Bruce Boudreau knew he’d be riding a bus to Philadelphia for a hockey game this Friday. He knew it as soon as the AHL’s schedule was released over the summer, showing his Hershey Bears’ Friday night date with the Philadelphia Phantoms. And Boudreau will be in Philly on Friday, as scheduled. But he’ll be there a day earlier than scheduled, he’ll be taking a bus from Washington rather than Hershey, and he’ll be coaching the Washington Capitals that afternoon.
On Thursday, the Capitals announced that they have relieved head coach Glen Hanlon of his duties after nearly four years behind the Washington bench. The 52-year-old Boudreau, who piloted the AHL’s Hershey Bears to the Calder Cup championship in 2006 and brought the Bears back to Calder Cup finals last spring, has been named Washington’s interim head coach. The remainder of the Capitals’ coaching staff will remain intact, and no timetable has been set for naming a head coach beyond Boudreau’s interim status.
Bears assistant Bob Woods will take over the head coaching reins in Hershey, also on an interim basis.
The Caps visit Philadelphia for a 1 p.m. matinee contest on Friday while Hershey is also in town to take on the AHL Philadelphia at 7 p.m.
Boudreau becomes the 14 coach in Washington’s franchise history, and the 10 of those men to take over in mid-season. He becomes the third Washington coach to go directly from behind the Hershey Bears' bench to the Capitals’ bench. The last time the Caps tabbed a Hershey coach as their head man in the District was just more than 26 years ago when Bryan Murray was promoted from the AHL. Murray stayed on the job for more than eight years and still holds the all-time franchise record for games coached (672) and wins (343).
Boudreau has coached more than 1,000 games in four different leagues but will be getting his first taste as an NHL head coach. He won an ECHL championship with Mississippi in 1999 and has had a winning record 13 of his 15 seasons as a pro head coach. Boudreau piloted the Bears to a 2-1 home-ice win over Bridgeport on Wednesday night, Hershey’s fourth straight triumph. The victory lifted the Bears’ record to 8-7.
Since taking over in Hershey at the start of the 2005-06 season, Boudreau has fashioned a 103-45-11-16 record as the Bears’ bench boss. He led the team to an AHL-best 51-17-6-6 record last season. Seven current members of the Capitals (forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Boyd Gordon, Brooks Laich
and David Steckel and defensemen John Erskine
, Mike Green
and Jeff Schultz
) have played for Boudreau in Hershey.
Boudreau had just begun his ninth season as an AHL head coach; he has also piloted the Lowell Lock Monsters and the Manchester Monarchs. He has a 340-216-56-43 record in the AHL.
With the Capitals in the throes of a five-game losing streak – the team’s longest of the season – and with just three wins in the team’s past 18 games (3-14-1), the team opted to make a coaching change. Washington won three games in a span of four days to start the season but will have won only three games in the past 45 days when it takes the ice in Philadelphia on Friday.
Hanlon posted a record of 78-123-38 during his tenure as the team’s coach, a span that began with a 6-5 win over the Bruins at MCI Center on Dec. 11, 2003. A day earlier Hanlon had been promoted from assistant coach to take over from the departed Bruce Cassidy.
Just less than a year ago, Hanlon had the Caps at their high-water mark during his tenure. Washington was 15-10-7 after a 4-1 win over the Flyers on Dec. 16, and sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings. A rash of injuries and illness followed, and the Caps stumbled to a mediocre finish in 2006-07.
Despite the addition this summer of some gifted players with strong offensive résumés, the Caps have struggled to score goals in 2007-08. Only three times in their first 21 games have the Capitals managed to score more than three goals in a contest.
Washington’s average of 2.24 goals per game is third lowest in the NHL, and the Caps have never scored goals at a lower rate in any of the team’s 33 seasons in the league. Star winger Alex Ovechkin
has 14 goals this season, accounting for nearly 30% of his team’s total offensive output. Ovechkin has more goals than any three of his teammates combined.
Since hitting that high-water mark in mid-December of last season, the Caps are 19-44-8 in their last 71 games.
One year ago today the Washington Capitals and the Atlanta Thrashers hooked up in a fight-filled contest on the night before Thanksgiving. In addition to the fights that broke out late in the third period of that game, angry words were exchanged on the benches between Hanlon and Thrashers bench boss Bob Hartley.
A year later Hanlon and Hartley are no longer at the helms of their respective clubs. Hartley was relieved of his duties last month after the Thrashers started the season with six straight losses. Atlanta general manager Don Waddell took over behind the bench and has led the Thrashers to 11 wins in 15 games.
Ironically, it was a 5-1 win by Waddell’s Thrashers over Hanlon’s Capitals on Wednesday night at Verizon Center that ultimately sealed Hanlon’s fate. The win lifted Atlanta over the .500 mark for the first time this season at 11-10.