Caps coaching search update (or lack there of)
It's been over a month since Dale Hunter announced he wouldn't be returning behind the bench for the Washington Capitals.
Since then, general manager George McPhee has been interviewing candidates that have possibly included veteran NHL bench bosses like Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford and ex-Caps coach Terry Murray. McPhee has also looked at some NHL assistant coaches like former Cap Adam Oates, John Stevens and Mike Sullivan according to reports.
The Caps have also interviewed in-house candidates like assistants Dean Evason and Jim Johnson, but McPhee was noncommittal as to whether either would return to the team next season, telling reporters, "We'll see."
McPhee says he won't announce a coaching decision before Friday's draft, but did acknowledge that he has narrowed down some of the potential candidates.
While the Caps had been one of the league's highest-scoring teams in years past, the team took on a hard-nosed defensive style under Hunter. When asked what style he expects his team to play, McPhee expressed a desire for an up-temp style but with the commitment and work ethic that was displayed under Hunter. Talk about getting the best of both worlds.
McPhee is hoping for the best of both worlds because well, he's in a pretty tough spot. For years the Caps were an offensive juggernaut under former coach Bruce Boudreau. Supertars Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were putting up stellar offensive numbers. But in the past year under Hunter, Ovechkin's production has tailed, and Semin's disappeared. Gone were the offensive onslaughts, crooked numbers and wins. But eventually, the rest of the Caps bought in and produced wins under Hunter's stingy system.
After previous playoff failures in the first round ('08, '10) and second round ('09, '11), the Caps were a tough out this year. Hunter got the players to buy in and become a bona-fide threat in the playoffs thanks to defense and accountability. While it wasn't pretty (and believe me it wasn't), the Caps finally showed some of that promise of a long playoff run that fans had been expecting for several years. The run ended in the second round in seven games to the Rangers, but would the 2011 version of the Caps have lasted that far? No way.
So here's the problem. Under an offensive system, the Caps were the toast of the town and piling up goals, points and wins with ease. But they didn't have nearly the playoff success that was expected. Not even close in fact. With the defensive system, similar to the Stanley Cup champion LA Kings, the Caps were one of the hardest teams to play against in the playoffs (once they bought in) and could have easily made the Eastern Conference finals with a few bounces and perhaps even the Cup finals.
Which style will McPhee go with if one assumes he can't get the best of both ala the Kings this spring?
Does he appease his captain, and $10 million superstar Alex Ovechkin, with an offensive-minded coach while sacrificing wins or does he go for a Stanley Cup and hire a defensively sound coach with a better chance to win?
It's the decision that could make or break this group of Washington Capitals.
And we're still waiting.