SUN Hockey Pool

A tale of two good coaches

SCOTT MORRISON

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

A good coach got fired, a good coach got hired.

The old cliche lives on: Coaches are hired to be fired. That's pretty much the way it always has been in the NHL and there are no signs of it changing, especially with the salary cap -- either the mechanics or the mismanaging of it -- having put a death grip on the ability to make trades to fix problems.

So it remains that the easiest quick, desperate fix is to fire the coach. On the odd occasion the general manager walks the plank, but mostly it is the coach.

The latest casualty was Washington Capitals coach Glen Hanlon, who once said he enjoyed coaching more than playing, and was pretty good at both. But after a 3-0 start to the season, the combination of injuries and indifferent play made his club the worst in the NHL and conspired to cost Hanlon his job, his firing announced Thursday.

But as one good guy exits, another enters, long overdue. Bruce Boudreau was named the Capitals coach on an interim basis, so it is not entirely reason to celebrate yet. But after a lifetime in the minors, it is the closest Boudreau has been.

The move to elevate the 52-year-old Boudreau from the minors was indeed a good one. He has been a successful coach at all levels, having won the Calder Cup with Hershey in 2006 and he has paid his dues. He knows the inside of a bus better than the mechanics at Greyhound. In nine seasons in the AHL, which is just part of his journey, Boudreau had 124 more wins than losses. Now we'll see what he can do with Washington and, more importantly, for how long.

But the interim title general manager George McPhee fitted him with is a smart move. By doing so, McPhee gets to see how Boudreau works with an NHL team and how the players respond. Why commit until you are sure? If it works, take off the interim tag. If it doesn't, then make a hire (or prepare to pack, yourself).

It is much the way Don Waddell made himself interim coach with the Atlanta Thrashers, got them turned around and decided to stay for the rest of the season, the combination of success and economics sealing the deal. It is also much the way the Philadelphia Flyers made John Stevens their interim coach after firing Ken Hitchcock last season. It was only a brief designation but long enough for management to feel comfortable that Stevens was the right choice.

As for Hanlon, well, his departure could hardly have caught him by surprise. His team was in a free fall, having gone from its best start after three games to its worst start in 26 years after 21 games. Expectations, justified or not, were severely increased in Washington this year, but the results didn't follow. And, as McPhee alluded, the players were no longer responding. Losing is bad enough, how they were losing was worse.

So it falls to Boudreau, who made his debut yesterday afternoon in Philadelphia, to get the Capitals pointed in the right direction. And it falls to McPhee to get Alex Ovechkin under contract. If Boudreau fulfils his task, it will help McPhee take care of his. If they fail, consider them both working on an interim basis.

DRAFT, SCHMAFT

John Tavares has indeed given up the notion of trying to get the NHL to grant him a special exemption to enter the entry draft in 2008, a year early. But there is still a hope that either the NHL or the NHLPA will take up the cause, realizing his is a unique talent who would be better served potentially leaving junior early. There certainly doesn't seem to be an appetite among NHL GMs to take up the cause, which would involve amending the CBA.

DARK DAY

There was a funny note out of Vancouver the other day. Funny, that is, if you aren't Alain Vigneault, the Canucks coach. Seems that Nov. 20 is not his lucky day. Back in 1995, he was fired as an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators when coach Rick Bowness was let go.

Bowness is now an assistant to Vigneault.

Then, five years to the day later, on Nov. 20, 2000, Vigneault was fired by the Montreal Canadiens. Nov. 20 also happens to be his ex-wife's birthday.

This past week, on the 20th, Vigneault and the Canucks were beaten 5-4 by the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout.

It is a day, for Vigneault, best spent in bed, covers over the head.

BRIEFLY

Further to the firing in Washington, often teams have a short-term burst after a coach or GM has been replaced. That is the case this fall. Prior to last night, the Dallas Stars, who fired GM Doug Armstrong, were 3-0-1 without him, while the Thrashers were 11-4 post-Bob Hartley ... Talk about having the courage of their conviction. The San Jose Sharks signed defenceman Matt Carle to a four-year, $13.75-million extension. This, despite the fact, he had been a healthy scratch in three of their past four games. Point is, the Sharks are confident Carle will be a good player for a long while, but they also aren't afraid to sit him down to make a point.


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