Dale Hunter will not be returning to his job as head coach of the Washington Capitals next season. He will return to the London Knights, which he co-owns with his brother Mark, a team that has just punched its ticket for the CHL’s Memorial Cup tournament.
The team’s general manager George McPhee said that this move was not unexpected, but it still may surprise some. Though the Capitals did do well in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, defeating the reigning champion Boston Bruins in the tightest seven-game series in NHL history (each game was decided by a single goal), they fell in seven games to the New York Rangers in the semifinals.
Upon taking the reins of the Capitals from Bruce Boudreau–he of the famous potty mouth and yen for ice cream, as seen in the 2011 series 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic–at the end of November, Hunter led his team to 30 wins (regulation or overtime) in the last 60 games of the season. Some last-day-of-the-regular-season scrambling in the standings led the Capitals to occupy the seventh playoff seed instead of the eighth, where they had been pretty steadily placed for much of the season. They were often seen in second place, behind the Florida Panthers, in the Southeast Division.
Meanwhile in Anaheim, Boudreau coached the Anaheim Ducks to a surprising comeback from an early-season deep hole. November and December were especially bad months for the Ducks–they won just two of their November games and three in December, all before Boudreau’s arrival. After he came, the team showed some life, especially in January, though it was not enough to overcome the deficit altogether or get out of last place in the Pacific Division. But the team is so pleased with his performance that they’ve resigned him for a two-year extension.
There is no word yet about who might replace Hunter behind the bench for the Capitals.