Can Dale Hunter make Alex Ovechkin a winner?

November 28, 2011 | Drew Forrester


I fired a coach once.

And I fired him for almost the exact same reason the Capitals dismissed Bruce Boudreau on Monday.

The star player wasn’t getting the job done.  And without him leading the team – both performance-wise and spiritually – there was little hope for success.

My in-season firing came in late January of 1996 when I parted company with Dave MacWilliams.  He was only a season-and-a-half into his tenure as coach of the Baltimore Spirit (nee Blast) indoor soccer team when I relieved him of his duties — even though we were 13-11 at the time.

I made the move for a variety of reasons, but the biggest issue confronting me was this: the team had stopped playing for him because the best player at the time (Franklin McIntosh) had also stopped playing for him.  My first reaction was to part company with McIntosh, but I knew the truth.  First, no one would take him…too much baggage and too much trouble.  Second, we were barely a good offensive team WITH him…we would have stunk to high heavens without him.

So as I contemplated a possible coaching move, I did so with this big thought in mind.  “Who can I bring in that will get the best out of McIntosh?”  I figured if I could find a magician to come in and do that, I’d have a chance to get the rest of the team to follow suit.

It worked, fortunately.  McIntosh initially connected with the new coach, former Blast great Mike Stankovic, and the team went 12-4 to finish up the regular season at 25-15.  There’s more to the story, actually, because Stankovic wound up suspending McIntosh for the post-season, but the decision I made in January to remove MacWilliams and insert Stankovic was the catalyst for the team’s second half resurgence.

The Washington Capitals are in the exact same situation.

Is Dale Hunter the man who can get Alex Ovechkin back on track?

If he is, the Caps can be Stanley Cup contenders.

If he isn’t, the Caps won’t contend for anything except a first-round playoff ouster…again.

Ovechkin remains a question mark because, despite his enormous wealth of talent, he’s never been able to guide his team to the Stanley Cup finals.  In fact, they haven’t even come close.

And when you make the most money and you’re the high profile player, that burden is on your shoulders, unfair or not.

At some point over the last year or so, a disconnect developed between Bruce Boudreau and Ovechkin.  Insiders say Ovechkin’s well-documented fondness for the DC nightlife was never really addressed by Boudreau, who operated on the “as long as you’re performing on the ice, what you do off of it isn’t my concern” theory.  So given his kid gloves treatment of Ovie, where did Boudreau go wrong?  Did the rest of the team take exception (see next page please)