Dale Hunter's departure from Washington was as surprising as his arrival.
Citing a desire to spend more time with his family and run the family business -- the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League -- Hunter announced Monday that he would not return to the Capitals for a second season.
The task for GM George McPhee now becomes finding a third coach in six months for a team that shifted its focus on an up-and-down, attacking system under Bruce Boudreau to a more defensive-oriented style under Hunter.
So who could be next? NHL.com takes a look at a few early possibilities:
Marc Crawford -- Crawford is a veteran coach who has proven he knows how to win as well as get along with top-level players. He coached Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg to a Stanley Cup with the 1996 Colorado Avalanche, and has been to the playoffs eight times in 15 seasons. He's hungry for one more shot after missing the playoffs in each of his last two stops -- two seasons with the Kings and two seasons with the Stars.
Marc French -- In his three seasons as coach of the Hershey Bears, the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate, the team has finished with at least 88 points. In 2009-10, his first season, the team set franchise records with 123 points and 60 wins. Since arriving in Hershey, he's helped develop current Caps Braden Holtby, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson and Karl Alzner.
John Hynes -- In his role as coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Hynes' job has been to mimic the way Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma wants his team to play, so when the team needs a player from its AHL affiliate, there's no teaching time, as the player fits seamlessly. He was named AHL coach of the year in 2010-11, his first season on the job, and this season guided WBS to fourth in the AHL Eastern Conference with 95 points.
Paul Maurice -- The veteran coach is no stranger to the Capitals from his years coaching against them with the Carolina Hurricanes. Maurice is known as a player's coach and always put together solid game plans when he was with Carolina or the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Adam Oates -- In his second season as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, Oates could be a long-shot for the job. But he knows the Washington market from his time there as a player, and he is considered one of the more respected people in the game.
Patrick Roy -- The Hall of Fame goaltender and current coach/GM/owner of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has been linked to the Montreal Canadiens. However, he could opt for a less stressful spot to begin his NHL coaching career. His knowledge of the game is impressive and McPhee saw this season how a well-known coach can adjust and be accepted by current NHL players.
Ron Wilson -- The only time the Capitals have been to the Stanley Cup Final, in 1998, Wilson was behind the bench. He spent four seasons with the Caps, getting them to the playoffs three times, and also has coached in Anaheim, San Jose and Toronto. If McPhee is looking for an experienced coach, this could be one name on his list.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK