New York - It was not a topic Capitals coach Dale Hunter wanted to discuss. He was under a one-year contract after signing on to coach in late November when Bruce Boudreau was fired and that time has passed after Washington lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the New York Rangers.
Hunter’s status has been a source of speculation – in part because of his contract status and also because of his connection to the London Knights, the junior team he co-owns with his brother, Mark Hunter. It’s a lucrative operation and the Knights are one of the most successful teams in Canadian junior hockey. Dale Hunter was the head coach there when approached by Caps general manager George McPhee to take over in Washington. But the Knights won the Ontario Hockey League and reached the prestigious Memorial Cup this week – the Final Four of junior hockey and one of the most popular sporting events in Canada. This year’s event is in Quebec.
Hunter had spent over a decade in London and had no head coaching or assistant coaching experience behind an NHL bench. All of that fuels the idea that he won’t return next season. But if that decision has been made – either by Hunter or the Caps organization – no one is saying.
“That’s not the time right now,” was all Hunter said when asked afterwards if he would return to Washington next season. For now, that answer will have to do. Forward Brooks Laich said earlier this week that he "absolutely" wanted Hunter back next year after his team came together late in the season, reached the playoffs and won a series while reaching Game 7 in the second round.
"[Hunter has] obviously done a good job with our club here," forward Troy Brouwer said. "We were counted out of even the first round and here we are in Game 7, we ended up losing. But I think he did a good job. I think he's a good presence behind the bench and I'm sure whatever it is will work itself out."
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