ARLINGTON, Va. — The Washington Capitals on Monday fired coach Bruce Boudreau, who won 200 games faster than any coach in modern NHL history but stumbled regularly in the playoffs despite a talent-laden lineup featuring two-time league MVP Alex Ovechkin.
Boudreau was replaced by former Capitals captain Dale Hunter, who was scheduled to lead Monday’s practice and make his debut behind the bench Tuesday night when Washington hosts the St. Louis Blues to begin a three-game homestand.
Hired four years ago on Thanksgiving Day, Boudreau went 201-88-40 in the regular season with the Capitals but just 17-20 in the playoffs. This season he tried a new approach, emphasizing accountability and the willingness to bench his star players — team captain Ovechkin included — as punishment for subpar performances.
The Capitals started 7-0 — a franchise record for consecutive wins to begin a season — but have since slumped badly. They have lost six of eight, including a 5-1 beat-down Saturday night to a Buffalo Sabres team missing nine regular players. Ovechkin has only one goal in the last eight games.
The 51-year-old Hunter played for the Capitals from 1987-99, the last five seasons as team captain, and is one of four players to have his jersey (No. 32) retired by the franchise. He played 19 NHL seasons and is the only player in league history with 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes. His career total of 3,563 penalty minutes ranks second all time.
Hunter has coached the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League for 11 seasons, compiling a 451-189-23-24 record. He became the fastest coach in OHL history to reach 300 and 400 career wins.
Boudreau turned around a moribund franchise when he was hired in 2007, leading the Capitals to the first of four consecutive Southeast Division titles and winning the league’s coach of the year award in 2008. Nicknamed “Gabby,” he bought an offensive philosophy that meshed well with Ovechkin and the team’s other “young guns” such as Alexander Semin and Mike Green, but he was never able to get Washington beyond the second round of the playoffs.
Boudreau had the team adopt a more defensive mind-set during a losing streak last season, but it failed to pay dividends in the spring. The Capitals were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the postseason.
Boudreau’s assistant coaches — Dean Evason, Bob Woods and Blaine Forsythe — will remain in their posts under Hunter.