Blog Entry

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

Posted on: November 28, 2011 2:41 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 8:49 pm

By Brian Stubits

ARLINGTON, Va. -- To most, it would appear that Bruce Boudreau is the classic case of a coach becoming a victim of his own success.

The Washington Capitals fired their coach of four seasons on Monday, breaking the news to him at 6:15 in the morning and naming one of greatest players in franchise history, Dale Hunter, his replacement.

Boudreau was as good of a regular-season coach as the NHL has ever seen. The Caps took off under him when he became the boss during the 2007-08 season, going 37-17-7. The four times he finished the season behind the Caps bench, they won the Southeast Division.

But he could never get over the playoff failures. In his tenure, the Caps were 17-20 in the playoffs. That lost him a lot of favor among the fans who were thirsting for more. To see a team doing so well season after season and failing to make a conference final? Still, the Capitals brass stuck behind Boudreau.

No, what cost Boudreau his job wasn't the losses in the playoffs -- although those didn't help -- but instead it was the loss of the team this season.

"These are always difficult decisions but, as I said, you don't want to make these decisions but when you see what I saw, you have to make the decision," general manager George McPhee said. "You can't look the other way. I've seen it in a few games recently, enough that I knew the team wasn't responding. We've got their attention now and hopefully they respond in the right way.

"He gave it everything. As I said, he emptied the tank, he gave it everything and he pushed every button he could push. It worked for a while, it's not working now."

The losing of the team was never on more display than the now infamous incident when Alex Ovechkin, the team's superstar and captain, was benched for the final shift of the game, one in which the Caps scored to tie the game, no less. On the bench, Ovechkin was seen mumbling something about his portly coach that was less than flattering (lip-readers out there know what was said). If there were any thing that signaled the beginning of the end, that was probably it.

General manager George McPhee declined to signal out one instance, but when talking about losing the team, that is exhibit A.

"I don't think this has anything to do with Alex Ovechkin," McPhee said on Monday at the team's practice facility. "I think this has everything to do with his team not playing well. The goalies aren't stopping pucks, the defense aren't getting the pucks out and the forwards aren't checking and scoring enough. It's our whole team, not an individual. We have a lot of players that aren't playing the way they are capable of playing, and that's why a change was made.

"We've got to be good defensively. We haven't been good defensively. That's really my issue right now. We're just giving up too many goals."

Maybe the players put it best.

“For whatever reason, as a team we weren’t really responding well enough or as good as we should have been,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “And it’s kind of ‘Where do you go from there?’ And that’s when they come into play, the guys upstairs. And they do what they have to do.”

Or there was Brooks Laich's more succinct take.

"You should be giving your best effort all the time ... It sucks that he's the fall guy for it."

More NHL Coaching Changes

If that Ovechkin incident was just the beginning, than it was a recent road trip that was the end. The final nail in the coffin appeared to be an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

"A couple of games on the road last week, I didn't like them at all," McPhee said. "I was happy we bounced back early last week with a couple of wins, but then I started to see the same thing again. and that's when you know.

"It's probably been about a week that we've been kicking it around."

The hope, of course is that this will flip the switch and the Capitals will return to being the Capitals of the past few seasons, the team that romped its way to the Presidents' Trophy. There is hope among the Caps and their fans that this in-season change will work as well as it did for the Penguins and Flyers in recent seasons, with both teams representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.

The most intriguing aspect of this will be to see if Ovechkin, and to a lesser extent Alexander Semin, will play like we have seen them in the past. The local radio shows here are filled with what you'd expect: people thinking Ovechkin is done, wanting Semin gone, etc.

It's a worthwhile question: Can a new coach bring back the old players?

That's the task for Hunter. Many are betting he will. I'm not as convinced. I don't think we'll ever see the 50-goal Ovechkin again. I'm not even sure how much we'll see of a 40-goal Ovechkin. Power forwards don't last forever in the NHL, especially when they don't adapt. If Ovechkin is going to become the dynamic player he once was, he'll have to change. Maybe that is a message Hunter will be able to get through to him, because clearly Boudreau couldn't.

The inevitable happened in this coach vs. star battle: the star won. We all knew that would be the result eventually, you can't fire Ovechkin. In reality, Ovechkin doesn't come away looking any better than Boudreau in this case.

"I think everybody was in shock," the captain said.

Ovechkin continued, saying that sometimes a message can get a little tiresome.

"You can be tired from what the coach is telling you and maybe mistakes and some things like that," Ovechkin said. "But again, the decision is made and we just have to look forward, not look back. Or if you are going to look back at what happened, I think we don't have to talk to you guys about it. It's going to be between our family and our locker room."

That family no longer includes Boudreau, obviously. Not after his early morning talk with McPhee.

"We had a meeting at 6:15 this morning and he was a class act, all the way," McPhee said. "He said all the right things and he made me feel better. Bruce has got such a nice way about him. He made me feel better about the decision. If the worst thing you can say about the guy is that he's a hell of a nice guy, he must be a great guy, and Bruce has been a great guy here."

I can tell you this much. While Boudreau might night be missed a whole lot by the fans, he'll be missed as a personality in the sport. He became an even bigger star when he stole the show on HBO's 24/7 series. But he won't be out of hockey long at all. If he isn't coaching again, he'll find a spot on television for sure.

With his affability, that's a team he would never lose.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Oct 14, 2006
Posted on: November 29, 2011 8:31 pm

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

Look, I love Ovie as a Cap but, even I'd have a hard time arguing that he is a better player than Crosby.  He is sometimes too reckless trying to deliver the big hit and has the propensity to take plays off. 
First...I am not sure how this went sideways and became a Crosby/Ovechkin comparison...I made a comment about how much I loved watching the Caps back in the day when Scott Stevens was cutting his teeth and Rod Langway set the standard at defense...and Al Iafrate was a fan favorite...throw in Micheal Pivonka, Pertr Bondra, Dimitri Krishtich , John  Druce and Mick Kypreos....a team that never took a shift just wasn't in their DNA,,,I miss watching that team was always worth the drive out to the CAP CENTRE!!...

Ovechkin is the matter how he might feel about a coach...he can't go on the ice and cheat the fans...or his teammates...

Say I am ignorant or whatever you want, but I am just a hockey fan...I HATE the FLYERS.but respect the organzation.. I LOVED Brad Richards when he was made the Pens/Flyers rivalry a good one!...I have no love for the Devils...but always respected the way they play the game..same for the Canadians...t I would take Gionta in a minute!!...I am a big fan of the game period...I think its important that any teams best player give it his all every night no matter what the situtation is in the locker room...everyone says it the system Boudreau had in place??...really??..the same one that Ovechkin managed to net 50 goals plus in consecutive seasons??..Undecided

Like I posted before...Dale Hunter worked for everything in the game...his Jersery is hanging in the Verizon Center...can't see him softening in his old age...look forward to seeing how it plays out....

Since: Oct 14, 2006
Posted on: November 29, 2011 4:25 pm

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

slaton,  you seem like just another ignorant Pittsburgh fan.  Reaching at straws here with the out of shape issue with Ovechkin.  I'm sure you drink the Sidney Crosby coolaid all day long so it's gotta be Ovechkin

Since: Dec 7, 2008
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:51 pm

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

slaton,  you seem like just another ignorant Pittsburgh fan.  ... Fact is, I'ma Sabres fan, so I'm non biased to either team, however when Ovechkin is allowed to play the way he's capable of playing, I'd play Crosby 8x a week rather than Ovechkin.  He has a desire for the game that Crosby cannot match.

You have no room to call anybody ignorant. There are even Capital fans on this thread that agree with slaton.

You can hate Crosby all you want, but to question his desire for hockey is ridiculous. He works just as hard if not harder than anybody in the NHL. Ovechkin's work ethic and commitment to hockey has been questioned by many people, not just Pittsburgh fans. Crosby has shown a willingness to adapt and work on different parts of his game. OV thinks he can still do what he did his first few years in the league. You would be stupid to take OV over Crosby at this point. And that is not just a Penguins fan talking. 

Truth is, Ovechkin is a much more complete player than Crosby just based off the fact that he will hit guys back just as hard as they hit him. 

So he hits better than Crosby and that makes him a more complete player? You're missing a lot of aspects to hockey dude.

Anyway, the Capitals had to fire BB even if it wasn't his fault. He clearly lost the team. Now, Ovechkin, Semin, and the rest need to buy into Hunter. Hunter is exactly the type of coach this team needs, but if they don't listen to him like they didn't listen to BB, nothing will change.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the Caps take off much like the Penguins and Flyers did when they changed coaches. The question will be how they do in the playoffs and that will depend on if they buy into Hunter. 

Since: Sep 2, 2006
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:41 pm

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

Great hire in Dale Hunter. He will not ask this team for committment, he will demand it. The minute Ovie does not show Hunter any real leadership in that locker room, you can be sure the C will be gone fro his jersey. Personnaly, I would love to the the C on the jersey of Brooks Laich or Jeff Schultz. I would not want to be the St Louis Blies tonight because they are going to get hit, and I mean hit hard. Hunter will not stand for other teams taking liberties that they can just easily enter the Caps zone and not have to pay a price for it. And you will also no longer see the Bruce theory of shoting the puck wide and hope for a good bounce or a tip. They will put the puck on net and ezpect the forwards to crash the net for the rebounds. That was the way Dale played and that is the way he coached the kids at New London. I wish Bruce all the luck in the world. He is a nice man and will surely land on his feet. But todays NHL demands a guy who will not take no for an answer. God help this team in the locker room between periods after a poor period of hockey.

Since: Oct 9, 2011
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:41 pm

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

I think Hunter is  a good hire BUT unless he's a heart surgeon, he won't fix some of these guys. There's no more talented team but problably no team playing with less heart right now. The great 8 has looked alot like a Kovalev clone this year. As for Semin, likely no player with more talent in the world but just such a waste right now.

Since: Nov 11, 2007
Posted on: November 29, 2011 9:57 am

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

Am I the only old Caps fan who misses the Capital Centre?
Yes, you are.  I had a lot of great times there as well but, the Phone Booth is by leaps and bounds a better building.  Plus, the team belongs in Downtown DC, not in BF Landover.  And say what you want about the Ovie era, it has been great for Caps hockey.  It's not like they were going deep into the playoffs (2 Conf finals and 1 Cup final) during the years they were winning Patrick Division titles.  It is nice to go to a Caps game and not be outnumbered by opposing teams sweaters.  Even if you have to put up with idiots yelling Red and Oh during the National Anthem.


Since: Apr 30, 2008
Posted on: November 29, 2011 6:02 am

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

Dale Hunter is a good hire.  He will bring back to this sad bunvh what is sorely missing - committment, discipline, and accountability.  The Caps used to be over-achievers, now they are under-achievers.  Hunter was a member of the most successful teams in Caps history, the late-'80-'s and late-'90's teams.  He was on the '90 team that made it to the Conference Final and the '98 team that made it to the Stanley Cup final.  We haven;t gone that far nefore or since.  He knows what it takes - unliek Bourdreau.  Bruce is a grat guy and a good coach, he was maxed-oput in Washington.  The Caps these days are a joke - a bunch of prima donna whiners and guys who want things handed to them.  The whole "Rock the Red" thing is so gay, half these new fans from the "Ovie" era have no clue what hockey is and are very annopying to deal with at games.  It adds to the dysfunctional environment that is Caps hockey.  becaise the fans are to nice to these idiots.  That wouldn;t have been the case in 1989.  Then again we live in a dysfunctional world now, with politcal correctness causing so much damage.  (I say the era of political correctness is over people, let;s get back to being Americans.  Politically correct people are a disgrace.)

It's time to end the circus and get back to Washington hockey.  Which is blue-collar, hard work, stick to your assignments and play 100% every night.  I appluad McPhee for firing Bourdreau, he looked lost too often especially in the playoffs.  And trust me, Hunts will have the balls to deal with that little jerk Ovie, and hopefully that starts with stripping him of the C he does not deserve.  He is a fraction of the player and man Hunter and Langway were for us. I wish these newbie Cap fans who have been going to games for less than 10 years would call out their hero Ovie but they don't, they are too in love with thim, and that is disappointing because the guy sucks.  He is an overrated, overpaid, jerk on every level.  He holds this team back.  I'd trade the clown.  Ovie vs. Crosby?  Not even a valid comparison.  One guy is tough, has a Cup ring, a Gold medal, and the respect of the hockey world.  The other is a foul-mouthed little weenie who is a wannabe who has zero respect, who won't work for the rewards and would rather be chasing skirts or playing his video games.  In other words, one is a man and the other is a spoiled little child.  Not even close.

This will be ineteresting to see how it plays out.  As a Cap fan since their first season and former long-time season ticket holder, I have seen it all, and I want them to get back to being a good solid team like they were 20 years ago.  Not this showboating circus that chokes the big one every spring.  At least the Caps teams 20 years ago choked with grace (except for '93).  These clowns just quit.  And I'd also like to see these newbie Cap fans start beong more respectful to old Caps fans, enough of the Rock the Red silliness - learn the game and watch the game.  If you want to play and act like a kid to be seen - then go to a bar, not a hockey game.  Let a real fan use those tickets.  Am I the only old Caps fan who misses the Capital Centre?  Those were great times.  The Ove era sucks.  Go Caps.

Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:37 am

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team


Sorry to see Bruce Boudreau go after helpin to transform the Caps into such a successful franchise, but this has to be great news for Caps fans.  Dale Hunter coaching the Caps can only mean exciting hockey.  I've only seen one Knights game, but the guy can coach.  Let's hope Ovechkin gets the captaincy taken away before the next game, and the team makes good crisp passing a priority now.

Since: Dec 10, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 11:48 pm

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

This has nothing to do with Ovie? What nonsense! When Ovie swore at his coach and assumed he was entitled to play in every tight situation, even on nights when he wasn't playing up to standard, management had a simple decision to make- you either back your coach or you kow tow to your star. Washington management is still on their knees licking the dirt off Ovie's skates.

Too bad because you can't win with a superstar who plays with a sense of entitlement. The great players combine (1)talent with (2)coachability and a (3)hard work ethic. Ovie so far in the league has shown 1 of these 3 attributes.

Ovie has led this team into repeated sub par playoff performances. The coach is a scapegoat. Time for Ovechkin to become the star he is capable of but with his current attitude, it may never happen.

Since: Nov 11, 2007
Posted on: November 28, 2011 11:08 pm

Bruce Boudreau loses job after losing team

slaton,  you seem like just another ignorant Pittsburgh fan.
It's rare that I'd stick up for a Pens fan.  Arinze, did you even read Slaton's post?  What straws?  All he said was he thought Ovie has started the last two seasons out of shape, and he is not the only one who has commented on that.  Look, I love Ovie as a Cap but, even I'd have a hard time arguing that he is a better player than Crosby.  He is sometimes too reckless trying to deliver the big hit and has the propensity to take plays off.  Maybe Hunter changes the C to an A on Ovie's sweater and he gets back to just playing hockey instead of being the leader of this team, something he seems to struggle with.

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