ARLINGTON, Va. -- Glen Hanlon was fired as coach of the
NHL-worst Washington Capitals on Thursday, with the team off to its
slowest start in 26 years.
Hanlon, in his fourth season at the helm, was told of the
decision a day after loud boos and chants of "Fire Hanlon!"
echoed through the arena during a 5-1 home loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, Washington's fifth consecutive defeat.
"He understood that it had to be done. We had talked after our
game on Monday night and had some concerns about whether he was
losing the team," general manager George McPhee said at the team's
"For the most part this year, I thought we were a team that
played hard and wasn't getting rewarded. But the last few games it
looked like we'd lost the team, and you can't ignore that. You have
to do something about it."
Hanlon will be replaced on an interim basis by Bruce Boudreau,
the coach of the Hershey Bears, Washington's American Hockey League
Boudreau got a call from McPhee at about 7 a.m. Thursday, hopped
in his car and drove for nearly 3 hours, then ran the Capitals'
practice, barking instructions and making the last player to reach
a huddle skate a lap.
He will make his NHL coaching debut Friday at Philadelphia.
"I haven't really had a lot of time to focus on too much,
except that it's unfortunate because Glen was a good friend of
mine," Boudreau said. "But at the same time, I've sort of waited
32 years for this opportunity, so I'm looking forward to the
Boudreau, who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks, is familiar with several of the Capitals' players,
having coached seven current members of the roster at Hershey,
which he led to the 2006 Calder Cup title.
He takes over a club that is 6-14-1 for 13 points, four fewer
than any other team in the league through Wednesday.
McPhee met with the players Thursday and "told them they should
meet together for a little bit and talk about what's been going on
here, because some of them have to pull up their socks."
After beginning the season 3-0, the Capitals have lost nine of
10 games, and 15 of 18, leaving them with their lowest 21-game
point total since having 12 in the 1981-82 season.
"It's a new page," star forward Alex Ovechkin said after the
team's first practice under Boudreau.
Expectations among the Capitals -- from team owner Ted Leonsis
right down to Ovechkin and other players -- were high entering the
season, because of the addition of a few free agents and the team's
top pick in the 2006 draft.
But other than Ovechkin, the team has had plenty of trouble
scoring, and the problems have spread to other areas in recent
games. Washington keeps falling behind and failing to recover,
going 1-10-1 when opponents score first, and turnovers and poor
line changes have been increasing.
"Hopefully a fresh voice will get some guys going here,"
goalie Olaf Kolzig said.
Hanlon leaves his first NHL head coaching job with a 78-123-9-29
After Wednesday night's loss, he was asked whether he believes
his players can turn things around.
"Of course I do -- or I wouldn't go in tomorrow," Hanlon
replied, his voice soft and words slow. "You never stop believing.
That's the real hard part of handling losing, is that you can never
stop believing. ... I believe in the players."
The Capitals promoted Hanlon from assistant coach to head coach
in December 2003, replacing the fired Bruce Cassidy. Washington
wound up finishing last in its division that season, as well as in
each of Hanlon's two full seasons.
But after slumping to 27th in the 30-team NHL in both 2005-06
and 2006-07 -- when they had the lowest payroll in the league -- the
Capitals came into this season counting on being an improved club,
an optimism reflected in the motto, "New Look. New Season. New
Leonsis proclaimed "the rebuild is over" in an interview with
Associated Press reporters and editors two days before the start of
training camp, while Hanlon spoke early in the regular season about
the team being ready to "shift from development to winning."
"Glen did a real nice job bringing some of our young players
along," McPhee said. "It's not an easy thing, this process of
trying to build a team and build a winning team. It takes time."