Alexander Ovechkin Got Bruce Boudreau Fired… Sort of

Bruce Boudreau was fired as head coach of the Washington Capitals after scuffles with Alexander Ovechkin, a lost locker room, years of playoff disappointment, and a mid-season slump.

Hopefully Bruce Boudreau learned a valuable lesson about “people skills” in the NHL. After sitting Alexander Ovechkin to send a message in the final minutes of a tight game, collapsing one of the league’s hottest and most talented teams, and failing to regain control of the season, Bruce Boudreau has been let go by the Washington Capitals.

Last year, Boudreau had a far longer leash than this season. The Caps rode through a “system change” that tried to convert Ovechkin into a “two-way player” and the lengthy slump that followed. All ended well as the Capitals finished first in the East, and Boudreau was given the benefit of the doubt because he’d won with a similar roster in years past. However, the Caps again failed to deliver a championship to an increasingly hockey-minded city and Boudreau was once again criticized for it. Alexander Ovechkin never won a championship in the NHL either, but he’ll be a Cap for life.

Bruce Boudreau was home-grown talent that came through the minor league system, appeared in two championships, won one of them, and got promoted to the NHL. He had decent enough success with a talented team. Unfortunately, Bruce Boudreau had a poor record in the playoffs, which left him with very little clout. There was no reason to give Boudreau the benefit of the doubt anymore because he’s failed in four playoff appearances and disappointed under high expectations. His impressive regular season record wasn’t enough to keep him around after he’d lost the locker room, and after last year’s lengthy offensive drought and this season’s recent slump, it was time to say goodbye. Mostly, however, Bruce Boudreau was fired because of Alexander Ovechkin.

Bruce Boudreau couldn’t win with one of the most talented offensive players ever and after a while an organization has to think someone else can. Ovechkin’s playoff numbers are incredible – 50 points in 37 games. Quite simply, with a superstar of that caliber that performs under the clutch, you shouldn’t lose. The pieces have always been there but the coach failed to put them together. If Ovi didn’t show up for the playoffs he’d get the blame, but with that kind of production you need to win in the playoffs after being a top seed in the regular season.

Boudreau divided the locker room by keeping the best offensive weapon in the league (at the time) on the bench while trying to tie a game late in regulation. Ovechkin had been slumping (he’d recently posted a -4 in the worst game of his career), but if you make players choose between the best player on the team and their coach, not everyone will fall in line.

Lastly, Boudreau put the organization in a tough spot, even if they wanted to keep the coach they brought through the system. There had to be a degree of pride associated with creating a successful NHL coach from the bowels of their AHL program, but Boudreau wanted to go out on his own terms. If you’re visibly in conflict with the franchise player that is signed for the next eight years, your owner is going to make a decision you don’t like. But at least Boudreau left with some dignity in tact.

Ovechkin was slumping and angry, the team was slumping and divided, the owner was frustrated by years of disappointment, and it was time for Boudreau to go. Ovechkin isn’t a two-way player and his new coach wants to let his scorers score and leave the thinking out of the offense. The pieces are there, and I’m sure the Caps are about to surge. If a coaching change worked for the Blues, it will work for a team that actually has skilled players.

Mark Donatiello
Follow me on Twitter:  @FasterHockey more


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