Capitals facing big offseason questions
When Dale Hunter and George McPhee met to talk about Hunter's coaching the Washington Capitals following the firing of Bruce Boudreau, Hunter made one promise: He'd get the Capitals playing the right way.
"He thought he could, and he accomplished what he thought he could do with them," McPhee, Washington's GM, said Monday when he addressed the media.
Hunter is headed back to London, Ontario, but if you listen to McPhee talk, it's clear he believes that Hunter's impact will be felt within this organization for a long, long time. Last year's team exited the playoffs at the hands of an ugly sweep by the Tampa Bay Lightning, but there's no doubt that this season's team could still be playing. That's why the tone from McPhee was a little different during Monday's exit interview. There were plenty of moments this season when it felt like this Capitals core needed to be blown up. Monday wasn't one of them.
"This team could have won a Stanley Cup this year. It was a very solid team that played great hockey," McPhee said. "The interesting thing about our league now, in some ways it's harder to win a Cup, in some ways it's easier. It might be easier because there really are no dynasties anymore. You're not going to run into a team you just can't beat."
It makes McPhee's decisions this summer that much more difficult. He could send out the same group and expect to challenge for a title in a wide-open Eastern Conference. But it's not that easy. Hunter's return to the OHL means that's not happening, and that won't be the only change in D.C. Here are a few of the biggest decisions McPhee faces:
Whom do you hire as head coach?
Around 10 a.m. Monday, Hunter confirmed what McPhee suspected: He wasn't coming back. Now comes the difficult job of replacing someone McPhee credits with teaching his team how to win. "I'm not in any rush," McPhee said. "I don't know if it will be by the draft or sometime in August. We have to take our time and get the right person."
To read Craig Custance's full take on the questions facing the Capitals this offseason, you must be an ESPN Insider.