Here’s Caps correspondent Brad Parker with the companion piece to his earlier post, Five Caps Players That Benefit From Dale Hunter’s Departure.
1. John Carlson
Yes, Carlson struggled during the regular season. For the first time fans in Washington were questioning him. But the whole time he had a friend behind the bench. Carlson played for Hunter in London and Hunter is nothing if not loyal. Not that another coach would have sent Carlson to Hershey or anything, but I don’t think he ever thought his playing time was in jeopardy. Sure, he was separated from Karl Alzner for a while, but by season end Carlzner was back and his old coach was running the show. Of course, Carlson also played for Bruce Boudreau in the minors. Next season there’s the very real chance that for the first time in his NHL career Carlson won’t be playing for a coach he knows very well.
2. Dennis Wideman
The Capitals lone representative at the 2012 NHL All Star game did not have a postseason that could be described as successful. In 14 games he had zero goals and a +/- of -7. Where did that -7 rank among NHL players this postseason? 340th! Only Barret Jackman of the Blues, who was -8, did worse. In the entire league!
Hunter’s style was supposed to be all about defensive responsibility yet a guy ranked 340th in +/- averaged 20:44 minutes of ice time in the postseason. Why? Perhaps it’s Hunter’s loyalty again. Wideman also played for Hunter in London and he’s a trusted veteran, an All-Star. Hunter seems to be risk averse. Playing a guy he’s known for years that made a name for himself in the NHL seems a lot safer than rolling the dice with a rookie like Orlov. A new coach might not feel the same way. Although the fact that Wideman is an unrestricted free agent looking for a long-term deal probably makes that a moot point.
3. Marcus Johansson
Johansson played in all 14 games in the playoffs despite looking lost throughout the Rangers series. He spent most of his time on the Ovechkin line but never seemed to do anything to help create chances for Ovi. In those 14 games he scored one goal, had two assists and was -6 (349th in the league). Despite the lackluster numbers, only Backstrom, Laich and Ovi had more TOI in the playoffs for the Caps. Will the next coach think someone with three points in 14 games should center your best offensive player for an entire series?
On his way out the door on Monday, Hunter showed his optimism for MJ90’s career is still high. He passed him and said, “Keep going, Jojo. Give ’em hell. Keep shooting. Follow your dream. Outscore Nicky next season!”
George McPhee won’t be heading to the beach anytime soon and Hunter’s choice to go home will make his summer that much more difficult. GMGM already has to deal with unrestricted free agents like Semin (although that choice seems to have already been made for him), Wideman, and Knuble. Now he has to find the right coach with the right system and the right personality for this team.
5. Braden Holtby
Hunter’s system was clearly nice for a rookie goalie starting in his first Stanley Cup playoffs. Holtby played great but he didn’t face many odd-man rushes or sustained pressure with high-percentage shots. Not to imply that the system made the sensation, but it definitely didn’t hurt. Our time with Holtby represents a very small sample size, maybe he really is the goalie we’ve been looking for since Kolzig carried us to the finals in ’98, but lots of blocked shots didn’t hurt.