The ambitious Washington Capitals are threatening to miss the playoffs and another coaching change appears inevitable.
Dale Hunter has not had the desired impact since replacing Bruce Boudreau. He has come down hard on certain veterans (Mike Knuble and Roman Hamrlik in particular) without getting the desired results.
Hamrlik appears doomed to spend the rest of the season as a healthy scratch. “Every coach is different,” Hamrlik told CSNWashington.com. “I don’t know. I don’t want to say too much.”
Hunter's hiring was regarded as something of an experiment, since Hunter left the door open to return to the junior hockey team he owns and operates. That appears to be the likely outcome, give his team’s recent plays.
Fans attending Capitals tried to needle Hunter with sign messages – “Free Knuble” and “Scratch Hunter” -- but ushers intervened.
Here are some other notes on Washington’s failure.
- Hunter yanked goaltender Tomas Vokoun from two games and then benched him in favor of Michal Neuvirth. Then Vokoun suffered a mild groin muscle strain as Neuvirth went on a three-game losing streak.
- Defenseman Mike Green is struggling to regain his timing since returning from his sports hernia surgery. “Right now I feel like I’m kind of like a robot,” Green told the Washington Post. “I’m in position – but you want to be at a point when really the mental part of the game just flows. You create and you see things before they even happen and that’s the part of the game that I think has taken a step back. Hopefully, it peaks soon.”
- The Washington Post notes that defenseman John Carlson has been on the ice for 63 percent of the goals opponents have scored off Capitals turnovers on Hunter’s watch. Turnovers are up overall since the coaching change.
- The absence of No. 1 center Nicklas Backstrom to post-concussion syndrome has proven devastating. It appears highly unlikely that he will return before the end of this season.
Meanwhile George McPhee told the Washington Post that he isn’t ready to give up on the season.
“We’ve made remarkable runs the last 20 games almost every year,” McPhee said on Wednesday. “We’ve become too reliant on that great push at the end. But we need to make it again. We need our best players to carry the team — a hot goalie, Green, (Alexander) Semin or (Alexander) Ovechkin. We have players who can do it.”