You’re a hockey team off to a slow start. What do you do to try and placate your fanbase? Why, you fire your head coach, of course! Even if they were never a problem before, even if the team had success with them at the helm, and even if the impact of a coach is grossly overstated in the world of sports, it is an easy move. Sure, there are coaches that are not good at their jobs, but more often than not other reasons lead to a coach being fired, and usually it is a team underperforming. As such, the Carolina Hurricanes have fired Paul Maurice, and the Washington Capitals have fired Bruce Boudreau.
The Maurice firing is less surprising. The Canes are 8-13-4 this season with 20 points. Only the lowly New York Islanders have less points, Carolina also has a minus-23 goal differential, which is poor. To be fair, Maurice never should have put that hex on Eric Staal to make him play so badly, and he is also, of course, responsible for the fact that Cam Ward and Brian Boucher have struggled as well.
Maurice has spent a lot of years with the Hurricanes over two stints. In 2008-2009, he helped lead them to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, they have not made the playoffs since, although they were close last season. Maurice will be replaced by Kirk Muller. Muller was considered one of the best coaching prospects out there, and now he will get his chance to finally show what he can do at the NHL level.
The Boudreau firing, on the other hand, is a bit ridiculous. The team is 12-9-1 and has 25 points, although they have a minus-3 goal differential. Yes, the Capitals have high hopes. They expect to contend for the best record in the league and for the Stanley Cup. There are 60 games left in their season, so I fully expect them to do just that. They just won’t be doing it with Boudreau.
Boudreau took over in the 2007-2008 season, and he led the Capitals to the playoffs all four years. Sure, they never made it past the conference semifinals, and a lot of inane words were spilled over that, but they were a perennial success. Now, of course, Boudreau is a lousy coach and cannot be trusted to helm this team. He will be replaced by Dale Hunter, a beloved former Capital who has spent the last decade or so coaching the London Knights of the OHL. He was also suspended multiple times as a head coach, which is fitting given that perhaps his most notable contribution to the NHL was his pathetic hit from behind on Pierre Turgeon that got him suspended for 21 games.
Look, I am well aware that I do not know what has been going on in these two locker rooms. I’m sure there will be talking of Maurice and Boudreau “losing their players” and that makes them easy scapegoats since, you know, you can’t get rid of the players. You also can’t expect them to be professional, evidently. Also, apparently players only play hard and try when the coach is cajoling them with their words.
Maurice and Boudreau didn’t change as coaches. They just found themselves in situations that their bosses were not happy with. As such, they have gotten fired. Now, Muller and Hunter, two first time NHL head coaches, get their chance to keep their front offices from looking foolish. Good luck.