December 22, 2011
Darryl Sutter, introduced as the Los Angeles Kings' new head coach this week, is in the first year of a 3-year deal. Kirk Muller, the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, has a 4-year contract. Bruce Boudreau, behind the Anaheim Ducks bench, has the most temporary status of the these new hires: a two-year contract.
When coaches are hired, they want a multi-year contract for their own job security and so the players know they're not some substitute teacher walking into the classroom without consequence.
Yet in Washington D.C., where a change in coaches was made to change the level of respect and response from the players, Washington Capitals Coach Dale Hunter is only signed through the end of this season.
Multiple sources tell 106.7 The FAN and The Washington Times that Dale Hunter signed only a one-year contract. Sources say this was done for a few reasons. The first, in case Dale Hunter can't turn this around and the Capitals want to go in a different direction next season, also, as one source says, this was done in case Hunter wants to go back to the London Knights of the OHL.
Obviously, Hunter has a cushy gig on which to fall back: Co-owner, and former coach, of the London Knights in the OHL. It was the thing that kept Hunter from jumping at previous opportunities to coach in the NHL; that and his patience until the timing was right for his "dream job" with his former team in Washington to become palatable.
CSN Washington's Chuck Gormley wonders if Hunter, by virtue of this contract, has anointed himself with lame duck status:
But if this was truly his "dream job" and the Capitals were the only NHL team he ever considered coaching, why wouldn't Hunter ask for a contract for at least three years? Why not invest in the future of the franchise that supposedly means the world to you?
And if you're McPhee and you truly believe Hunter is the man who will guide the Capitals to their first championship, why don't you insist on a long-term commitment? The last thing McPhee wants now is a team that tunes out a coach because they consider him a lame duck.
As the Washington Post notes, Hunter will likely remain in the NHL if he finds success with the Capitals. This is, after all, a job he's coveted. But it may also be a team that's more trouble than its worth for Hunter, who has gone from shaping the hearts and minds of young players to trying to hammer home his dogma into some adults set in their ways.
Which is why, one imagines, Hunter might be willing to take a wait-and-see approach; question is, why did the Capitals want the same?