Time for a Change

Glen Hanlon has been a class act since long before he got to Washington, so it’s no surprise that his response to being relieved of his coaching duties today was also classy.

“I want to thank George McPhee and the entire Washington Capitals organization for the opportunity to spend what have been the best years of my hockey life in Washington and Portland,” he said in a statement. “Most importantly right now I don’t want to take away from Bruce and the team and what they are doing. I will be rooting for them to win tomorrow in Philadelphia and down the road.”

Interim Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau ran his first practice here at K-Plex this morning, and then he and his players boarded a bus to Philadelphia where the Caps will face the Flyers on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. Besides the obvious change behind the bench, a few other tweaks to the lines and the lineup were noted.

Alex Ovechkin, whose 14 goals are more than any other three players on the team combined, skated on a familiar line with Viktor Kozlov and Chris Clark. Michael Nylander started the session with Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin, but Semin departed the ice surface some 20-30 minutes into practice and did not return. Brooks Laich then donned a grey sweater and replaced Semin on that line.

I asked Caps GM George McPhee about Semin after practice, and he told me it was related to the ankle problem again. Whether Semin is in the lineup for tomorrow’s game in Philly remains to be seen.

Dave Steckel and Boyd Gordon, checking line staples on the Boudreau-coached Calder Cup champion team of 2006, were on a line with Matt Pettinger. Nicklas Backstrom centered Donald Brashear and Matt Bradley.

The defensive pairings were as follows: Mike Green and Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina and Jeff Schultz, Tom Poti and Brian Pothier, and Steve Eminger and John Erskine.

From what I could tell — and remember, this was after Semin left the ice — the first power play unit had Nylander, Backstrom and Ovechkin up front with Green and Poti on the points. The second unit was comprised of Kozlov with Clark and Fleischmann up front, and Pothier and Green on the points. My guess is that Semin would be on the point on the first unit, but time will tell.

For the a while, it seemed as though Washington’s greatest problem was simply a lack of offense. But the longer the team went without scoring enough goals to win games, the more other problems began to seep their way through the cracks of the team’s foundation. Monday’s loss to the Panthers and the way the Caps started playing midway through last night’s game with Atlanta began to make it clear that a change was necessary.

Glen Hanlon is a good man, a good hockey man and a good hockey coach. Boudreau is also all of those things. Sometimes in pro sports, it becomes necessary to have a new voice, to open up a window and let some fresh air in. There are 61 games remaining in the 2007-08 season, and Wednesday’s opponent (Atlanta) has proved how quickly things can turn around. The Thrashers were 0-6 when they relieved Bob Hartley of his head coaching duties on Oct. 17. Since then the Thrashers have won 11 of 15 games to climb a game over .500 and into a tie for sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Caps are nine points behind the Thrashers in the standings. Boudreau won’t have to wait long to get his feet wet and try to put an imprint on this team. The Caps travel to Philly tomorrow afternoon, then return home to host Carolina on Saturday, Buffalo on Monday and Florida on Wednesday. Where Boudreau is coming from, playing three games in three nights is a common occurrence. The Caps have six games in the next nine nights, so he should feel right at home.

Caps GM George McPhee would not define the term “interim,” but Boudreau took the ice this morning like a man bent upon having that tag removed as soon as possible. He worked the Caps hard in a 75-minute practice, and did not look like a “temp” on the ice. A guy who had already accepted his interim status would not have changed the lineup, and would not have raised his voice. Boudreau also instituted a policy where the last guy to skate over to the dry-erase board for a “chalk talk” does a lap.

There are those who will say that Boudreau doesn’t have the “look” of an NHL head coach. Maybe they’d rather have some stylish guy in a sweater vest with “product” in his hair. Ken Hitchcock and Randy Carlyle don’t look the part, either, but they’ve both got Stanley Cup rings. Boudreau wins everywhere he goes.

For what it’s worth, there are six current head coaches in the NHL who won Calder Cup championships in the AHL: Calgary’s Mike Keenan, Tampa Bay’s John Tortorella, Carolina’s Peter Laviolette, Nashville’s Barry Trotz, Philadelphia’s John Stevens and Ottawa’s John Paddock. Hartley and Jim Playfair are also among the recently replaced NHL head coaches who have previously won Calder Cup titles. Keenan, Tortorella, Laviolette and Hartley all followed the Calder Cup titles with Stanley Cup titles.

It’s worth remembering that the best coach the Caps have ever had (Bryan Murray) also came from the AHL ranks, and he also came from Hershey.

For more coverage of today’s events, you can find sound files and video of McPhee, Boudreau and several players at washingtoncaps.com.

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21 Comments on “Time for a Change”

  1. capitalpunishment Says:

    Vogel,

    If the Capitals want to salvage this season, they will need to earn some where near 92-96 points this season by the seasons end. Theoretically, let’s assume 95 is the magic number. Right now this team has amassed 13 points through 21 games. This means we have 61 games left, as you’ve already mentioned.

    With these 61 games, to earn the previously mentioned 95 points, this team needs to earn 82 additional points. For comparisons sake, the last two years we have only amassed 70 points through all 82 games. We now need 82 in 61 to make the playoffs (give or take, of course).

    82 points in 61 games is equivalent to earning 110 points through an full-length 82 games. Not to be pessimistic, but it’s a bit too late to really turn this season around.

    I want to be proven wrong, but let’s put things in perspective here. This team needs to essentially go 41-20 over these last 61 games. Yes, you read that right. 42 more wins. This is obviously still possible, but is it likely?

    Only time will tell. It’s safe to say, this team waited way too long to make this move.

    6 games, 9 nights. It’s now or never. They need to win 4 or 5 of these next 6 games, anything less than that, things will continue to look bleak.

    What’s your opinion? Or am I way off base with this assessment?

    Thanks,
    CapitalPunishment

  2. Caps4ever Says:

    I’m afraid that this change doesn’t go far enough. If this fails, I think Ted really needs to think about replacing his entire staff–starting with the GM and down through every scout who has had a hand in this “rebuild.”

  3. caphcky Says:

    This team needs players, not coaches.
    You can’t fire the entire team, so the coach takes the hit.
    The rebuild #8 is now started.

  4. capitalpunishment Says:

    HI CAPHCKY!

  5. BernieWolfeFan Says:

    Caps4ever,

    Sure, but Ted has had this chance for the last decade. His primary focus is not with the Caps but with other business ventures. Having said that, hopefully he has had enough of a hit to his wallet where he has to “restructure”. Firing Hanlon was only a band-aid. I could not agree with you more. Hopefully Ted understands the “real” business plan and keeps that broom sweeping. We can only hope, geez.

  6. opus Says:

    Mike,

    Enjoyed your appearance on TV last night, you looked and sounded as fed up as the fans. You made a good point of saying Holik just was standing in front of Olie without being touched, and Hossa walked right in without being touched…when is the organization going to realize that firing Hanlon, though it had to be done, wasn’t the main step. The man who brought this “talent” in and made a team of SOFT figure skaters has to go. No GM should get 10 yrs with this record. Can you give me any example of any other organization or business that would put up with this for so long?

    Thanks
    Opus

  7. caphcky Says:

    After hearing Olie and Clarkie comment today, the problem with this team is
    INSIDE the dressing room. Its now Boudreau’s job to bring these guys together
    and start winning some games.

    When Olie talks about individuals “listening” and “buying in” says a BOATLOAD
    about where the Caps are as a TEAM right now.


  8. […] Time for a Change Glen Hanlon has been a class act since long before he got to Washington, so it’s no surprise that his response to […] […]

  9. Bryan Says:

    How come the Caps never made a move for Bryzgalov when we had the opportunity to? I know Olie and Brent are good goalies but I’d bet the house that Bryzgalov would have been a lot better than them both IF he was claimed off of waviers. Frederic Cassivi and Daren Machesney out in Hershey aren’t ready for the NHL. Cassivi is 32 right now. Bryzgalov is 25 and has won a Stanley Cup. I’m so pissed at the Caps for not picking him up. Why is GM McFailure so oblivious?

  10. BernieWolfeFan Says:

    @Bryan,

    Better question, why is Leonsis so oblivious? Oh yeah, he has given GMGM 10 years for his 5 year plan. Shame on you for questioning McPhee.
    ;)

  11. Mike Livingston Says:

    I don’t think what has happened is Hanlon’s fault, not by a long shot. That said, something had to happen, and it did. Either this will serve as the wake-up call to the players to let them know that they need to focus, or this will be the jump off the ledge…I’d like to think the former is what will happen.

    In response to the poster above who said the playoffs and possibly even a division title are out of the question. They’re not. The caps are 1/4 of the way into the season and yes, they are in dead last in the NHL. But guess what, they’re only 9 points out of 6th place in the eastern conference. Yes, the Caps have a 6-14-1 record, so they’ve lost 15 games. The Hurricanes, in first, already have 10 losses, ditto for Atlanta, the Bolts have 11 losses, and the Panthers have 13 losses. The division can still be won, the playoffs can still be made. Thankfully the eastern conference has only one really strong team (Ottawa, and hey, we’re 1-0 against them!)

    The turn around has to start tomorrow in Philly, and continue with a win over Carolina on Sat. night. If the Caps win both games and Tampa beats Carolina tomorrow in advance of the Caps game, The Caps will be 10 points back of Carolina with a Game in hand…

    It’s not going to be easy, but it can be done. Teams have come from much further back than this.

  12. capitalpunishment Says:

    Livingston,

    Maybe you should re-read what I wrote. Never said is completely out of the question. However, this team needs to win 41 of 61 games to earn a playoff spot. I don’t think you really understand what it takes to get that done. Last year and the year before, the 8th spot teams in the east both had 92 points, so it’s very safe to say 95 is close to what wil be needed, which is 82 more points than what we currently have. 82 points is equivalent to 41 wins. And we have 61 games left.

    I think you can do the rest of the math on that.

    Thanks,
    CP

  13. BernieWolfeFan Says:

    @CP,

    Well done. Wadell did the math and made the move as needed. I’m sure Buffalo is looking at their formula as well. It is not rocket science but there is a method to the standings math.

    @Livingston,
    We were at a 55 point pace before Hanlon’s firing!!!!

    I am endeared to all Caps Fans but all the Tryptophan in me right now cannot keep me from asking you to re-read CP’s post!!!

  14. Mike Livingston Says:

    CP,

    I’m not so sure that 95 points are what’s needed to get to the playoffs. It may be that the southeast can be won with 92 points (like it was last year by Atlanta). The winner of the division makes the playoffs regardless of their standing within the conference. I thought at the beginning of the year the Caps would be 44-28-10. To get there from now, they would have to go 38-14-9. I don’t think that this is likely. To get to 92 points, the Caps have to pick up 79 points in 61 games. 34-16-11? How about 33-15-13? In reality a 33-15-13 is 33 wins and 28 losses, certainly do-able. Right now the Caps are a bit of an anomaly in terms of OT games in that they’ve been in only one (and lost) after 21 games. If there were still ties in the NHL, that would mean the Caps would end up with about 4 of them, which would be close to being a record for an 82 game season. I suspect there will be more OT games (and with that, points for the losses).

  15. BernieWolfeFan Says:

    Guys, we have 14 losses already. NHL records would have to be broken to make post-season. Crunch all you want but way too little too late, ya know?

  16. DMG Says:

    I agree about Bryzgalov, and not to nitpick, but he is 27, not 25.

    Also I think it’s fair to say the Capitals are in year 3 of a 5 year plan. I also think McPhee has done a good job in trades and free agency and a pretty good job in the draft, although I dislike his handling of extensions and think he waited to long to let Hanlon go.

  17. BernieWolfeFan Says:

    @DMG,
    Leonsis announced his 5 year plan when he bought the team 10 years ago. Were you here? GMGM has had a decade!? Nitpick, what…

  18. Roose Says:

    Forget the playoffs right now and concentrate on a 60 game season and achieve the best record you can – that’s what they should be doing. And who knows – maybe they surprise us and squeek in? As for the Bryzgalov thing, it’s a nice pickup for Phoenix but we don’t need him; Olie is better and any goalie would give up 5 goals to Atlanta with the wide open spaces, shooting lanes, and easy break out the Caps allowed. If we don’t learn to press the puck in their end with all 4 lines, we will never score enough goals. The top 2 lines need to press the puck like Laich-Pettinger-Brashear; those guys don’t have the best hands, but they create some scoring chances just from hustle and desire. That is lacking right now across the board, and it is frustrating to watch a skill line dump it in and then stand there and watch it. I love this team and hope we can turn it around! Good luck today in Philly…

  19. Alan Thiemann Says:

    Interesting list of former Calder Cup winning coaches and their future/later accomplishments. Comparing Bruce Boudreau with them is reasonable, but I’m not sure it holds enough water. I’m struck by the fact that not only did Bob Hartley win the Stanley Cup but had three winning teams in the OHL and QMHL during the 90s. This guy has been a winner at every stop he’s made. But more than a coach, Hartley had become a significant part of the Atlanta community service (Friendship Cup) and charity work beyond anything I’ve seen out of any Caps coach (and I’ve been here since 1975). Finally, he runs youth hockey programs that have been attended by many local MD/VA kids (including my son for the past three years). He is accessible to parents and acts more like a “Hockey Dad” than some hard-nosed coach. Nevertheless, Hartley is considered to be a “disciplinarian” and Waddell has been quoted as saying that is why he was fired, but he has always had a great relationship with many players (for example, ask Eric Perrin and Jim Slater, who give of their time at the summer camps, or even our own Fred Cassivi, who coached the goalies the past two years).

    Last year Hartley led the Thrash to the playoffs (and in the process the SE Divisional championship) after only 5 years! The Thrash had horribly bad goal tending each the past two years when they just failed to qualify for the playoffs (by 1 point) and when they failed to show up against the Rangers in the first round last year — and this year, Kovalchuk had one lousy goal in the first 6 games (but that’s what streaky goal scorers have a tendency of doing). Firing Hartley was a huge mistake, especially when it was Donnie Waddell’s decision not to retain several guys from last year’s run. Good Luck to Brad McKrimmon (who deserves the job) dealing with this kind of meddling from your GM.

    But Waddell’s error could be a great opportunity for the Caps! According to Laughlin Hartley is being considered for several coaching positions, including one of the Russian Premier league clubs. Hartley belongs back in the NHL and will get the chance sooner than later. No knock on Bruce , but I can’t see how he is going to salvage this season, even after back-to-back wins this weekend (and recognizing that 7 guys have played for him in Hershey). The hole this team has dug for themselves is too deep; the playoffs this year are almost an impossibility. Boudreau has done a great job in Hershey, which the Caps need to continue considering the extended youth movement, but taking him away for the entirety of this season before figuring out that we need more than an “interim” head coach means all the strides the Caps have made in Hershey may well be lost. Bring in a proven commodity like Hartley and get the learning process out of the way this year so the Caps can actually get back to the playoffs next year.

  20. dumpnchase Says:

    capitalpunishment,
    They need a lot of points obviously, but they just need to start winning games in chunks instead of losing them in chunks. Two games is a start, but much work has to be done. If they win something like 8 of 10, then let’s see where they are in relation to the last playoff spot.

    Caps4ever,
    Patience. How long has the Penguins’ rebuild taken? The Blackhawks? How’s that Panthers rebuild coming along? Things don’t always go in a direct upward arc. There are going to be peaks and valleys. It’s coming along. The organization is much more talent-laden now than it was three years ago, just let the players grow and mature a bit more and I think you’ll be happy with what you see.

    Opus,
    In the time GM has been in Washington, here are the GMs who have won Cups: Burke, Rutherford, Feaster, Lamoriello, Holland, Lacroix, Gainey. Only seven, and many others have not won. Two others, Larry Pleau in STL and Darcy Regier in BUF were hired at the same time as GM. They haven’t won anything, either, and they’re still employed. So yeah, I can give you some examples.

    It’s about progress and learning from mistakes. GM has done that. The drafting record has improved greatly in recent years, and the organization has been able to stockpile talent. To me, McPhee is a better GM now than he was four or five years ago. I know he has his detractors, but I’m not one of them.

    Bryan,
    Bryzgalov will be a UFA at season’s end. He will almost certainly command a salary of around $3 mil next year. The Caps have Clark and Semin already getting big raises next year. Figure Ovechkin will too, and Kolzig also has to be re-signed. Morrisonn and Gordon and some others are also due contract extenstions. And the team mway want/need to spend some in the free agent market as well. Picking up Bryzgalov now could lead to a bit of a logjam over the summer, and there is no guarantee he’d even re-sign here or want to re-sign here. To me, it didn’t make any sense to have three goalies (remember, Johnson is signed through next season).

    Mike L,
    You’re right, not Hanlon’s fault, but always easiest to fire the coach. And you’re also right that the playoffs are not out of reach. Many 1-3 NFL teams have gone on to make the playoffs, and that’s basically the situation the Caps are in.

    Roose,
    You’re exactly right. Try to win as many games as possible and see what happens. And goaltending has not been the problem most nights this season. Kolzig has been among the Caps best players the last two games, and if he keeps it up — and the team keeps scoring — the wins will come.

    Alan,
    I’m sure Hartley is being considered for many coaching positions and I’m well aware of what he’s done in ATL on and off the ice, and what he did in juniors and his hockey schools up in York. I’d also be willing to bet that he won’t be coaching here in Washington anytime soon.

  21. Mike L Says:

    Indeed, the playoffs, even the division title are with in range. The Caps are 12 points back of Carolina, meaning 6 games back, with 59 to play (Carolina has 58). The 8th playoff team has 24 points, which is only 3 1/2 games ahead of the Caps (7 points). There are enough games against the teams that are being chased that the Caps can catch all of these folks.


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