by PuckStopsHere on 11/28/11 at 05:18 PM ET
This morning two Southeast Division teams have fired their coaches and replaced them with new coaches. The Washington Capitals have fired Bruce Boudreau and replaced him with former player Dale Hunter, who coached the OHL London Knights. The Carolina Hurricanes fired coach Paul Maurice and replaced him with Kirk Muller who had been coaching the AHL Milwaukee Admirals.
Boudreau’s firing is because he lost the star players, particularly Alexander Ovechkin, on his Capitals team. Ovechkin and Boudreau had public disagreements an Ovechkin’s playing time has been reduced compared to previous years. Ovechkin has 17 points in 22 games. That isn’t good enough from a player many picked to win the scoring title with Sidney Crosby missing the start of the season due to concussion.
Ovechkin isn’t the only star who isn’t living up to expectations. Alexander Semin has only 10 points in his 21 games. He should be at least a point per game player.
Boudreau was never a strong technical coach. He succeeded by inspiring his players. He had stopped doing that. He had won the 2008 Coach of the Year award largely by being in the right place at the right time. Washington had a talented young core that was ready to gel and take-off when he was hired. When they did he was given credit for something that was largely inevitable.
Dale Hunter is a new start. Washington remains a talented team, though they are currently in eighth place in the East Conference. Likely things will get back on track and they will finish with one of the better records in the NHL and be a Stanley Cup contender. This is an expectation if Hunter is merely competent. He was a leader in his playing days but is unproven as an NHL coach. He probably will not be the best technical coach and will find himself outcoached on occasion, but his team has a lot of talent and they should do well.
Carolina is off to a slow start. They are second last in the East Conference with eight wins in their first 25 games. One of their problems is Eric Staal, their captain, is off to a poor start. He has only 11 points and a league-worst -17 +/- rating. More is expected of him. A new coach gives him a new start to turn things around.
Paul Maurice is a solid coach who has had two runs in Carolina and one in Toronto. He isn’t the best coach in the league but he is solid. Kirk Muller has been a very good assistant coach in Montreal, where he ran a very good power play, who moved on to the AHL this season. He might be a rising star as a coach. It is not a bad gamble for Carolina to take a chance on him.
Both of these moves show that coaches are hired to be fired in the NHL. Neither fired coach was incompetent. It isn’t clear if either new coach will be any better. Neither has any NHL head coaching experience. In both cases they give their teams a chance to reset expectations and start again with the baggage from the old coach removed. Washington should be one of the top teams in the league and Carolina should take a run at earning a playoff berth, but odds are they will fall short.
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