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NHL Insider

McPhee saw 'tank was empty' and made a switch

Monday, 11.28.2011 / 1:34 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- General manager George McPhee's response was simple: The Washington Capitals aren't winning enough games right now.

There are other issues as well -- the defense has been leaky, the star forwards aren't scoring enough, the goaltending has been suspect. It all added up to a decision McPhee felt he had to make -- Bruce Boudreau is no longer the coach of the Capitals, and Dale Hunter has replaced him.

"The reason for the change was we weren't winning, obviously, and this wasn't a slump," McPhee said. "You can ride out slumps. This was simply a case of the players were no longer responding to Bruce. When you see that, as much as you don't want to make a change, you have to make a change. Bruce did a terrific job. We're very proud of him, proud of the work he did for us, but when the players aren't responding, you have to make a change.

"The issue was we weren't playing very well. And I think Bruce came in here and emptied the tank. He gave it everything he could and did a really good job, but the tank was empty. When that happens, you get a new coach, where the tank is full, and see if it makes a difference."

Six challenges facing new Canes coach Muller

Monday, 11.28.2011 / 1:20 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

As far as situations go for coaches who are hired in the middle of the season, Kirk Muller will find himself in a pretty good one with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Muller, who spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens and took over the head-coaching job with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals this season, will replace Paul Maurice as the third head coach in Hurricanes history.

Carolina is 8-13-4 for 20 points, good for 14th in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes trail the eighth-place Washington Capitals -- who coincidentally fired coach Bruce Boudreau and replaced him with Dale Hunter about an hour before Maurice was let go -- by five points. With about three-quarters of the season yet to play, all is not lost for the Hurricanes.

AHL gamble pays handsomely for Muller in Carolina

Monday, 11.28.2011 / 12:14 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - Correspondent

Kirk Muller's gamble that the best route for becoming a head coach in the National Hockey League was to leave his role as an NHL assistant and become a head coach in the American Hockey League.

Monday, that gamble paid off handsomely.

After a 17-game apprenticeship in the AHL, with Milwaukee, Muller received the call for which he longed, summoned by the Carolina Hurricanes to replace Paul Maurice, who was relieved of his coaching duties Monday morning.

Muller, 45 and an assistant for five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens through the end of last season, finally has now reached his dream of returning to the NHL as a head coach.

This season, Muller led the Milwaukee Admirals, the top farm team of the Nashville Predators, to a 10-6-1 mark. 

A look at coaching seniority among NHL teams

Monday, 11.28.2011 / 12:14 PM / NHL Insider Staff

Job security is tenuous as an NHL coach, as the list below proves. While rarities like Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres and Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators have held onto their positions over the long haul, two-thirds of the League's teams have replaced their coaches as recently as 2009 and only five teams have employed their coaches for longer than five years now.

Dale Hunter of the Washington Capitals and Kirk Muller of the Carolina Hurricanes are the newest additions to the coaching fraternity, named Monday to replace Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice, their respective predecessors.

Boudreau turned Caps around, couldn't capture Cup

Monday, 11.28.2011 / 11:42 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

When Bruce Boudreau first arrived in Washington, he was best known for his effusive personality and a small role in the hockey classic "Slap Shot."

Just over four years later, he leaves Washington as one of the most successful coaches in League history, but one who seemingly had lost the ability to motivate his players.

Boudreau was fired by the Capitals on Monday during a dismal 3-7-1 stretch, capped by a 5-1 loss Saturday in Buffalo to a Sabres team missing nine regulars and dressing six players who started the season in the American Hockey League.

Boudreau's way no longer working, Caps seek change

Monday, 11.28.2011 / 11:29 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Bruce Boudreau was the right guy for the job four years ago.

Glen Hanlon wasn't getting through to the young Capitals, but in walked the affable Boudreau, with his everyday-man personality, open mind, and an offensive system catered to the likes of all-world talents such as Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin.

Boudreau's way worked as the Capitals surged under his watch, winning four Southeast Division titles, including the Presidents' Trophy in 2010.

But over the last 12 months Boudreau's message and his system had changed. No longer was this going to be the fun-loving, free-wheeling Capitals. No longer were they going to try to put five goals on the board because it would be enough to make up for the three or four they allowed. No longer were they going to rely on the stars, namely Ovechkin, to bail them out.

Boudreau was making changes in an attempt to save his team's reputation and, in the long run, his job.

One has taken a hit, the other is officially gone, with Boudreau being fired by Washington GM George McPhee on Monday and replaced by ex-Capitals captain Dale Hunter.

Hunter's OHL success marked by player development

Monday, 11.28.2011 / 10:04 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Following a productive NHL career and 11 seasons building an impressive resume as coach of the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, Dale Hunter is ready to begin a new chapter in his career as coach of the Washington Capitals.

Hunter was hired Monday by the Capitals to replace Bruce Boudreau. He'll coach his first NHL game Tuesday, when the Caps open a three-game homestand against the St. Louis Blues.

Hunter, who led the Knights to a Memorial Cup in 2005 and owns the best winning percentage in OHL history, has coached the Knights since November 2001. His teams have won at least 49 games in six of his nine full seasons behind the bench.

Facing Jackets is 'just another game' for Hitchcock

Sunday, 11.27.2011 / 5:00 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When Ken Hitchcock goes back to Columbus on Sunday, forgive everyone if the 59-year-old doesn't get all emotional and teary-eyed about it.

Maybe another time and another place, especially if it was Hitchcock's first job, there would be mixed emotions. But the veteran coach has been there, done that. This will be Hitchcock's third time going back to a place he once called his bench.

Hitchcock, who has coached in Dallas, Philadelphia, Columbus and now St. Louis, was with the Jackets for four seasons before being fired in 2010, the third time a franchise has relieved him of his duties.

"I've been out two years (in Columbus) doing work for them," Hitchcock said of the Columbus organization. "I've developed a friendship with obviously the American (Hockey) League guys and some of the business people there just for fun, getting to know other people in the business.

Honoring Founder's Day with 94 signature moments

Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 1:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

The seeds of what has grown into the best hockey league in the world were sewn 94 years ago today.

After a month of meetings, a group of men from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec City signed an agreement that resulted in the formation of the National Hockey League. Frank Calder was chosen as the fledgling league's first president; his salary was $800.

Today, the NHL is 94 years old and boasts 30 teams in Canada and the United States -- as well as a worldwide talent base and a global audience.

With a tip of the helmet to Ryan Smyth (the only player to wear No. 94 for the majority of a lengthy career), here is a look at 94 NHL highlights to commemorate the 94th anniversary of Founders Day.

Wings' shootout win ends great afternoon at Garden

Friday, 11.25.2011 / 5:51 PM / NHL Insider

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

BOSTON -- The bright glare of the national spotlight certainly agreed with the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings on Friday afternoon.

Playing in a traditional Black Friday matinee at TD Garden, which was aired in the United States by NBC, the two Original Six rivals put on a show that surely pleased even the most casual fan of the game.

When 65 minutes of gripping hockey and an equally enthralling shootout were completed, Detroit skated away with a 3-2 statement victory against the defending Stanley Cup champions, who saw their 10-game winning streak snapped.

Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has played in more than 1,500 regular-season games in his career. Yet, he admitted that Friday's game was a bit special -- for what it meant and what it became as the two teams contested every inch of ice to prove they were worthy of their adversary on the ice.
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Quote of the Day

For six months, it's a really good accomplishment. But as soon as April [11, the end of the regular season] comes around, no one thinks about the regular season anymore. For six months, it's a real battle to get into the playoffs in the NHL these days. There are a lot of good teams, and it takes consistency over a long time.

— Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on clinching a playoff berth after a win against the Islanders on Saturday
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