Hunter, who lives in Canada, has cited his family as the reason for leaving his position.
“It was the right thing to do” he said of his decision to return home.
“I’ve got a good thing going there with the family, so I’ll stay home.” he added later.
The current owner and former head coach of the London Knights informed Capitals GM George McPhee this morning of his plans. His announcement comes only two days after the Capitals lost in a critical second round game seven matchup against the New York Rangers.
Hunter posted an above .500 record during his time in Washington, ending the season at 30-23-7. As the replacement for former coach Bruce Boudreau, management and fans alike had high hopes that Hunter could lead the Capitals to a deep post-season run. Emphasizing defense first, the new coaching tactics in Washington helped the Capitals to eliminate last season’s Stanley Cup Champion, the Boston Bruins.
Despite some of his post-season success, there were indeed critics of his strategies. Many questioned why his star player, Alex Ovechkin, was seeing his lowest minutes ever in the NHL. Others, however, continued to praise Hunter as Ovechkin excelled when needed, and the coach was strongly supported by players such as Brooks Laich.
“I can’t [say] enough. He’s been great,” Laich said of his coach. “It’s almost like having another veteran in the locker room, is what it feels like. You can draw on his experience [and] he’s willing to open up and share it. He’s been through these battles.”
The Capitals now have several questions heading into the offseason. In addition to finding a new coach, they must also determine whether or not they should bring back Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin, and Dennis Wideman – all unrestricted free agents. Their restricted free agents also include the offensively gifted defenseman, Mike Green.