November 30, 2011
In his first statement since the Washington Capitals fired him on Monday, Bruce Boudreau told ESPN.com that he and Alex Ovechkin(notes) "got along famously" and that reports of a rift weren't accurate.
Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post got a bit more out of Boudreau in a sit-down interview with the former coach, and it reveals someone who — like general manager George McPhee indicated — had exhausted his bag of tricks and was at a loss for why the team had failed to respond to him in the last month.
Asked why it appeared over the past season that he was trying to get Ovechkin to play one way, and the team captain didn't change his ways, Boudreau said: "He might have been doing his own thing, but the good was outweighing the bad by a long shot. Now there's more scrutiny now because he's not scoring at the rate he was and people are more willing to criticize. …We play different than we did three years ago.
"I don't think it was him rebelling against me," he said, choosing his words carefully. "I'll never want to believe that."
Perception vs. reality?
Boudreau said it himself: The Capitals changed their style. Ovechkin struggled with it, no longer encouraged to be the offensive juggernaut he once was, but rather a more complete player. It didn't take, and he helped play Boudreau out of a job, intentionally or not.
I respect Boudreau for not throwing Ovechkin to the wolves. It reveals a loyalty that, frankly, this team didn't exhibit to Boudreau this season.
Also from the Post:
On whether the team quit on him in the final days: "I'm so naive, I never thought that could happen until people started bringing it up to me in the last day or two," he said. "I have to go back and look at the games because I can't imagine that. When I played, I would always play for the guy next to me, not the coach."
So what does that say about "the guy next to them" in the Capitals' dressing room?
The vibe I get from Capitals fans around D.C. is one of remorse for Boudreau, who at one point was as popular a coach as this city's seen in decades; yet there's also an acknowledgment that his time was up with this group, and Boudreau has indicated as much in the postmortem.
Best advice for him: Go do television. Shake off the funk from this mess in Washington, and then choose the right gig when it opens up. Preferably a team that will play in the 2013 Winter Classic, so we can get another standup special on HBO.