- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The life span of an NHL coach is short, based on lack of success and the idea that his voice stops being heard.

Dale Hunter waited for his chance, spending more than nine years honing his coaching craft with the London Knights (Ontario Hockey League) before taking over the Washington Capitals.

He knew at the time it would be a “full commitment” — but it’s also one that is shorter than most expected when he replaced Bruce Boudreau. As it turns out, Hunter and the Capitals agreed to just a one-year deal, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told The Washington Times and 106.7 The Fan. Those sources requested to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to comment on the matter.

“I don’t discuss coaches’ contracts,” general manager George McPhee said Wednesday. “I never have, never will.”

A contract that ends after this season was mutually agreed to in part because Hunter’s future could depend on the Caps’ success and because it affords the 51-year-old the flexibility to see if he likes coaching at the professional level, one source said.

Hunter is a co-owner of the Knights along with his brother Mark, who had been serving as general manager and took over as coach Nov. 28. Dale Hunter was in the midst of his 10th season in London when he accepted the job with the Capitals. One reason for a one-year deal is that Dale Hunter could potentially return to a comfortable situation with the Knights if things don’t work out in the NHL.

Mark Hunter said it has been a good transition, and he was focused on the upcoming world junior championship and its effect on the Knights more than the long-term future of the coaching position there.

“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” Mark Hunter said. “It’ll all break loose how it happens in Washington. That’ll be up to Dale.”

The Caps are 5-5 since Hunter’s arrival, showing progress in fits and spurts. Players are gaining more knowledge of the system and his emphasis on video, it seems, each practice. Going into Wednesday night, the Caps were ninth in the Eastern Conference with 35 points in 32 games.

Tuesday night was perhaps the best game under Hunter — a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators.

“Just a great win all around,” Mike Knuble said after the game. “That’s what we should be doing on a more consistent basis. We intend to.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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