- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Even more than 48 hours removed from being fired as Washington Capitals coach, Bruce Boudreau struggled to come up with answers to explain how things went so wrong so quickly.

He was never sure the ax was going to fall, but he could sense things deteriorating.

“There was moments that I thought something could happen. After the Buffalo game I thought, ‘Geez, this isn’t good.’ I also thought after the Toronto game, I didn’t think it was very good to lose 7-1 to Toronto - even though I think Toronto’s got a pretty good team this year,” he said. “I didn’t know. I think sometimes most coaches feel that when they’re not going well that something bad can happen.”

Something bad happened to Boudreau early Monday morning as he was replaced by Dale Hunter. The Capitals are moving in a new direction while their former coach is left to ponder 201 wins and no playoff runs beyond the second round since taking the job Thanksgiving Day 2007.

Boudreau admitted the Capitals stopped responding, and that spelled the end, even if he was having trouble coming to grips with players not listening.

“I thought I played hard because I played for my teammates and I played because I wanted to win,” he said. “I might’ve hated certain coaches that I played for, but it wasn’t going to stop me from playing.”

Boudreau’s contract lasts one more season after this one, so he could have plenty of time to find answers. But more than likely he won’t be out of a job for long.

The Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche and New York Islanders are among struggling teams that could make a change behind the bench. And Boudreau would love to jump right back in.

“Absolutely. It’s what I do. I love hockey and I love my job,” he said. “Even when things are going bad, I love my job. I love going to work in the morning, and I feel comfortable when I’m behind my desk or behind the bench or talking to guys or being on the ice. It’s something that I would relish doing.”

Boudreau’s time in D.C. was marked by underachieving in the playoffs but abundant regular-season success. He won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach in 2007-08 for helping the Caps reach the playoffs after a horrid start under Glen Hanlon.

Coaches with that kind of resume aren’t plentiful, and many in the past few days have described Boudreau as a perfect fit for a team that needs to turn young players into winners.

“He took a team that was struggling and out of the playoff picture - I think he’s good at making believers out of guys,” Boudreau’s former assistant Bob Woods said. “He can make teams come together.”

As of Wednesday morning, no team had contacted Boudreau about an immediate coaching job, but this being the time of year that teams like to make moves, another chance might not be far away. His former players hope he lands another job soon and can put his final weeks in Washington behind him.

“If there’s opportunities out there for coaching jobs, I would assume he’s at the top of a lot of peoples’ lists,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “He’s a great coach, and I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity elsewhere.”

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