Following the Capitals’ loss in game seven of the Eastern Conference semifinals last Saturday, the thoughts of many people immediately turned to Washington head coach Dale Hunter. Would he be back? Would he choose to come back, or would General Manager George McPhee make the decision for him?
Monday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, we all found out. McPhee announced at his end-of-season media availability that Hunter would, in fact, not be back as the head coach of the Capitals, deciding instead to return home to London, Ontario. And that was that.
With Hunter’s departure, however, the Capitals don’t have a coach. They need one, the sooner the better. To set the stage for the appointment of the next coach, I’ve prepared a list of job requirements, or qualities, that I’d like to see in the next Washington bench boss.
The ability to fix Alex Ovechkin: As we all know, Capitals winger and captain Alex Ovechkin is a shell of his former self. Ovechkin’s point output plummeted to 65 this year, down from 85 the previous season and 109 the season before that. His corsi rating has also taken a nosedive, and it was the 7th best out of the 11 forwards who played 50 or more games for the Capitals this year – against the second easiest competition on the team. Goal scoring, since the lockout, has gone down, as have power play opportunities. But the Capitals, and probably their success, are tied to Ovechkin because of his contract and his status as one of the faces of the NHL. In all likelihood, he isn’t going anywhere, and no NHL team, particularly one that is as heavily invested in one as the Caps are in Ovechkin, can win when it’s star player isn’t doing what he’s supposed to. This is a big problem, and “team play” or not, getting Ovechkin on track is an important, and difficult, task.
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