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the World According to JR

Roenick weighs in on recent coaching changes

Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 5:04 PM

By Jeremy Roenick - NHL Network Contributor / World According to JR

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World According to JR
Roenick weighs in on recent coaching changes
NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday.

In the wake of the decisions made in Washington and Carolina earlier this week, I have decided to change up the format of my blog for this week. Instead of giving you my opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League, I wanted to give you my opinions on the moves made by Capitals GM George McPhee and Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford.

Let's first start this thing off by saying I don't think anybody was surprised by the firing of Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice. But I do think they were the byproduct of separate issues in that one team is talented enough but wasn't responding, and the other just doesn't have enough talent to be able to respond.

Here's what I mean:

Dale Hunter for Bruce Boudreau


Boudreau did a wonderful job in Washington. He was the fastest coach in the modern era to reach 200 wins. He really seemed to have a good rapport with the players and had the Capitals looking like one of the top teams in the League.

So, no, I don't know why the players stopped responding to Boudreau, but ultimately it started with Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin -- two of the most talented guys not only on their team, but in the League. For example, when Ovechkin was sat by Boudreau against Anaheim and followed that up by muttering some unflattering words about his coach, I think it was obvious then that something bad was starting to brew in Washington.

McPhee said that his players stopped responding to Boudreau, so they had to make a coaching change. One thing you never like to hear about is players not responding to the coach. That's just a total lack of respect toward a coach and toward the job he's trying to do to win games and ultimately a Stanley Cup.

But McPhee and the Capitals had to make this change. They couldn't keep wallowing in mediocrity, and worse yet, accepting it. If they continue to lose and have Ovechkin go pointless for games at a time, they're going to find themselves battling for a playoff spot come April.

Yes, I do think this was a necessary desperation move by McPhee to try to salvage the season early and spark some life and attention into his players. And bringing in a very hard-nosed, disciplinarian-style coach in Hunter seems to be a good fit.

The players have to look at themselves for why Boudreau got fired, and Hunter will make them do just that.

He was one of the fiercest competitors that I ever played against. It seemed like he wanted to eat me every time I was on the ice against him. He was always one of those awe-inspiring players. And he played like he looked -- hard, in your face, and always with either black eyes or cuts with blood on his face.

I'm sure he's going to be able to coach the same way he played. He is going to demand hard work and respect from his players.

Kirk Muller for Paul Maurice

Maurice fell victim to not being able to have the team to compete every single night. He didn't have enough horses to compete for a playoff spot.

Carolina let Erik Cole walk to Montreal. Cory Stillman retired. Joe Corvo was traded. And GM Jim Rutherford didn't bring anybody in of substance that was going to replace those players and help Maurice get this team to a higher level.

But again, just like Ovechkin in Washington, another star player in Eric Staal is having a very tough year and that did not help.

However, by no means do I think Staal's struggles have anything to do with Maurice. Staal is battling a confidence problem right now that he has to work his way out of himself. He seems to be too much on the outside and not going into those real heavy octane areas to score goals. Maurice couldn't make him do that and Muller won't be able to either.

That said, hopefully Muller does a good job with this limited team because unfortunately Rutherford did not put enough into place during the offseason.

It'll also be interesting to see how Muller deals with NHL players as a head coach considering he doesn't have much head coaching experience. He was a head coach in Milwaukee earlier this season, but that's it.

He is a tactical, smart and very easygoing coach, a great people person always with a smile on his face. His message to the boys will be something like, "Let's go have fun first, and if we're having fun and working hard we're going to win."

I'm curious to see if Carolina can have fun and win hockey games under Kirk Muller, just as I am to see if Washington can get back into contention under Dale Hunter.
Quote of the Day

It's really exciting. I'm pretty sure that when I play my first game I'm going to be emotional. To be back on the ice playing a game, being in game situations, with all the routines and rituals I do before games and during the game, I feel like I'm going to be emotional. I'm going to be really happy.

— Canadiens forward Tim Bozon on playing for the first time since his life-threatening illness