Dale Hunter has spent the past 11 years coaching 16- to 19-year-olds.
He has never coached a game at any professional level.
So what kind of an adjustment will it be when Hunter steps behind the bench as coach of the Capitals Tuesday night at the Verizon Center?
I think its going to be a big adjustment for him, said Mark Tinordi, a former Capitals captain who played in Washington from 1994-99. Obviously, he played in the NHL, but you go from having to monitor 17- and 18-year-old kids every minute of the day.
Now youre dealing with pros and you can talk to them on a more professional level. Hes smart enough, but hes going to watch these guys for a while and figure out each personality on the team and how they interact with the team and from there.
Tinordi should know. His son, Jared, is a defenseman for the London Knights and has played the past season and a half under Hunter.
Hunter, 51, said being a captain with the Capitals should help him adjust to his new role as an NHL coach.
Hall of Famer Bernie Federko, a former opponent of Hunters who is now an analyst for the St. Louis Blues, also believes it will be an adjustment.
Junior (hockey) is a little different because you can intimidate kids a lot more because theyre trying to make it to the next level, Federko said. At this level I think guys will respect what hes done, but hes probably going to have to be careful. He cant be too hard on these guys because hes dealing with a different animal.
One thing almost everyone agrees on is the fact that Hunters reputation as a player will help mask the inexperience he has at the pro level.
Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman played for Hunter from 2001-04 and said his coachs intensity was matched only by the respect he had from his players.
Hes pretty calm most of the time on the bench, Wideman said. Hes not going to be running up and down the bench screaming and yelling, but when it comes time to lay the hammer down Im sure he will.
For me, just who he is was motivation enough. Hes a motivator and a teacher and whether you played with him or played for him hes a guy you didnt want to let down.
Mike Knuble agreed, saying hes anxious to see the response Hunter receives.
We know what were in for, Knuble said. He played with a lot of pride here, so you better, too.
Federko said Hunter will not be afraid to reward players who play well and punish players who dont.
Guys are going to have to put up that effort every night, he said. He can scowl at a lot of people and get away with doing it because no one is going to talk back to him. He played a certain way and Im sure hell coach the same way.
He wants guys to be accountable for what they do out there. Not that Gabby (Bruce Boudreau) didnt do that. Its just a different voice.