s franchise player isn’t even leading the Caps’ forwards in ice time (Brooks Laich is with 18:49).
One of the knocks on Boudreau after a series of disappointing playoff turns — the last of which was a four-game sweep against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round this past spring — was that he wasn’t hard enough on his good players, that he cut guys like Ovechkin, Green, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom too much slack.