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Hunter could have coaching style similar to Hitchcock

Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 2:54 PM / NHL Insider

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Hunter could have coaching style similar to Hitchcock
A no-nonsense coach who demands a lot of his players has gotten fast results in St. Louis, which plays in Washington on Tuesday night in the first game of the Dale Hunter era.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- There will be a coach known for demanding a great deal from NHL players behind the bench Tuesday night at Verizon Center, and he has quickly turned around a wayward club after recently joining the franchise.

There will also be a coach making his NHL debut, and he's expected to guide his ship with a similar style -- as well as have a similar impact on his team's position in the standings.

Dale Hunter's first game as Washington Capitals coach will be against Ken Hitchcock and the surging St. Louis Blues. Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne as the Blues' coach, and St. Louis is 7-1-2 since his arrival.

"He's a very demanding coach, but if you respond in the right way you're going to win a lot of hockey games. A lot of the guys seem to be responding the right way right now. They've got a lot of leaders, guys like [Jason Arnott] and [Jamie] Langenbrunner that know about [Hitchcock] and know about his style. I think that will help with the young guys. He's a winning guy and proven to win so that's the biggest thing." -- Jason Chimera on Ken Hitchcock

"I've watched a few of their games and I know the way he wants them to play," said Capitals forward Jason Chimera, who played for Hitchcock in Columbus. "He's a very demanding coach, but if you respond in the right way you're going to win a lot of hockey games. A lot of the guys seem to be responding the right way right now. They've got a lot of leaders, guys like [Jason Arnott] and [Jamie] Langenbrunner that know about [Hitchcock] and know about his style. I think that will help with the young guys. He's a winning guy and proven to win so that's the biggest thing."

Added Mike Knuble, who also played for Hitchcock in Philadelphia: "If you have the parts, and you can get the parts in order -- some teams you get a new coach and you don't have the parts and it's not really going to make a difference. We have the parts here. Obviously, St. Louis has the parts and they've been playing some great hockey of late. We'll have our hands full -- not only with what's going on our room, but also because they're playing really well."

Hunter and the Capitals will hope to emulate the Blues' recent success. Washington won seven straight games to open the season but has scuffled since, dropping 10 of 15 and falling to eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

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General manager George McPhee fired Bruce Boudreau on Monday morning and replaced him with one of the most popular players in franchise history in Hunter. When Boudreau arrived four years ago the Capitals were in an even worse position, but they rallied to win the Southeast Division. Expectations are even higher for the new coach this time.

"We've made the coaching change, but we haven't proven ourselves yet," forward Jeff Halpern said. "They've been playing good hockey and we're about 24 hours into our change. I think the biggest thing for us, we had a terrible game Friday and Saturday and how are we as players going to respond to that test? We'd love to have this change lead to something really good for us, but that's yet to be seen."

Added forward Brooks Laich: "This time around it is something different. We're expected to win and expected to have playoff success. It is just addressing underperformance by the players. We have to be better, and that includes everybody, myself included. I have to be better. I have to be better defensively, win the matchups I'm presented with, contribute offensively. As a team, we definitely have underachieved so far with what our expectations are, and we have to get back to work."

Hunter was a no-nonsense player for 19 seasons in the NHL. McPhee praised his work ethic and effort, and said he was even "downright mean" sometimes. He has helped develop many NHL players during his 11 years with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, and several of those players have said Hunter coaches much the same way he played.

Whether Hunter will coach like Hitchcock -- demanding, even of the star players -- remains to be seen, but that is the perception as he begins his NHL coaching career.

"Yeah, when you make the money that a lot of the guys make, the coach should be demanding and guys should be held accountable," Chimera said. "As far as comparisons, I don't know Dale that well yet. I know [Hitchcock] and I know he's a demanding guy. If [Hunter] is like that and guys respond the right way, we're going to be a successful team."
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