In the past week, Dale Hunter has made some unpopular decisions in the Capitals locker room by scratching Mike Knuble three straight games and benching goaltender Michal Neuvirth in favor of minor-league call-up Braden Holtby.
Olie Kolzig, who played parts of seven NHL seasons with Hunter and is now the teams associate goaltending coach, has four words of advice for the Capitals players: Get used to it.
Dales an old-school, no-nonsense kind of guy, Kolzig said Wednesday. He gave up a pretty lucrative, successful stint in London Ontario to chase the one thing thats eluded him the Stanley Cup. Hes coming in here and hes got nothing to lose. Hes only got a one-year contract, and he wants to do everything possible to put the team in a position to win a Stanley Cup."
Hunters matter-of-fact style could be viewed as insensitive by some of his players. When asked about his decision to bench Knuble, Hunter brought up Knubles long goal drought and poor plus-minus ranking, and when asked about Neuvirth, he rhetorically asked if the goaltender had been standing on his head in recent games.
Sometimes you make decisions as a coach that are unpopular, Kolzig said. Fortunately, Im a goalie coach, so I dont become as unpopular quite as often as Dale does, but thats part of the position.
As popular as he was as a player, he still goes by a certain philosophy. As a coach, youre going to bruise some egos and hurt some feelings. But thats what he believes in, and if thats what its going to take to get this team close to winning a Stanley Cup, and at the end of the day if that happens, all those unpopular decisions all of a sudden will look pretty smart.