On Tuesday, the Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter announced that he would resign his position to return to Ottawa, where he will resume working with the OHL team, the London Knights (team of Pens prospect and second round 2011 draft pick, Scott Harrington).
Hunter stated that he wished to return to Ontario to be close to his family and to be a part of the Knights, a team which he owns. He has no intention of working for the NHL again but feels he did well with the Caps.
The Capitals had a sketchy season, but in the end, Hunter did a lot of good for the team in the short time he was there. The biggest thing he did was get some control around Ovechkin. Former HC Bruce Boudreau had benched Ovechkin earlier in the season during an OT, which did not go over well with Ovi. Hunter began to more closely regulate Ovi’s ice time, which forced him to make smarter decisions with his time on the ice and resulted in greater production.
Controlling Ovechkin was a thorn in the backside of Boudreau, who now coaches the Anaheim Ducks. With Hunter bringing in some fresh perspective to the team, he may have the team teed up to perform more as a team next season, rather than the chaos that fans have been accustomed to watching.
Braden Holtby was a large part of the Caps success in the playoffs, but the organization still has a lot of work to do in the off season with trades and acquiring a new coach. Paul Maurice is available, as is Michel Therrien, Marc Crawford, and Patrick Roy. There is a lot for George McPhee and Ted Leonsis to consider this summer as many talented and successful coaches are waiting in the wings for a phone call.
The most important thing for the Caps will be to have a coach that can continue instilling discipline in Ovechkin’s game and who will get this team to play as a team, rather than a bunch of disjointed parts.
Whatever was going on in the locker room, Hunter did something right with this team this season. Something resonated with them. Brooks Laich had this to say:
“I just had a little short chat with him and shook his hand and said thank you. I asked him if there’s anything I can do to convince him to stay. He taught us as much about leadership and team aspects and respect amongst players and trusting your teammates as he did about hockey. He was like having another veteran in the locker room. He changed the culture around here a little bit, which the rest of us really enjoyed. He’s leaving the team in a better state than he found it.”
As for the fans, we will miss your solitary suit, Mr. Hunter.
Good luck to you.