Tag: Dale Hunter

Jay Beagle

Top dog: Beagle to Caps first line, Penner down to fourth


Jay Beagle isn’t exactly a household name in the NHL, but now he’s Alex Ovechkin’s new first line center. At least according to what coach Adam Oates has done in practice recently that is.

As Katie Carrera of The Washington Post shares, injuries to Brooks Laich and Mikhail Grabovski are forcing Oates to make some moves, and moving Beagle up to the top line is a curious one, but an opportunity he’s looking to take advantage of.

“It’s obviously what every player wants. I want to take this opportunity and I want to run with it,” Beagle said.  “You want to do the best you can not only for yourself , but for your team. We’re making a playoff push every point is so important, everyone is important.”

For the record, Beagle has two goals and seven points this season and has been mostly a fourth line center averaging 10:29 of ice time.

The playoff push is the thing here (they’re two points behind the New York Rangers for the second wild card) and Beagle getting top line duty isn’t the only curious move. Check out the lines they used in practice yesterday.

Nicklas Backstrom working with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Troy Brouwer seems like a way to balance out scoring amongst the top lines, but what’s up with Dustin Penner on the fourth line?

We’ve seen him demoted like this before with the Los Angeles Kings, but when he was picked up by the Caps at the trade deadline it was expected he’d be the left wing on Ovechkin’s line. Now he’s riding with AHL call-up Casey Wellman and rookie Tom Wilson.

If the moves work and the Caps come away with wins against L.A. and Anaheim, Oates will look like a genius. If not, this starts to look like a throwback to when Dale Hunter was running the show.

Caps GM McPhee calls Adam Oates “a blend of the two previous coaches”

Adam Oates

When the Capitals hired Adam Oates to be their head coach following Dale Hunter’s decision to return to London, Ontario, many wondered how he would do with a team in seeming discontent.

After a rocky start, Washington is turning the corner and playing more consistent. They’re two points out of eighth in the Eastern Conference and five back of Winnipeg in the Southeast Division. Caps GM George McPhee is happy with what Oates has done and says he’s a bit of a hybrid coach as Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com shares.

“Coaches have different approaches. There’s a certain way that I think we should do things that is sort of the middle ground with what the previous two coaches did. I think we’ve had some real good coaches here,” McPhee said.

“Having been able to hire Adam and take our time, I think we’ve got a blend of the two previous coaches.”

Washington’s slow start to the season is something that could wind up biting them in the end.

With Alex Ovechkin playing like the Ovi of old (eight goals, five assists in the last nine games) and mostly everyone being healthy (Michal Neuvirth excepted) things have turned around in such a way that making the playoffs is a more than realistic possibility. Not bad for a first-year coach.

Caps GM McPhee on Dale Hunter: “I didn’t expect him to play that defensively”

George McPhee

Over at SB Nation, Ted Starkey relays some intriguing quotes from Washington GM George McPhee’s recent speaking engagement — most notably, McPhee’s thoughts on his former head coach, Dale Hunter.

Here’s McPhee:

“With Dale Hunter, for example, I didn’t expect him to play that defensively. Once we got going, I allowed the coaches to coach the way they wanted to coach.

“Their necks are on the line, I don’t want to be telling them what to do and turn around and fire them for making the wrong decisions. It’s your team, do what you have to do. I try not to talk about what I’m seeing unless they ask.”

Pretty frank admission, no?

Credit to McPhee for not meddling, but it seems wild he’d hire (and continue to employ) Hunter without even discussing the team’s style of play.

Had Hunter been winning, sure, the hands-off approach is great — but the Caps were basically a .500 team under his regime (okay, 30-23-7, and I’m counting the shootout losses as real losses) before gaining a bit of steam in the playoffs (where they performed admirably, but still finished 7-7.)

All this said, and reading firmly between the lines, one can conclude that while McPhee didn’t expect Hunter to play so defensively, he certainly liked it.

When Hunter announced that he was leaving the team, McPhee said he “loved everything about Dale” and praised how Hunter “really taught club the ‘how’ of winning.”

All of which leads to the big, pressing question: Will he employ the same hands-off approach with Adam Oates?

Michal Neuvirth sounds off on Semin, Ovechkin, and Dale Hunter

Michal Neuvirth

Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth decided to spice up the offseason by speaking his mind on Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin, and Dale Hunter in an interview with a Czech website. Caps blog Russian Machine Never Breaks translated the story and boy did Neuvirth speak his mind.

On Semin:

“If Semin wanted to, he could have been the best player in the world, but he doesn’t want to every day. And that’s wrong.”

On Ovechkin:

“He isn’t what he used to be, that’s for sure. And if a team like ours wants to have a chance in Stanley Cup, we need Ovi to be the best. We all expect that from him; he has to be the real leader. But it’s hard you know, he achieved everything as a player. He was on absolute top, and then one can only fall down. I just hope that Ovi will stop falling and instead stops and maybe tries to get back on top.”

On Hunter:

“I don’t know, he simply didn’t talk to us goalies at all, I think he criticized us sometimes for no reason. From my point of view, it’s good he left.”

The stuff on Semin isn’t surprising since we’ve heard it already from Matt Bradley (and backed up by David Steckel). Getting an honest take like that on Ovechkin, however, should earn Neuvirth a few head-high slap shots in practice.

Neuvirth also said he’s looking forward to the Adam Oates era in Washington. Gee, I wouldn’t have guessed. Safe to say training camp, whenever that starts, should be interesting.

Dale Hunter won’t miss dealing with Washington media

Dale Hunter

Former Capitals coach Dale Hunter spoke his mind recently discussing his departure from Washington to return to work with his junior hockey team in London, Ontario.

As he tells Morris Dalla Costa of the London Free Press, while he’ll miss coaching at the pro level he won’t miss the daily rigors of being an NHL bench boss, namely in dealing with the media.

“Every day it’s a scrum. You have to answer every question. Basically I don’t feel like I have to go to media and criticize players if they are not playing up to snuff. I do it one-on-one. Some coaches use it as a tool. Personally, when I was playing I preferred if a coach said to me ‘you’re playing like crap. You aren’t going to play as much unless you get better.’

“I put a top-line guy on the fourth line, then I had to answer all the questions. I use it as a motivator for some guys and then it’s all blown out of proportion. But (the media) was alright.”

That top line guy was Alexander Semin, of course, and now neither Hunter nor Semin will be with the Capitals this year.

Hunter did say he’ll miss the pressure that comes with coaching an NHL team. He also again explained his reasons for keeping Alex Ovechkin’s minutes down as well saying,”he’s not a defensive guy.”

How the Capitals do with Adam Oates in charge this season will make for a fascinating story as it seemed most of Washington warmed up to Hunter after his team’s surprising playoff run.