Hunter out as Caps' coach

Washington head coach, Dale Hunter, during action between the Senators and Capitals, February 22,...

Washington head coach, Dale Hunter, during action between the Senators and Capitals, February 22, 2012. (ZUMA/Keystone Press)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:25 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. - Like most things Dale Hunter does, it was decisive, quick, surprising and, for the most part, painless.

Hunter gave it about 48 hours after his Washington Capitals were eliminated from the National Hockey League playoffs before announcing his future plans.

Hunter opted to leave the Capitals -- six months into as stint as head coach -- to return to London and his showpiece franchise, the Ontario Hockey League Knights.

If anyone was surprised that a) Hunter made the decision and b) he would leave of his own volition, then they don't know Hunter well.

Hunter moves in mysterious ways.

He made just as quick a decision on whether he'd help brother Mark behind the Knights bench during the Memorial Cup tournament.

"I'm a fan," he said Monday. "No, no, no, I won't be behind the bench. Mark has done a great job and they don't need anything to change.

"I am excited about seeing them because I left after 10, 15 games and they are so much better now. That's what's really exciting for me."

Dale Hunter said he isn't sure if he will coach next year either.

"Right now, Mark is the coach," he said. "This is why we call it a family business. We do everything as a family. I'm just happy to be getting back to it, scouting, finding players, whatever I need to do."

It's been a crushing grind for Mark. He became the head coach when Dale left for Washington but retained his duties as general manager.

"But if it isn't broken, there's no need to fix it," Dale Hunter said.

Dale also quickly dispelled the notion that he left because he didn't feel he could impose his style for another year with superstar players such as Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.

"There comes a time when winning is more important than anything," Hunter said. "Ovie and Semin bought into that. There were blocking shots, doing what they had to do. The entire team was playing the right way. They want to win.

"When you look at it, we came within a goal of making the conference final. We should have won Game 5 (a last-second collapse and overtime loss). But we almost got there because everyone bought in and played hard."

If there were issues within the dressing room, Hunter declined to air them publicly. Not his style.

Hunter keeps his own council. If you take brother Mark's comments at face value -- and there's no reason not to -- Dale really keeps his plans to himself.

Mark Hunter did not know about his brother's decision until the news broke Monday morning.

"I've talked to him very little during the playoffs . . . really, very little," Mark Hunter said. "I didn't know what he was going to do because we didn't talk about. We don't like talking about that stuff because I don't want to influence his decision on what he's going to do."

Dale Hunter said he could have gone back to the Capitals after discussions with general manager George McPhee, but that he really did miss his family and the family business. Leaving for Washington in November brought to mind all the time he's spent away from home as a professional player. It was a situation that Hunter didn't want to repeat. As for the near future, Hunter says he won't be hunting for another NHL job.

"It wasn't an easy decision," he said. "But I've been away from home a long time. When I took the job, I told them that I would just take it on for the rest of the year. We would review it after the season. I realized that I have my kids, my dad there. It's a good situation. I just felt it was time to go home."

McPhee summarized what most fans in London have come to know.

"There's no gray in Dale's life," McPhee was quoted as saying. "He's very decisive."

For now, Dale Hunter wants to do what he does at home among family and friends.

FAREWELL TWEETS

Bruce Arthur, @bruce Arthur: Somewhere, Alexander Ovechkin is partying with beautiful women and gallons of booze. Soon, he will learn about Dale Hunter's resignation.

John Carlson, @johncarls: Huge blow losing Dale Hunter. Back to the drawing board. #caps.

Braley Mesloh, @bradmesloh: how is dale hunter not returning? he was the best thing that's happened to the Caps since ovie

Chris Cuthbert, @CCtsn: Shouldn't take Dale Hunter long to pack for Shawinigan. Blue suit, check. Red tie, check. White socks, check.


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