Washington Capitals: 5 Potential 2012-2013 Head Coach Candidates
When general manager George McPhee and his Washington Capitals fired ex-head coach Bruce Boudreau on the 28th of November, it was because the team had fallen to a 12-9-1 record despite a 7-0-0 start and was sitting in eighth in the Eastern Conference.
Capitals legend Dale Hunter replaced him. In Hunter's 42 games at the helm of the Verizon Center club, the Caps have gone 20-18-4 and have dropped out of a playoff spot. Meanwhile, Boudreau has led his Anaheim Ducks to a 21-14-6 run and has taken them from being a lottery team to a team with an outside shot at the playoffs.
Hunter is on a one-year contract with the Caps, and if the team doesn't make the playoffs, it wouldn't at all be surprising to see the team not exercise their option of re-signing him and instead go the route of giving a new coach a whole summer to adjust to the team.
Here are five coaches that, should Hunter not return, could find themselves behind the Caps bench next season.
1. Dean Evason
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Dean Evason has faithfully served the Caps as assistant coach since the 2005-06 season and has seen three head coaches come and go. If anyone deserves to be the next Caps coach, it is the Flin Flon, Manitoba-native.
While Evason would be the fifth straight coach hired by the Caps who haven't any previous NHL head coaching experience, he does know this organization as well as anyone, and he would transition seamlessly from being the assistant man in charge to being the man in charge.
If GMGM truly is looking to change his coaching staff, Evason is surely on the list of potential suitors.
2. Mark French
The last time the Caps promoted the head coach from their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears, he went on to net a 201-88-40 record with the team. Mark French has had similar success with the Bears as Bruce Boudreau did, and you have to think it might be worth giving him the chance.
Much like Boudreau with the likes of Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Jeff Schultz, French has worked with a number of the current Caps down on 'the farm', including Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Michal Neuvirth, Mathieu Perreault and Dmitry Orlov. French has also coached at Caps training camp for the past several years and, like Evason, knows this group of players very well.
French is a diamond in the rough, waiting for his chance down in the AHL. Will the Caps be the team to give him that chance?
3. Gerard Gallant
Dale Hunter was hired out of the Canadian Hockey League but hasn't turned out great, so the Caps may be reluctant to delve into the supplies from that league anytime soon.
That said, Saint John Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant is a winner through and through, and he would certainly bring a great pedigree to the Verizon Center.
Hired by the Dogs in 2009, the ex-Columbus Blue Jackets coach led his team to their first QMJHL Presidents' Cup final in his first season and then, in his second, won the Memorial Cup as the CHL champions. Now in his third season with the team, Gallant's Dogs are riding a 17-game win streak and pace the Q standings by way of a five-point margin.
Gerard Gallant is one of the good guys in hockey, and it sure would be nice to see Stanislav Galiev's coach leading the Caps.
4. Bob Hartley
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The past four coaches hired by the Caps have all been without previous NHL experience, and it's time the Caps hire someone with a little bit of a veteran savvy. There are few coaches around the block with as much elite-level coaching experience as Stanley Cup-winner Bob Hartley.
Currently with the ZSC Lions of the Swiss National League, Hartley has 10 years worth of NHL coaching wisdom. He made his name with the Colorado Avalanche, where he led players like Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic to one Cup triumph, four conference finals and a .668 regular season points percentage in his four full seasons with team.
Evidently, the French-Canadian can teach superstars at the top level. He could be the key to whipping the Caps' top guns into shape.
5. Ron Wilson
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As mentioned, it is expected that, should the Caps replace Hunter, they will choose an established NHL coach. With Ron Wilson having recently been dismissed from the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 18-year head coaching veteran is available.
Few Washington Capitals coaches have been more successful than Ron Wilson. His list of accolades with the club includes two Southeast Division titles, an organization-best .469 playoff winning percentage and the distinction of being the only Caps coach to carry the team to a Stanley Cup final.
Jeff Halpern is the only Caps player left over from Wilson's reign with the Caps, but he has faced Halpern's teammates more than enough to know what they bring to the table. Wilson performed well as the Caps' bench boss when there was much less firepower available. It could be interesting to see what Wilson could so with the likes of Alex Ovechkin at his disposal.
Follow Jake Ware on Twitter at @JacobWare95