The Capitals held their first practice under new Head Coach Dale Hunter today and under a 25 or so foot banner with Hunter’s picture and name on it. Hunter stayed with the current forward lines and did a lot of the same drills the players are used to just to keep some similarity for now. But the big story was that a coaching change happened after the Caps started the season 7-0-0 for the first time in franchise history, but are only 3-6-1 in their last ten games.
“This has been my team,” Hunter said on coming to Washington. “I shouldn’t say my team, it’s Ted’s team, but it feels like my team, because I played here so long and have good memories here.”
Hunter added that he doesn’t believe in “run and gun” hockey and he says they will be “really responsible defensively.” He also added that he tapes every Caps game and watches them on his OHL bus trips.
“Definitely,” Hunter said when asked if he was surprised by the call yesterday from Caps General Manager George McPhee. “When any team that’s struggling a bit, sometimes changes gonna have to be made and that’s what happened.”
George McPhee said he called Hunter yesterday offering the job, but that they’ve been talking about it for about a week.
“What I learned was playings a lot more fun than coaching,” Hunter said on what he learned by coaching in the OHL.
The players also reacted to the news and Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin said “I think everybody was in shock” when he heard the news this morning.
“I feel the players in here,” Matt Hendricks, who played with Boudreau in the AHL, said today. “We didn’t get the job done and it’s unfortunate and he’s going to be missed.”
Capitals forward Brooks Laich, who is one of the leaders of the team, also was surprised by the move.
“When I first found out this morning,” Laich said. “My first thought was I wish I could’ve done more.”
Caps veteran Jeff Halpern, who is from Potomac, Maryland, said “absolutely” when asked if Dale Hunter was one of his idols growing up. He also added that Hunter helped him out when he was a rookie here and Hunter was Director of Player Development for the Capitals during the 1999-2000 season.
Defenseman Dennis Wideman & John Carlson are the only two Capitals to play under Hunter in the OHL for the London Knights.
“When the time comes to lay the hammer down I’m sure he will,” Wideman said.
“I think he was a great coach,” Carlson said on his playing days under Hunter in the OHL. “He was unbelievable to me” and also added “I got to give him a hell of a lot of credit.”
The Dale Hunter led Caps will play their first game tomorrow against St. Louis Blues, who are 7-1-2 in their last ten games and also have a brand new head coach in Ken Hitchcock, at Verizon Center.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Vokoun, Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich, Dennis Wideman, Joel Ward, John Carlson, Matt Hendricks & Jeff Halpern had to say following practice today about the firing of Bruce Boudreau & the hiring of Dale Hunter.
Also click here if you missed what Capitals General Manager George McPhee had to say earlier today following the firing of Bruce Boudreau & the hiring of Dale Hunter.
Practice Footage and Dale Hunter Press Conference Video
Dale Hunter Press Conference Audio
Alex Ovechkin Practice Audio
Nicklas Backstrom Practice Audio
Tomas Vokoun Practice Audio
Mike Knuble Practice Audio
Brooks Laich Practice Audio
Dennis Wideman Practice Audio
Joel Ward Practice Audio
John Carlson Practice Audio
Matt Hendricks Practice Audio
Jeff Halpern Practice Audio