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Hunter says Caps need his experience


Hunter says Caps need his experience

In 16 years as an NHL player, Tim Hunter suited up for 815 regular season games and another 132 in the playoffs.

He went to the Stanley Cup Final three times as a player, winning the Cup in 1989 with the Calgary Flames

In 13 years as an NHL assistant coach, Hunter worked 1,041 regular season games and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1998 under former Capitals coach Ron Wilson.

So it should come as no surprise that when asked what hell bring to Adam Oates staff as a newly appointed assistant coach, Hunter thumbed through a resume that is nearly 30 years in the making.

Every organization needs experience, whether its in management, scouting or with the players, Hunter, 51, said Monday in a conference call. Its the same with coaching.

You need experience on a coaching staff. I talked to Adam early on and he was looking for someone with experience and I definitely have that. Im a career assistant coach and Im looking forward to helping Adam and Calle Johansson become better coaches and the Caps become a better organization.

Hunters coaching career has come full circle. Capitals general manager George McPhee gave him his first coaching job in 1997 after Hunter retired as a player at the age of 36. Fifteen years later, Hunter is coming back to D.C., where he coached under Wilson from 1997-2002.

Hunter said he learned a lot under Wilson and fellow Caps assistant Tim Army in those first few years in Washington and says now its now my turn to do the same thing for Oates, who has three years of experience as an NHL assistant, and Johansson, who has none.

The most important thing is how you treat the players, Hunter said. I got into this to treat the players the way I liked to be treated. You always have to separate the player from the person.

If he had a bad game hes not a bad guy. You have to make the players enjoy coming to the rink and working hard.

Each of Hunters 13 seasons as an NHL assistant has come under Wilson. They worked together in Washington, San Jose and Toronto before Hunter was replaced by Scott Gordon following the Maple Leafs 2010-11 season.

A native of Calgary, Hunter spent last season as an instructor at the Okanagan Hockey School in Penticton, British Columbia. And while he appreciated the opportunity to work with young players, Hunter called NHL coaching jobs precious and said he wanted to get back to coaching at the highest level in the world.

Hunter said he expects the Capitals personality to reflect some of the character traits of Wilson, their 57-year-old former coach who was fired by the Leafs midway through last season. Hunter said the Capitals will play aggressive hockey with an engaging defense, a system he and Oates and Johansson learned under Wilson.

Ron Wilson, in my mind, is one of the most intelligent people in the game and definitely Adam is right there with the intelligence level, Hunter said.

As for the 2012-13 Capitals, Hunter said he believes the teams new coaching staff has a lot with which to work.

They have tremendous potential and thats our job -- to make sure they reach that potential, Hunter said. They have some exciting, talented players on defense and lots of talent up front.

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Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?


Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

Tarik: The term ‘Stanley Cup Hangover’ exists because, well, it’s a real thing. And the Caps, like all teams that battle into early June, are vulnerable to suffering from it next season.

Why? Think about it. No. 1, the core group just completed the longest season—106 games—of their lives (and, somewhere, the party is still going). No. 2, the top guys aren't exactly a bunch of spring chickens. No. 3, human nature.

A little more on that last one. Alex Ovechkin and Co. have spent the entirety of their professional hockey careers chasing Lord Stanley’s Cup. And now they have it. At long last. Hoisting the Cup was as much a moment to cherish as it was a gigantic relief for a team that had been labeled perennial underachievers. Shifting gears from that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment back to hunger and determination is difficult.

Something else that worries me a bit? They don’t have experience dealing with a truncated offseason. Rest and recovery matter. And they aren’t going to get much of either this summer.

All that said, they don’t have to stumble through the 2018-19 season. If you're looking at things from the optimist's point of view, the Cup run did something for Ovechkin and his teammates that none of the previous failures could: It showed them EXACTLY what it takes to play deep into the spring.

Eleven out of 12 forwards from the championship squad are expected back. Five of six defensemen and the goalie are returning, as well. Sure, they’ve got a new head coach, but he’s been here for four years already, giving him a huge advantage over a bench boss who’s starting from scratch. So there’s continuity and chemistry already built in.

I look at it like this: The core guys who’ve been around a while—Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson, Holtby, etc.—have a rare opportunity before them. After coming up short for so many years, they’ve been gifted an extraordinary chance to make up for lost time over the next 12-24 months. In fact, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Oshie, Eller, Carlson, Niskanen, Orlov, Kempny and Holtby have two more years together, as a core, before the next round of tough decisions will need to be made.

But it’s going to be up to them. Are they going to be satisfied with one Cup? Or will they get greedy? I’m betting on the latter.

Regan: The Capitals could enter next season hungry, motivated, in the right mindset, completely prepared in every way to avoid a Cup hangover and it may still happen. Why? Because the Capitals (and Vegas for that matter) will enter next season with less time to rest, recover and prepare after a grueling playoff run than any other team in the NHL.

First things first, no, I do not think the Caps will struggle because they are are partying too hard this summer and won't be ready for the start of the season.

It took a long time Washington to finally reach the top of the mountain. It won't be lost on Alex Ovechkin, or any of the veterans, that the year he came into training camp early and in really good shape, that was the year he was able to lead his team to the promised land. Considering all the struggles, all the early playoff exits, all the years it took to finally win, I expect the veterans will look at how they prepared last season and take that lesson to heart going into camp. Those players will enter the fall in as good a shape as the time they have this offseason will allow them to be.

But this team is not just composed of veterans of the Ovechkin era who suffered through all of those postseason struggles.

What about the youngsters? Will Jakub Vrana have the same motivation as Ovechkin or a Nicklas Backstrom to show up to camp ready next season? What about Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey? If any of the team's young players aren't exactly in "game shape" by the fall, they won't be the first and they certainly won't be the last to struggle with early career playoff success.

There's also a new head coach to consider. In a lot of ways, I think coming into the season with a new coach in Todd Reirden will help. I don't expect too much adjustment under a coach the team knows very well, but I do expect more motivation at the start of the regular season than you usually see from a team coming off a championship.

There are a lot of reasons why the Caps could actually avoid a Cup hangover, but the fact is that time puts them at a disadvantage. Even if they overcome all the other factors, there's nothing they can do to suddenly give themselves more time to recover and to train. For that reason alone, I do expect a few early-season struggles from the defending champs.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.