by PuckStopsHere on 04/26/12 at 03:05 PM ET
In November the Washington Capitals fired coach Bruce Boudreau and replaced him with Dale Hunter. Washington had a 12-10 record with one regulation tie point at that time in the season. Under Hunter the Caps had a 32-30 record with seven regulation tie points. The Capitals did not show any improvement under Hunter.
The story when Boudreau was fired was that he lost the support of his star players, especially Alexander Ovechkin. Hunter has not had a better relationship with these players. Ovechkin is unhappy with the fact his ice time has been reduced in several high profile situations. Hunter was seen as a “rah rah guy” who had little to add to his team tactically. If Washington stumbled and missed playoffs or lost in the first round, he was expected to be fired.
Washington has eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins with a seventh game overtime victory last night. That victory alone seems to guarantee Washington will have another year of Dale Hunter coaching the team.
The first round coaching match-up between Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins and Hunter in Washington clearly favored Boston, but Washington squeaked out a victory.
In hockey the best team does not always win. The Washington-Boston series was a closer series than a typical two seed versus seven seed match-up. Washington is a team many expected to contend for the East Conference title. Their failure was blamed in part upon coaching. It led to an in-season coaching change. The new coach seemed to be no better (and several argued he was worse) than the first coach. Despite that Washington is moving on to the second round of the playoffs.
It is clear that the team with the better coach does not always win a playoff round. There are many reasons outside of coaching (for example the players) to explain playoff results. When a series is as close as a seventh game overtime series, there is plenty of room for luck to dictate a result. Washington has inferior coaching and will likely be outcoached in the second round. They may have the talent to survive depending upon who they match up with, but it is unlikely to be a coaching success. Dale Hunter is not regarded as a top NHL coach for many reasons. He has done little to show his coaching ability at the NHL level. However his team winning in the playoffs, despite being outcoached, will let him have a longer run as the Washington coach. Their playoff success this year will increase his coaching tenure and that is likely a bad thing as it will keep the team outcoached into the future.
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