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Ovechkin's role in Hunter's decision


Ovechkin's role in Hunter's decision

It has become a popular notion that whenever a coach of the Washington Capitals is removed, his dismissal is covered with Alex Ovechkins finger prints.

Fair or unfair, it happened with Glen Hanlon, then Bruce Boudreau and now Dale Hunter.

But is it true?

When you factor in Hunter's agreement to coach the Capitals for just one year and his gravitational pull toward his family-run businesses in London, Ontario, it would seem Ovechkin had little to do with his decision to walk away from the only NHL head coaching job he'll ever have.

But with a new coach yet to be named, it's worth examining the six-month relationship Ovechkin had with Hunter during his brief and occasionally stormy tenure in D.C.

It doesnt matter if I like it or not, because hes my coach and I have to listen, Ovechkin said when asked of his ability to adapt to less ice time under Hunter. He said, You have to be a plumber, so I was a plumber.

Ovechkin is not paid to be a plumber. He has nine years and nearly 86 million remaining on the contract he signed four years ago. Thats serious money for a player who finished the regular season well below his career averages with 38 goals, 27 assists and a minus-8 rating.

Under Boudreau and Hunter, Ovechkin averaged 19:51 of ice time during the regular season, well below his career average of more than 22 minutes. And if you take away the Capitals triple overtime loss to the Rangers in Game 4, he averaged less than 19 minutes in the playoffs, recording five goals and four assists and a minus-2 rating in 14 games.

And if you break it down into playoff wins and losses, Ovechkin averaged more than 19 minutes of ice time in games the Capitals won and less than 15 minutes in games they lost, excluding the triple overtime defeat.

He treat me like a soldier, Ovechkin told Comcast SportsNets Jill Sorenson.

If I play 20 minutes and the next game I only play 12 minutes I have to suck it up. If somebody like Jay Beagle is going to get 25 minutes of course Im not going to be happy. But I have to suck it up because its for the team.

According to several players, Ovechkins acceptance of his reduced role on the Capitals was a slow and sometimes painful one. There were cold stares and locker room yelling matches.

I dont know how to explain better, Ovechkin said. Sometimes you dont have to be jealous. I dont want to say it was like a jealous situation for us. Sometimes you just have to be a group together.

I dont want to say persons, I dont want to say situations, but sometimes you just know. Some guys, if you didnt play well they just look at you. You can see it, I can see it, somebody else going to see it. Thats not the way were going to win.

Through it all and Hunter was unyielding in his demands on the Capitals 26-year-old captain, keeping him on the bench in games the Capitals were leading and double shifting him in games they were losing.

Of course, I was sometimes mad about playing minimum minutes in the game and I know I can do better job if I was out there, Ovechkin said. But you have to suck it up and do what you have to do.

Hunter said he tried to explain his rationale to Ovechkin, saying he could do more for the Capitals than be on the ice for just as many goals against as goals for.

Definitely we had player-coach talks, like Dont put pressure on yourself, its a team a game out there and we need everyone to play, Hunter said.

Following Saturday nights Game 7 loss to the Rangers in New York, Hunter was asked to assess the play of Ovechkin. His terse response was, He was good.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Obviously, he didnt have the best season in points, teammate Nicklas Backstrom said. But he was blocking shots and playing good defensively and I really think he grew.

Defenseman Roman Hamrlik agreed.

We all learned in the playoffs that when youre up a goal or two you need more forwards who play better defense, Hamrlik said. I think he learned that and he scored huge goals for us. But if were losing by a goal he needs to be on the ice and make something happen.

The one thing I learned about Ovechkin is that he is hard working and he hates losing. He wants to win and hes a winner. He gives everything on the ice. There have been some situations where hes not happy. But I wasnt happy when I was a healthy scratch. But Im not looking back, Im looking forward. I think hes a good leader. He works hard every shift and thats positive.

Ovechkin said the 2011-12 Capitals molded themselves into the most tightly-knit team he has been a part of since arriving in Washington seven years ago. Whether that continues will depend largely on the relationship he forges with the new coach of the Capitals, his fourth.

Im sure were going to talk about the whole ice time situation, Ovechkin said. I hope were going to have a connection.

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Term, not money, was the main sticking point in Brian MacLellan's negotiations with Barry Trotz


Term, not money, was the main sticking point in Brian MacLellan's negotiations with Barry Trotz

Despite winning a Stanley Cup less than two weeks ago, the Capitals found themselves without a head coach on Monday with the stunning news of Barry Trotz’s resignation.

At Wednesday’s breakdown day, Trotz told the media he wanted to be back in Washington. General manager Brian MacLellan said he wanted Trotz back. But both alluded to possible issues that had to be sorted out in any contract negotiations.

Obviously, those issues were not resolved.

“[Trotz’s] representative wants to take advantage of Barry’s experience and Stanley Cup win and is trying to negotiate a deal that compensates him as one of the better coaches in the league, a top four or five coach,” MacLellan said in a press conference with the media on Monday. “He’s looking for that kind of contract.”

But if you think money was the main sticking point between the two sides, that’s not the case. Money was a factor, but there was a bigger factor that held up negotiations, according to MacLellan.

“I think the five-year term is probably a sticking point,” he said. “We have a coach that's been here four years. You do another five, that's nine years. There's not many coaches that have that lasting ability. It's a long time and it's a lot of money to be committing to that, to a coach.”

Of the head coaches currently employed in the NHL, only Joel Quenneville has been the head coach of his current team, the Chicago Blackhawks, for over nine years.

Trotz’s contract included a clause that would extend his deal a further two years if the team won the Stanley Cup. While the team was comfortable with that clause and did engage in talks on renegotiating the contract after the season, they were not willing to sign him to a deal as expensive or, more critically, for as long as Trotz sought.

“I don’t think all teams pay that type of money and years," MacLellan said. "Certain teams are open to it and the rest of the league isn’t.”


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Before Capitals' Barry Trotz, here are other coaches who didn't return after a championship victory


Before Capitals' Barry Trotz, here are other coaches who didn't return after a championship victory

 Barry Trotz resigned as the coach of the Washington Capitals, the team announced Monday, less than a week after the team's Stanley Cup championship parade. 

In part of a statement via Trotz's agent, the departing coach said:

After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals. When I came to Washington four years ago we had one goal in mind and that was to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital.

As shocking as the news may be to fans who are still celebrating the team’s first Stanley Cup championship, Trotz isn’t the first coach to not return to a team following a title.

He joins a handful of hockey coaches who have made similar moves for differing reasons, including:

— Scotty Bowman (1978-79 Montreal Canadiens)

— Bob Johnson (1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins)

— Mike Keenan (1993-94 New York Rangers)

— Scotty Bowman (2001-02 Detroit Red Wings)

But this isn’t exclusive to hockey.

Multiple coaches in other sports have also called it quits after raising their respective trophies, and here are some of the notable ones.

Most recently, Zinedine Zidane caught everyone by surprise when he resigned as Real Madrid’s manager five days after leading the team to a third straight UEFA Champions League title.

After the Chicago Bulls’ 1998 NBA championship — also Michael Jordan’s final season in the Windy City — Phil Jackson resigned and took a year off before returning to coaching.

In 1990, Bill Parcells won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants and didn’t return, while Dick Vermeil did the same thing with the then-St. Louis Rams in 1999.

Jimmy Johnson led the Dallas Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl titles during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons before parting ways with the team.