Two NHL coaches got the axe early this morning, but before I get into that I just want to touch briefly on what happened here in Vancouver over the weekend. I live right in the middle of downtown and I see crazy things all the time. However, this weekend had to be the drunkest weekend downtown Vancouver has ever seen. Of course this was all to celebrate Grey Cup weekend and I had no idea the Grey Cup was this big of a party. People were dressed not only in football uniforms, but in crazy costumes that seemed to have very little to do with football. People were stumbling around hammered before noon each day starting on Friday. If the Grey Cup is this much of a party…imagine what the Super Bowl must be like. Wifey…bust out the credit cards we’re going to Indianapolis!!!
Now back to the ice and the big news of the day, the firings of Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice. Both firings weren’t surprises, Boudreau has been on thin ice since the Caps failed to get passed the 2nd round of the playoffs (again) last year. Maurice and the Canes were floundering in 14th place in the East this season after painfully missing out on last year’s playoffs by losing their last game at home. Both coaches had success with their now former teams, Boudreau led the Caps to 4 straight division titles and 1 President’s Trophy, Maurice took the Canes to the 2009 Eastern Conference finals and in a previous stint took them all the way to the cup final in 2002.
As for the new coaches, Dale Hunter has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal in Washington while Kirk Muller has a much less star studded team in Carolina. Hunter has the more difficult task at hand with the Caps. He will need to find a way to motivate one of the greatest players in the game in Ovechkin back to the MVP level of play we are so use to seeing. He will need to inspire a team with little playoff confidence to battle hard and push through the early stages of the playoffs, something they failed to do under Boudreau. Muller has much lower expectations placed upon his shoulders and has veteran cup winners at his disposal to help mentor and push the younger players into playing solid consistent hockey.
I am anticipating both teams benefiting from the coaching changes with their best players (Ovechkin and Staal respectively) turning their lacklustre seasons around in a big way. I still think the Penguins win the East and rep the East in the Cup final, but I think the Caps do finally make it past the 2nd round. The Canes on the other hand will likely hang around the 8th spot all season long, but I think they painfully miss the playoffs yet again.