Commenter Rocket writes about the NHL every week because we often tend to neglect the sport. With the NBA back in the fold, his services are more valuable than ever. Rocket?


I was fired one time in my life. To this day I still do not understand why a person should get fired from his job at the car wash just for offering discount sponge baths to the customers. PEOPLE WITH CLEAN CARS WANT TO BE CLEAN THEMSELVES! The entrepreneurial spirit is dead in this country and I look forward to the day when we are all serving our Chinese overlords.

Anyway, it didn’t feel very good getting fired. It felt like I was forced to eat a piece of rejection pie with a heavy dollop of embarrassment cream on top – which actually sounds kind of delicious but really is not. But I was also relieved, because it was not a good job and I didn’t really want to do it anymore, even though I didn’t have to courage to quit and look for another job at that time.
So, getting canned really stunk. But it also kind of didn’t. And if I had it all to do over again I would have used a higher quality of sponge and heated, scented oils instead of the industrial soap and polish that was handy.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), on Monday two more people were served some rejection pie. The Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes engaged in a longstanding NHL tradition of firing the coach mid-season, with Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice respectively getting the ax. NHL coaches are a lot like rolls of toilet paper. Some last a little longer and are a little softer. But none of them last very long and when they’re done, they are done. Unsurprisingly, Boudreau and Maurice weren’t the first coaches canned this season. That honor belongs to Davis Payne, who the Blues recently sent out to pasture. And a betting man would probably not give Columbus’ Scott Arniel much time (although a betting man would have probably lost money on Arniel since many thought he was going to be the first one relieved of his duties this season after the Blue Jackets’ awful start).
I guess what I am trying to say is that it is time to fire Mike Yeo. He clearly will cause enough misery here sometime within the next three years that the Wild should just proactively dump him now while there is still a chance to salvage the season. No, that’s not true. Perhaps the time will come to write the “fire Mike Yeo” guest post, but with the Wild playing quite well that time is not now. Rather, the dismissals of Boudreau and Maurice were yet another classic example of the ridiculousness of head coaching at the highest level.
Boudreau was heralded as the greatest thing since the interweb when he replaced Glen Hanlon in 2007. The Capitals were 6-14-1 before he got there and went 37-17-7 the rest of the way that season. They finished with no fewer than 107 points in each of his three full seasons as head coach. Although they were disappointing in the postseason, there is no doubt that Boudreau guided them to fantastic regular seasons and put his team in a position to win. Unfortunately for him, he began losing his influence over Alex Ovechkin and consequently the rest of the team this season. After a blistering start, the Capitals began looking really bad really quickly. While they’ve been without their best defenseman, Mike Green, for most of the season, this one injury can’t explain their truly awful play of late. The only reasonable conclusion that anyone can seem to come up with is that the team had grown disinterested, especially Ovechkin who seemed to take several shifts off per game. Since the Capitals sold their soul to Ovie when they gave him a 13-year contract four years ago, Alexander the Great basically runs the show and was destined to win any power struggle with Boudreau – or anyone else in the organization for that matter.
Boudreau is a good coach who probably deserved better from his best player. With more than nine years still left on his contract we will see just what Ovechkin is made of. Boudreau’s replacement, Dale Hunter, is arguably the best and most popular player in Washington’s history prior to Ovie. If Alex runs Hunter off as well then it will be undeniable where the real problem lies.
Maurice, on the other hand, was treading water with Carolina. His second stint with the franchise started with promise, as he took over the team in mid-season and led them to the conference finals, but it was pretty disappointing from there. The Hurricanes missed the playoffs the last two years. They had a chance to make it to the dance on the last day of the season last year when all they had to do was beat a Tampa Bay team that was locked into its seed and had nothing to play for. The end result: they laid a massive egg and were never even competitive in a 6-2 loss.
Perhaps if there were some rhyme or reason to Maurice’s choices one could forgive him for the end result. But he often seemed to both overcoach and undercoach at the same time. He juggled lines like Stu juggles alibis for loving this song, often playing third line grinders big minutes, mixing and matching for no apparent reason, and seemingly never letting his players settle in and get comfortable with their linemates. He also gave his main goalie, Cam Ward, approximately 128% of the starts, rarely finding time to rest his most important player. And he wouldn’t give minutes to promising youngsters (Jeff Skinner excepted), favoring veterans on a team that should have been developing its core for the future.
Maurice deserved to go, Boudreau did not. Yet, both are now currently standing in breadlines, waiting for the charity man to dole out his goods before they 23 skidoo back to the Hooverville. I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to be an NHL coach. They’re all dead men walking and they always seem to have less time than coaches in other leagues. I suppose the only solace is that it should only be a matter of weeks before there’s another opening that they might fill.

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