Capitals In 7 Game Slide: Boudreau Must Go

December 17, 2010 |

Most of you are saying calm down amateur electronic media boy. Streaks like this happen to every team and last year the Caps won 14 in a row at one point and look what happened to them anyway.

Yes it’s true, during the long NHL season many teams endure winning and losing streaks. This one is different, this is a different kind of a team, one that is stacked with talent and the numbers inside this streak are ugly and alarming.

You know the names, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Green. The Caps have enough talent to win 40 games without anyone standing at the back of the bench telling them what to do. Instead of playing golf in late April, a change behind the bench could propel the Caps into June.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has done his job and has done it well. The following comments are not meant to be derogatory toward the coach but Bruce Boudreau belongs in the NHL’s top minor league system, The American Hockey League.

He was a head coach in the AHL for parts of nine seasons and won almost 70 percent of his games there, compiling a record of 216-56-43. As an AHL player, he was one of the league’s most prolific scorers and was inducted into the AHL Hall Of Fame in 2009.

He won a Calder Cup Championship for the Capitals’ top minor league affiliate, The Hershey Bears in 2006, doing it with many of the players he coaches right now in Washington.

Under Boudreau, the Capitals have had their best three-year regular season stretch in franchise history. They are 159-68-31 during that time. So, how can I even justify replacing him, you ask?

Boudreau’s specialty is developing talent. The Washington Capitals have a ton of talent that Boudreau helped develop himself while in Hershey as the head coach. Even if Boudreau is trying to give the discipline these young Caps require, they are showing signs of no longer buying into his system.

If you watched the HBO 24/7 special then you saw what I saw, a team that simply did not respond to a coach that was putting it on the line for them. Boudreau chewed a lot of butt’s and did a lot of cursing at the Capitals and none of it worked, none of it. In fact it just got worse, following one locker room rant then Caps would go on to lose to the Rangers 7-0 last Sunday night. The loss on Sunday was their worst defeat since the 05-6 season.

With his time in Hershey and Washington, Boudreau has been around most of these players for almost seven seasons. Coaching systems as well as a coach’s message can get stale in that amount of time.

The Capitals have not started fast in the first period this season; they have been outscored 28-23 and rank in the bottom ten in the league when it comes to winning games after scoring the first goal. Seven times this year, the Caps have given up the tying or go-ahead goal after the halfway mark of the third period. Three times, they have surrendered three goal leads in the third period alone.

A head coach must have his team prepared to play. In hockey, the first five minutes are crucial. With their youth, speed and talent, the Caps should be scoring quick first period goals jumping on top of teams to start the game. Good teams must have a finishing and killer instinct in them. The Capitals allow teams back into hockey games almost nightly.

It’s time for this organization to bring in someone that has been there before at the NHL level.  Someone with a Stanley Cup pedigree. While it would be a great story if the Capitals could do it with Boudreau, it seems unlikely. His past three post-season appearances with Washington were a mirror image of past Capitals post-season collapses.

Last year, as the No. 1 seed and Presidents’ Trophy winner, Washington blew a 3-1 series lead to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadians, losing on home ice in seven games. Boudreau is 1-3 in four game sevens as Washington’s coach. The Capitals were the  first number one seed (in NHL history) to blow a 3-1 series lead and lose to an eighth seed. Considering the miserable playoff history of this team that’s an accomplishment the Caps could have left off of the resume.

The Caps are still very young and have their two core players, Ovechkin and Backstrom locked up for years to come. It would behoove upper management to consider a few more deals at the trading deadline. Dealing one of the big names may be a must. Alexander Semin for LA Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has been rumored.

The recent acquisition of veteran defenseman Scott Hannan was a step in the right direction for this year’s post season, but a few more veterans may be needed to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. They must acquire a veteran goalie regardless of what GM George McPhee and Boudreau say about their young netminders.

It’s not unprecedented that a winning team fires its coach and makes a change mid season. During the 2008-09 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Michel Therrin and replaced him with Dan Blysma. Blysma and the Penguins would go on to win the Stanley Cup.

The Capitals are winless in their last seven and 4-10 in the last 14 games. After being shutout just four times combined in the last two seasons, the Caps have been shutout four times since November 19th.  They  have been outscored 45-30 in the last 14 and have scored three or less goals in ten of those games. This is supposed to be an offensive juggernaut that at the very least, if losing games, should be losing them 6-5 or 5-4.

The last Caps losing steak of this nature is what brought Boudreau to town. On November 21st, 2007 the Caps lost their fifth game in a row and their eighth in nine tries. Coach Glen Hanlon was fired and replaced by Boudreau. The Caps would win 11 of their last 12 games that season and finish 37-17-7 under Boudreau, reclaiming the Southeast Division title.

Boudreau doesn’t seem to be able to motivate the Capitals. If HBO’s cameras showed me anything Wednesday night it showed me that if Boudreau hasn’t lost this team, he is very close to losing them.

I believe in order to spare a whole generation of new Capitals fans the playoff misery of the past, it is necessary to cut the head off the snake now, in mid December.

Waiting until they finish the season with 110 points and blow another playoff series wouldn’t do much good. To most diehard Caps fans, that would be another wasted season.

Replacing Boudreau now would send a clear message to the core of this team that only a Stanley Cup is acceptable. With every star player 28 years or younger, it’s definitely not too late to continue to develop and mold them. The result of last year’s playoffs isn’t acceptable, nor is being shutout four times 14 games games.

There are some talented coaches available that would do well in Washington. Craig MacTavish could do lot with this talent, he lead a talent-less Edmonton Oilers team to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals back in 2006. MacTavish won five Stanley Cups playing for Edmonton.

Former Montreal Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau has a pedigree Washington could use in the organization. Carbonneau won three Cups as a player and was a finalist for the coach of the year in 2008, when he led the Canadiens to a first-place finish atop the Eastern Conference.

This trend of the snake bitten playoff tradition must not continue with the Great Eight and company. It sounds selfish to write that a coach who has won 62 percent of his games for your team should be fired, but the time is now. Boudreau must go.