Capitals coach Dale Hunter refused comment after practice on Thursday when asked why he and the organization agreed to a one-year contract, as first reported by the Washington Times and radio station 106.7 – The Fan.
“I don't comment on that. Like I've said before, I don't talk about it,” Hunter said.
No surprise there. Washington general manager George McPhee also has a long-standing policy of avoiding comment on a coaches’ contract status. Hunter was hired on Nov. 28 after the team fired Bruce Boudreau. He left a lucrative job coaching the London Knights, a junior hockey team in Ontario that he still co-owns with his brother Mark.
It’s not always an ideal scenario in professional sports to have a coach on a one-year contract. Sometimes players can take advantage of what they consider a coaches’ lame-duck position. But to a man, the Caps insisted that’s not the case here. And there are reasons why a one-year contract for someone without any NHL head coaching experience makes sense.
“I think things happen really quickly and it was probably [McPhee’s] best interest to do it that way,” veteran winger Mike Knuble said. “I think things happened really fast and sometimes you're just like, 'Well, let's see how it goes' or whatever. It's just the safest thing for the organization, and maybe they all decided that. Maybe Dale's not even sure – maybe he's not even sure, too. It's obviously something they all agreed on.”
Goalie Tomas Vokoun compared it to a teammate who is a pending free agent at the end of the season – as five current Washington players are next July 1, including Knuble and Vokoun himself. Other players saw it as none of their business at all and that the initial reports were not a topic of discussion in the locker room. Maybe that changes if the team goes on an extended losing streak again or if its ability to even make the Stanley Cup playoffs is in question. For now, Washington is 5-5 under Hunter, but players are at least seeing progress.
“It’s not my business,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “I’m here to play hockey. I’m not here to worry about contracts and things like that. [Hunter is] here to coach and we listen to him. He’s done a great job for us….I don’t know. I haven’t even thought about it, honestly.”
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