The shock and disappointment were etched in players faces and evident in their somber voices.
From the reaction coming from inside the Capitals locker room, it was clear that Bruce Boudreau was not thrown overboard in a player revolt. He was pried away from a locker room that wanted him to stay but couldnt play well enough to keep him.
Hes a man I personally owe a lot to, Brooks Laich said Monday in the wake of the Capitals decision to replace Boudreau with Dale Hunter. The job hes done in Washington has been amazing.
Before he got here, we were a last-place team. Hes taken us to a team that won consistently and ultimately had Stanley Cup expectations. Its tough personally to see him go.
Laich said he enjoyed his greatest growth as a player during Boudreaus four years behind the Capitals bench and felt personally responsible for his dismissal.
My first thought was, I wish I could have done more, Laich said. Thats the nature of the beast. Its a business, but I feel terrible for Bruce because hes leaving his dream job. If you ripped me out of the locker room, thats how it would feel.
Boudreau did not return messages left for him, telling a Capitals spokesman that he would address the media on Wednesday. During his tenure with the Caps, Boudreau went 201-88-40 in the regular season, leading them to four straight Southeast Division titles.
But his teams went 17-20 in the postseason and failed to get past the second round.
I think he did everything in his power to try to make this team win, veteran right wing Mike Knuble said. His four years here was a good thing for the Capitals. You can say, yeah, he didnt win the big game, but he still made a lot of forward progress and he left the organization for the better, I think.
Like many around the team, Knuble said he thought general manager George McPhee might make a player move before dismissing Boudreau. McPhee said he has talked to other NHL teams about potential trades and will continue that dialogue in the coming days.
But before McPhee makes any roster changes, its a safe bet hell see if Hunter can establish an identity for a team that seriously lacks one.
If were having a hard time finding an identity and by that I mean doing things over and over again you look like youre lost, center Jeff Halpern said. Its hard to blame one person for that.
McPhee said its pretty clear that if he didnt have his players attention before Monday, he has it now. Laich said its now the players job to follow a new leader while still paying respect to the one who was asked to clean out his coachs office.
Weve underachieved so far as a team, and if you ask each individual, hed say the same thing, too, Laich said. Weve said it for 10 days or so. Im sure Hunter will bring a new attitude and new insight. Im sure hes going to be a spark plug for this team.
As for Boudreau, Knuble said he thinks that in the court of public opinion, the reaction will be split.
Bruce has a lot of pro-Bruce people in the city, Knuble said, and a lot of people are probably happy to see him go.