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Thanks For The Memories, Dale!
Today during the final media availability of the season, the Washington Capitals announced that head coach Dale Hunter will not return next season. The reason that was given were “family reasons”- which really meant that Hunter wanted to return to the London Knights; the Ontario Hockey League team he co-owns with his brother Mark, with the possibility of returning behind their bench for the 2012-2013 season. The news comes as not a surprise, given that he only signed a contract to be the coach for the remainder of this season after the team fired Bruce Boudreau.
At first glance, it seemed like hiring Hunter was a bad decision. Not all of the players were buying into the system and the team was not getting any better. Granted, trying to implement a new system in the middle of the season is no easy task, but Hunter forced the players to believe in him and to believe in what he was doing. There were a lot of bumps along the way, but the real evidence of his work came during the playoffs. The Caps became a solid defensive team by being able to block shots and aggressively backcheck. The Caps were able to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and came within one game of knocking off the number one seed New York Rangers. Hunter brought the best out of his players and also helped guys like Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks find their niche on the team. And hey, anyone to gets Alex Semin to play some sort of defense should get a thumbs up as well! The lessons he instilled in the players hopefully remain in place next season and the hope is to build on top of it.
So, from everyone in Caps Nation, we wish Dale the best of luck in London with the Knights and thanks for everything you’ve done in your short tenure as coach of the Washington Captials.