Today Dale Hunter decided to return to London Ontario to coach the Knights instead of stay in the NHL with the Capitals. George McPhee (article cover picture) is almost certainly scratching his head now. Hunter had a nice run as Caps coach in the playoffs but it ultimately got the Caps no further then they have been since 1998 when they made a run to the Cup finals (a team captained by Dale Hunter). The Ovechkin era Capitals have made it to the 2nd round of the playoffs just 3 times once being swept by Tampa Bay last year, and twice making to and coming out with uninspired efforts in game 7's against the Penguins and most recently the New York Rangers. To say the Capitals franchise has a storied history of underachieving in the playoffs would be putting it nicely. And while we did beat the defending champs in round one, we once again failed to show up in a crucial playoff game back on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Including seeing 2 of our best players play their worst games of the playoffs. Hunter leaves the Caps with a lot of questions and really only finding one answer during his tenure and that is the goalie of the future in Braden Holtby. If it took Hunter coming in for the organization to finally realize Neuvirth is not the answer and to turn to Holtby then his contribution is invaluable. I may be in the minority but I'm not really that upset that Hunter is gone. I don't think he is a bad coach, but he seemed to me to be a bit disinterested most of the time, and seem very uncomfortable with the pressures of the NHL coaching gig. I wish him nothing but the best back in London and hope he wins some more Memorial Cups back in Canadian Major Juniors.
For the Capitals to move on we have many options and I'd just like to take the time to give you a list of a few and their qualifications......
DEAN EVASON = I start with Evason because McPhee has shown an inclination to hire from within. Evason is the longest tenured assistant coach for the Caps, and is a guy who would bring an in your face style with a team that would be extremely tough to play against. He likes physical hockey....don't believe me then watch 24/7 again, and watch for the Caps/Rangers game in between periods. I would approve if Evason was hired, he doesn't have the experience as a head coach that I would like but he knows the team and organization and has the mindset to be a top notch coach.
When the Caps initially fired Boudreau and hired Hunter as an interim coach, there were 2 names I kept saying to everyone who would ask me who I would hire, these are the 2 names I kept throwing out.....
MIKE KEENAN = Yes I know he has a history of being a bit of a handful, but he is a no non-sense head coach. If you want to look at his resume he has taken 3 teams to the Stanley Cup Finals including Philadelphia in 87, Chicago in 92, and breaking the curse and winning the Cup with the Rangers in 94. Hmm a coach that breaks curses........I'll take him!
RON WILSON = Okay I know if you're reading this and you're a Caps fan you hate me right now. But Ron Wilson has always been a very good head coach including taking the Caps to the Stanley Cup Finals in 98.
BOB HARTLEY = Hartley won a Cup in 01 with the Avalanche and also took the artists formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers to the playoffs, their only appearance while residing in the ATL.
MARC CRAWFORD = His name is linked to every coaching position that opens up in the NHL. Coached Colorado to the cup in 96 and had some success in other coaching positions.
PAUL MAURICE = Coached the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals in 02 and it seems like the Caps are the only team in the Southeast he hasn't coached! (By the way I'm only kidding I know that's not true calm down!)
CRAIG MacTAVISH = Coached the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 06.
If the Caps should want to go the route of NHL assistant coaches not currently employed by them here are their options.....
MIKE SULLIVAN = This is the big name assistant that the teams who have coaching vacancies will be sniffing around. Currently an assistant for the New York Rangers.
CRAIG BERUBE = THE CHIEF!!!!! Former Capital enforcer has an impressive record as an AHL head coach of 49-29-5-3 over parts of 2 seasons. He is currently an assistant on the Flyers coaching staff.
ADAM OATES = Another former Capitals player. Currently on the Devils staff Oates shows a lot of promise as a coach. The snag here is his departure from the Caps was not very shall we say friendly and since McPhee was the GM then as he is now this is probably a long-shot.
TONY GRANATO = Currently a member of the Penguins coaching staff Granato has some experience as an NHL head coach.
If we look into the AHL for a guy who hasn't been an NHL coach yet there is really only 1 name and he has a Caps tie in....
DALLAS EAKINS = Eakins was the 208th pick of the 1985 NHL Entry Draft by....you guessed it the Washington Capitals. He is currently coaching the Toronto Marlies of the NHL with a career record of 114-91-12-19.
There you have it the best candidates for the Caps vacant head coaching position, it will be interesting to see what George McPhee does, and then what kind of system our new hire will run and the subsequent roster changes that will follow. All in all this should be an exciting summer to be a Caps fan.