- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Washington Capitals‘ defense put together a good effort Tuesday night in the first game under new coach Dale Hunter. But that progress wasn’t enough to spare assistant coach Bob Woods his job.

Woods was informed by general manager George McPhee after that 2-1 loss that he was being replaced, something that the 43-year-old said shocked him a little bit.

“It took me by surprise,” Woods said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I think with everybody it was already a little bit of an emotional roller coaster for the guys — Bruce leaving and Dale coming in — you’ve got some changes to the system and everything. It was going to be a little bit of an adjustment period for guys to play the way that Dale wanted.”

Now, that adjustment will go on with Jim Johnson as Woods is left to reassess and look for another job. His son Brendan is a freshman on the University of Wisconsin hockey team. The Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League just lost coach Kirk Muller to the Carolina Hurricanes, but Woods losing his job came a couple days after Milwaukee promoted assistant Ian Herbers.

“It would’ve been a nice fit, especially with it being close to where my son plays,” Woods admitted. “I don’t know what’s going to happen [next]. It’s just kind of letting everything settle here, talk with the family, see if there’s any options out there. When something comes up, you can kind of make a decision with what you want to do.”

Johnson’s deal to join the Caps happened in the afternoon, but Woods still coached against the St. Louis Blues. Not only did he find out after the game that he was out, but he spoke to recently deposed coach Bruce Boudreau about the situation.

Boudreau explained the move as the same thing that happened when he replaced Jay Leach with Woods before the 2008-09 season. He wanted his guy, and Hunter did the same thing.

“He understands as well. Bob’s a great, loyal guy that knows his hockey,” Boudreau said. “He’ll bounce back. He was really good for the Washington Capitals. You can ask all the defensemen and all the people that worked around him appreciate how big an effort he put in. I was really proud to have him as my assistant coach.”

Players reacted with the same sense of pride and regret when Woods lost his job. John Carlson, who won a Calder Cup with Woods when he was at the helm of the Hershey Bears, said it’s tough because he “really did like” Woods — but deferred to management on the decision to fire him.

Perhaps it won’t be as easy for Woods to find a new job in the middle of the season, but he said he appreciated the NHL experience and how that could help him for his next gig. And his ex-players don’t think he’ll have any trouble.

“You try to do what you do the best, and hopefully show some respect and some team’s going to like you,” defenseman Roman Hamrlik said. “If you can coach, you can coach. He knows the game, and I wish him all the best, and I’m sure he’s going to coach one day somewhere.”

As for the Caps and their defense, which has struggled mightily in recent weeks, Woods is equally as optimistic that his old unit will figure it out.

“I think it’s just going to be a little bit of a process,” Woods said. “I think once it all comes into place, I think they’ll be fine.”