On exit day following the Capitals' playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last spring, talk swirled outside the organization about coach Bruce Boudreau's job status.
General manager George McPhee said "I expect him to be back," and complimented Boudreau's accomplishments. But there was no declaration from McPhee or owner Ted Leonsis, and team spokesmen said there wouldn't be one.
This week in a sit-down interview with The Washington Times, McPhee explained why he decided to stick with Boudreau after another early playoff exit.
"I think we change coaches too much in this business. I think it's easy to finger people after things don't go the way you want them to," McPhee said. "But this happens with every organization in every sport: Automatically you go after the manager, you go after the coach.
"I look at a coach who's got the best winning percentage in the regular season of any coach in the history of the league. No coach has had a better record after this many games. He's won four straight division titles, he's won a Presidents' Trophy, he's won two Eastern Conference titles — pretty good record. It doesn't always go your way in the playoffs, but as long as you're getting there and playing well and competing, that's what we want."
Going into this season, national analysts are wondering if Boudreau is on the hot seat and what it would take for the Caps to fire him.
"This is a team that most people think they would've replaced the coach by now," TSN's Bob McKenzie said recently. "George said the problem's not the coach, so full credit to George for showing loyalty to Bruce Boudreau.
"But the results have to be here. I don't think the Caps can afford to get off to a slow start."
Naturally, the hockey world will be looking at the Caps' situation — but maybe not until the playoffs, which is the time they have something to prove.
"I think there's got to be a couple of bulls-eyes in my opinion. And yes, Bruce is certainly going to have scrutiny on what he does," NBC Sports' Mike Milbury said on a teleconference this week.
But when asked if he thought such criticism of Boudreau and questioning of his job status was unfair, McPhee was brief.
"How would they know?" he said. "We're just going to keep putting good teams on the ice and see what happens."
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