Dale Hunter won't return to Caps in 2012-2013
Back in November when Caps General Manager George McPhee was looking for an interim coach to replace the fired Bruce Boudreau, he said he needed to find someone that he, and his players could trust.
He found that man in former Capitals captain Dale Hunter.
Now, McPhee realizes that it's time for the interim marriage to end.
Dale Hunter won't return to the Caps next season, and will return to the London Knights of the OHL.
Hunter, who was coaching the powerhouse London Knights in the OHL, brought a selfless style of hockey to D.C., says he slept on the decision and thought it was in his family's best interest for him to return home.
The team continued its malaise down the Eastern Conference standings before eventually catching on late in the season when the Caps found their way to the seventh-seed on just the second to last game of the regular season.
But by the time the underdog Caps faced off against the defending Cup champion Bruins, Hunter Hockey had set in with the Caps players. Armed with a rookie goalie with just 20 games of NHL experience, the Caps selflessly blocked shot after shot and won road game after road game to push the heavily favored Bruins to a seventh game, a game they won 2-1 to advance to the second round.
Dale Hunter's coaching style is beyond unique. He put aside the $9.5 million salary of Alex Ovechkin to bench him late in games for failing to play solid two-way hockey. He played the tread out of career AHLer Keith Aucoin, and it worked. His fourth line became his first line, relying on their suffocating forecheck and board play to frustrate Bruins stars all over the ice.
Sure, these Capitals made it farther than anyone thought going into the playoffs, but one of the main reasons they did was because of Dale Hunter.
Hunter, who signed a one-year deal back in November, was 30-23-7 in 60 games during the regular season and posted a 7-7 record in two rounds in the playoffs, facing both the second and first seeds respectively as a seven seed.
Hunter was a polarizing player during his NHL career. He was known for great success on the ice, as well as one moment that would cloud his career. But as a coach, Hunter was even more polarizing, he held his own agenda, making players more accountable than ever.
That accountability, something the Caps haven't since Hunter retired, returned this season in Washington because of Hunter. And while the coach won't be back next year, what he taught this bunch in that room this season is invaluable and will certainly make the Caps a better team going toward the future.