The NHL will be less colorful without Bruce Boudreau, who was fired by the Washington Capitals on Monday in the first of two coaching changes made by underachieving teams.
Soon after Boudreau was replaced by former Capitals captain Dale Hunter, the Carolina Hurricanes announced they had fired Coach Paul Maurice and hired Kirk Muller, another former player who was an assistant coach in Montreal for five seasons before leaving to coach Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.
Boudreau won raves when he took over in 2007 and installed a run-and-gun style that enabled Alexander Ovechkin to score a league-leading 65 goals. Profane but personable, Boudreau also became a cult figure thanks to last season’s HBO “24/7" series. But he never got past the second round of the playoffs and his recent turn toward a more defensive style fell flat.
General Manager George McPhee said Boudreau had “emptied the tank” in terms of effort. “When that happens, you get a new coach where the tank is full and see if it makes a difference,” McPhee said at a news conference. “I knew the team wasn’t responding anymore and we’ve got their attention now.”
Hunter was given a penalty box as a gift when the Caps retired his number, perfect for his 3,563 penalty minutes and 1,020 points. He’s expected to be tough on a talented team and use his experience as a captain to help Ovechkin become a stronger leader.
The Hurricanes missed the playoffs the last two seasons and were 14th in the East at 8-13-4, leading General Manager Jim Rutherford to hire someone with a fresh perspective. “I really wanted to bring somebody in that had some ideas from another organization,” Rutherford said.
Although the Ducks are worse off than the Capitals or Hurricanes, they made no executive changes Monday. Michael Schulman, the Ducks’ chief executive, gave a vote of confidence to General Manager Bob Murray when asked to assess the club’s status. Schulman has deferred to Murray regarding decisions on Coach Randy Carlyle.
“We are certainly frustrated with the results to this point but remain optimistic that we can turn this season around,” Schulman said. “Bob has been largely responsible for a great deal of our success since he joined the organization, and we have complete confidence he will lead us out of this difficult time as well.”
Budding progress for Maple Leafs
Three years ago Tuesday, Brian Burke became the president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and brought truculence back to the Center of the Hockey Universe.
Burke, an advocate of rugged, hard-nosed hockey, endured some criticism but has made great progress in his rebuilding efforts. The Maple Leafs moved into first place in the Northeast and second in the East on Sunday with a 5-2 victory over the Ducks, extending their winning streak to three games.
Burke has also found some personal vindication. He was roasted for trading two first-round picks and a second-rounder to Boston for winger Phil Kessel in 2009, but Kessel leads the NHL with 16 goals and 31 points. Winger Joffrey Lupul, another Burke acquisition, ranks third with 29 points.
“There’s 5 million people in the Greater Toronto area, and all of them think they know more about fixing this team than I do,” Burke said Sunday in Anaheim. “I think I have the best job in hockey and the worst job when the team is not playing well.
“But I think people see now that some of the building blocks are in place. I think in Canada they need to see a plan. They need to see a blueprint. They need to believe in the process, and I think they see it’s coming together now.”
The Maple Leafs have competed hard despite a flurry of injuries. No. 1 goalie James Reimer has missed more than a month because of what’s believed to be a concussion, but the team has developed a new resourcefulness.
“To me, to keep winning your share of games when you’re banged up, that’s the mark of a team that’s figured it out,” Burke said. “So I think we’re for real. Boston’s going to be a real tough team to catch and Buffalo’s real good. . . . It’s far from over for us. We’ve just got to keep working.”
Burke recently turned his talents to a new area: social media. He set up a Twitter account as @LeafsBB20 and said he writes his own tweets but has someone edit them. “That way I can’t grab my Blackberry at midnight one night and haul someone off,” he said. “I think it’s important. There’s too much misinformation. This is our chance to distill it.”
With his team generating mostly good news, there’s little need to distill it — just edit it to fit 140-character bursts.