Caps' Skid Costs Hanlon His Job

Jason HackettAnalyst INovember 22, 2007

IconAfter a great start to the season, the Capitals have come to an almost complete stop.

With just one win in their last 10 games, GM George McPhee announced that head coach Glen Hanlon has been given the boot.

Of course, the underlying question is who should be held at fault for the Capitals' dismal season.

Hanlon, who never had a chance to become the head coach of anything other than a team constantly rebuilding mode?

Or McPhee, for not being able to build a team around Ovechkin?

My money is on both. Neither of which really capable of fixing this plucked bird of a team.

Hanlon has had 11 years as a coach or assistant coach in the AHL/NHL. This includes three seasons as head coach of the Portland Pirates (the Caps' AHL affiliate at the time), and just under three full years as coach of the Capitals. In his six seasons as head coach, he has had only one winning campaign—his first with the Pirates—and has come close just one other time—his third year of Pirates head coach.

In placing Hanlon behind the bench, the Capitals were trying to follow in the footsteps of other NHL franchises which have groomed their head coach from within their AHL affiliate—such as Chicago (Trent Yawney), Montreal (Claude Julien), and Calgary (Jim Playfair), just to name just a few.

All three of those coaches played in the NHL, became a coach in either the AHL or a junior league, and then worked their way up through the system. However, none of the these coaches are still manning their respective teams, and only Playfair is still employed within the same franchise—after being demoted to assistant coach.

On the other side of the glass is George McPhee, a well-respected hockey guy both in the league and worldwide, who helped the Capitals reach the Cup Finals in 1998, and compiled a handful of 40-win seasons—including one 102 point campaign.

Icon Sports MediaHowever, after the franchise was sold to Ted Leonis, the Capitals held a firesale and dumped any player of value to other teams around the league. The Caps promptly fell into the basement, and the only thing they have to show for this slide is Ovechkin.

You can make an argument for the on-again, off-again Semin, and the soon-to-retire Kolzig—but following a five-year plan set to end this season, they really don't have much to look forward to.

Compared to other teams in rebuilding mode, such as the Penguins and the Oilers, the Capitals are doing much worse. Edmonton has not fared quite so well as Pittsburgh, but with an influx of talented many new faces, both teams are in good shape for the future. The Capitals, on the other hand, find themselves back on the bottom, with little hope for improvement.

So in comes Bruce Boudreau as interm coach. Boudreau was behind the bench for Washington's AHL affiliate, has 15 seasons of head coaching experience from the IHL to the AHL, and has only missed the playoffs once. He has more experience than Hanlon did, and seems to know how to guide his team to victory.

Will he be able to bring his winning ways to Washington? I don't think so.

Simply put, the Caps would have to overcome the Hurricanes, the Thrashers, and the Lightning—all of whom have better-seasoned squads. They may be able to catch the Panthers to take fourth in the division, but it looks like they will be battling for dead last league wide.

So look for the Caps to ride through the rest of the season holding their breath, waiting for the league to announce who's won the draft lottery.



(Side Note: McPhee was an assistant to Pat Quinn in 1994 when the Canucks made their valiant Cup run, ultimately losing to the Rangers in Game 7 of the Finals. I still remember the puck hitting the wrong side of the post with just seconds left in that game. Or Pavel Bure, taking the breakaway pass from Linden and roofing it past my beloved Mike Vernon in the opening round. Great series, great run—heartbreaker of an ending! In the end those white towels became signifiers of defeat, and not defiance.)