When you’re the coach of the worst team in the NHL, have lost five games in a row, and only won once in your last 10 attempts, you should never, ever claim to be shocked when the inevitable happens and you find yourself out of a job.
I’m sure Glen Hanlon will say nothing of the sort when someone asks him what it was like when the Capitals tied the can to him Thursday. He’s a good, honest, hockey lifer, a bench boss who more than one of Washington’s players have told me they enjoyed playing for, and he’ll be back in the league – perhaps as an assistant, at first – before too long.
Unfortunately for him, the stakes in the U.S. capital were sufficiently raised this season, so much so that the organization simply didn’t have any more time to allow him to turn things around. Part of the reason for firing Hanlon had to do with the investments GM George McPhee made in several veteran free agents this summer; part of it had to do with the team’s ongoing battle to build its fan base; and part of it had to do with keeping Alex Ovechkin happy enough with the franchise’s direction to get his name on a contract extension as soon as possible.
For as bad as I feel for Hanlon, though, I can’t help but be pleased with the opportunity now afforded to interim Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. He’s another hockey lifer who played a few games in the NHL, but mostly scratched and clawed his way through a playing career in the American League, and has had great success as head coach of Washington’s AHL affiliate in Hershey, Pa., including a Calder Cup championship in 2006 and the league’s best win percentage (.713) last season.
Boudreau has worked with seven current Capitals when they were developing in Hershey, which will give him a good running start. However, he’s going to have to continue to scratch and claw for the rest of the season if he wants the “interim” tag removed from his new title.
As Hanlon’s dismissal proves, owner Ted Leonsis’ patience has all but run dry.