This has been a pretty big week for firings in sports. The Jacksonville Jaguars became the first NFL team of the season to can their coach, Jack Del Rio. Jim Crane made his first big move as the new owner of the Houston Astros by firing the team’s GM, Ed Wade. Colleges like Washington State, Kansas, Arizona State and still-bowl eligible UCLA began firing their under-performing football coaches.
And in the NHL, the Carolina Hurricanes fired Paul Maurice with Kirk Muller on the same day that the Washington Capitals ditched Bruce Boudreau in favor of Dale Hunter.
Now most of these moves made sense. The Jaguars were sold to a new owner the same day they fired Del Rio and except for when they got blown out in the AFC Divisionals by New England after the 2007 season, they didn’t have much success during his time with the team.
The Astros haven’t made the playoffs since losing the 2005 World Series to the Chicago White Sox and just finished with the worst record in all of MLB, losing 106 games in 2011 so obviously Wade had to go. And Muller’s been a hot name in NHL coaching circles for a couple years because of his work with Montreal so hiring him to turn Carolina makes sense.
But firing Bruce Boudreau and hiring Dale Hunter? That one’s slightly less logical. Granted, Hunter’s done a good job coaching future NHL players in the Ontario Hockey League and is beloved among Capitals fans for his time there as a player. It’s also true that the Capitals seemed to be tuning Boudreau out and star Alexander Ovechkin was not responding well to Boudreau’s attempts to make him put in more effort and play better defense.
But to fire one of the most successful coaches the team has ever had and one of the best of the post-lockout era because of one bad stretch is more than a little ridiculous. And if you absolutely must do something like that, you don’t go with a coach whose only major experience is coaching a bunch of high school-age kids, no matter how good he was as a player in the NHL.
You either do what Washington did when firing Glen Hanlon in 2007 and bring up your franchise’s AHL coach, who at least has the advantage of having worked with some of the players before, hire an assistant on the current staff, who knows the players inside and out or you bring in an experienced coach who knows how to jump start a good team playing poorly.
Look at what St. Louis did this past month bringing in Ken Hitchcock to replace Davis Payne or how New Jersey almost salvaged its season last year by replacing John McLean with Jacques Lemaire.
Rookie coaches can work well with rebuilding teams. Veteran coaches can work well with contending teams. You don’t see too many rookie coaches work well with contending teams, at least not when they’re brought in mid-season. Here’s hoping Hunter and the Capitals prove me wrong and win a Stanley Cup at some point. Provided, of course, that they’re not beaten to it by the Buffalo Sabres or the Anaheim Ducks, who just fired Randy Carlyle and replaced him with….Bruce Boudreau