BALLSTON, VA - Three hours after the announcement of Bruce Boudreau's dismissal was made official, Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee explained his reasoning.
"The reason for the change was we weren't winning," McPhee said to an assembly of reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex "This wasn't a slump. You can ride out slumps. This was simply a case of the players were no longer responding to Bruce. When you see that...you have to make a change."
In four seasons with the Caps, Boudreau led the Caps to four straight Southeast Division championships and a President's Trophy. He amassed a 201-88-40 regular season record and his 200th win came just last week, making him the fastest coach in NHL history to reach that mark. Yet, a 5-9-1 tailspin - specifically after last week's 0-3 road trip - juxtaposed by a 7-0-0 start was the end of Boudreau's tenure.
"I didn't like some of the things that I saw in training camp and some of the preseason games," McPhee said. "I don't want to put too much into that, but I was worried then. Then, we had a great start and then we started to slip up. You have an injury here or there that you think is part of it, but ultimately, we have too many players that aren't playing well and that's what it comes down to. They can play better. You have to find out how to make them play better and we think this is the solution."
Boudreau spent the first 22 games of this season trying to hold his players more accountable. He benched Alex Ovechkin at the end of a game; he scratched Alexander Semin last Monday; he scratched Joel Ward Wednesday for missing a team meeting. When asked if Boudreau's approach to accountability had anything to do with the decision to fire him, McPhee said it wasn't a large factor.
"I don't think accountability was the real issue here," McPhee said. "The issue was we weren't playing very well. I think Bruce came in here and emptied the tank. He gave it everything he could and did a really good job, but the tank was empty. When that happens, you get a new coach where the tank is full and see if it makes a difference."
McPhee said that he and Boudreau had a meeting around 6:15 a.m. this morning and that Boudreau was a "class act."
"You don't want to make these decisions, but when you see what I saw, you have to make the decision," McPhee continued. "You can't look the other way. I've seen it in a few games recently, enough that I knew the team wasn't responding. We've got their attention now and hopefully they'll respond in the right way."
In regards to Boudreau's replacement, Dale Hunter, McPhee said that the two had been in touch about the head coaching position for about a week, but McPhee said that he's wanted Hunter to coach the Caps for a long time.
"We've talked consistently over 12 years," McPhee said. "I was always hoping that one day Dale could coach this team. Timing's everything and the time is right now."