Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post
Monday was a rainy day in Arlington, Virginia.
As light rain pattered across the giant glass window that serves as the entrance to Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Vice President and General Manager George McPhee strode around the corner and towards the throng of reporters waiting for him.
“Good morning,” McPhee said. “Thank you for coming.”
“I imagine the first question will be about Dale Hunter. This morning, Dale and I met at about 10 o’clock, and he let me know that he will not be able to return as the coach. He’s going to head back to London. I guess we’re all fathers and sons and husbands first before anything else, and if we have our priorities right in this life, then family comes first. And Dale, he needs to go home.”
And just like that, it was over.
Dale Hunter’s reign as the head coach of the Washington Capitals was over after 169 days, 37 wins, and 37 losses. It was over in less than a season.
But it’s over. And that was the right call. For club and for coach.
Dale Hunter did a tremendous job as the head coach of this team. There is no doubt that he came in and changed the culture of the Capitals by holding everybody accountable for their play. They were annoying, tough, and stubborn. They were like Dale Hunter as a player.
"He had this club playing the way he played,” said McPhee. “Home or road, winning or losing, healthy or hurt. He had this team playing hard."
He got this team, his team, to buy in to his system. And he put together a nice little run, winning seven playoff games and knocking off the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins before falling to the Rangers in seven games.
But the reality of the situation is that the Capitals lost. They lost because the Rangers were better than them and because of lost opportunities, sure. But they also lost because they were completely reliant on collapsing defense and a historically great run from a rookie goaltender; a performance like that from Braden Holtby nobody saw coming. And, quite frankly, they got a little bit lucky, just as they got unlucky in game five against the Rangers.
“It’s tough to play that way sometimes,” said Troy Brouwer. “Because one bounce can determine that game, no matter what you do through the course of those games. Sometimes it’s hit or miss. Over the course of the season, it’s tough to play playoff hockey for all 82 games and then continue it in to the playoffs.”
Continue reading for analysis from the players themselves.