The last-place Carolina Hurricanes had finally had enough of coach Paul Maurice and fired him for the second time this decade on Monday, while the Washington Capitals were making changes of their own by firing coach Bruce Bruce Boudreau after the team felt he was no longer earning the player’s respect.
Maurice was instrumental in Carolina’s transition from Hartford to North Carolina in 1997. He rejoined the club in December 2008 – five years after being fired the first time – and quickly lead the team to a run to the Eastern Conference finals at the end of the season. It was good enough to earn Maurice a three-year contract in 2009 that would have ended after this season. The Hurricanes thought it was time to move on after dropping 10 of their last 13 games. He finished with a combined team record of 384-391-145 and holds the team record for playoff victories with 25, none of which came the previous two seasons.
It was a different story just four hours north in Washington, where Boudreau had an excellent record with the Capitals but was unable to help the team go deep in the playoffs.
Boudreau was hired almost exactly four years ago on Thanksgiving Day and finished with a record of 201-88-40 in the regular season but had an unimpressive playoff record of 17-20 as each of his seasons ended in either a first or a second round exit. This season Boudreau lead the Capitals to 7-0 start – the most consecutive wins at the start of a season in franchise history – but then everything began to go wrong for Washington. They had lost six of their last eight games, the most recent coming on Saturday in a 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. It was apparent that the team had begun to tune him out – despite having won 200 games faster than any coach in modern NHL history.
Both teams already have replacements in place, which were announced shortly after the firings. For the Hurricanes 45-year-old, former All-Star Kirk Muller will take over behind the bench. It will be his first head coaching job in the NHL, as he was in his first season as the coach of the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate team, the Milwaukee Admirals. Muller was a six-time All-Star during his 19 seasons in the NHL and helped lead the Montreal Canadiens to their most recent Stanley Cup and spent the last five seasons as a member of the Canadiens coaching staff.
The Capitals on the other hand, decided to turn to a familiar face, hiring former Capitals great Dale Hunter who played with Washington from 1987-99. He spent his last five seasons as team captain and in 19 seasons he became the only player in league history with 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes. Hunter finished his career with 3,563 penalty minutes which is second all-time.
The 51-year-old coached the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League for 11 seasons, finishing with a record of 451-189-23-24. He was the fastest OHL coach ever to reach 300 and 400 career wins and – like Boudreau – was promoted from the Capitals’ AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears, to earn his first coaching job in the NHL.
Maurice and Boudreau have become the first two casualties of war this season in the NHL at just about a third of the way through the season. Several other coaches are being watched under the microscope which leaves us wondering who is going to be the next coach to get the boot?
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.