Over at CSN Washington, there’s a boatload of quotes and anecdotes from a stunned Washington Capitals group, trying to come to grips with the resignation of head coach Dale Hunter.
It seems the Caps were genuinely surprised by Hunter’s decision to leave. Brooks Laich said it caught him off guard, “because I thought [Hunter] really enjoyed it.”
“I just had a short chat with him and shook his hand and asked him if there’s anything I can do to convince him to stay,” Laich explained. “I was sort of shocked when I found out, but he will be missed.”
Defenseman Karl Alzner was also stunned to learn the news.
“It surprised me a fair bit,” Alzner said. “I didn’t know what to expect, I knew it was a possibility but I think it’s taken a lot of guys by surprise.”
After surprise, the next most common reaction was disappointment.
From Mike Green (“We’re sad to see him go”) to Nicklas Backstrom (“It kind of sucks, actually”) to Jay Beagle (“It wasn’t what I wanted to hear”), the news of losing Hunter hit hard.
Beagle went to far as to say he “loved” Hunter as a coach and that sentiment seemed to stretch across a number of guys who experienced winning in a whole new way this postseason.
For the first time in a long time, the Capitals won playoff games they weren’t supposed to. They also showed a gritty, determined, resilient side many weren’t sure they had. Their seven-game ouster of the defending Cup champion Bruins and pushing the top-seeded Rangers to the brink said a lot about how much the team had grown.
The Capitals, in turn, explained that their playoff success said a lot about Hunter.
“He taught us as much about leadership and team aspect, and respect amongst players and trust in teammates as he did about hockey,” Laich said. “It’s like having another veteran in the locker room.
“He was great.”