Karl B DeBlaker, Associated Press
Alex Ovechkin has dropped from MVP seasons to an ordinary one for Washington. In Carolina, Eric Staal is stuck in a seasonlong slump.
Two of the NHL's best players get the rest of the season to try and turn around their numbers and revert to form.
Their coaches weren't so lucky.
The clearance season in the NHL hit full blast on Monday when the Capitals fired Bruce Boudreau and the Hurricanes dismissed Paul Maurice, both victims of the underachieving seasons out of their superstars and years without a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. With little hope under the current regimes to end that streak this season, management in both places decided to strike and make a move, potentially salvaging a season before it slipped away.
Dale Hunter, in his first NHL coaching job, takes a turn trying to spark Ovechkin, slumping forward Alex Semin and the rest of the Capitals. And former All-Star Kirk Muller took over in Carolina, charged with fixing a team that has made one playoff appearance since 2006
Around the league, the firings were met with little more than a shrug and a wish both men land on their feet elsewhere.
Boudreau did in a hurry.
A third coach was added to this week's upheaval late Wednesday night when the Anaheim Ducks fired Randy Carlyle after a win, that snapped a seven-game losing streak, and hired Boudreau to replace him.
Jobs open fast in the NHL, where the average tenure is less than a Winter Olympics cycle.
Boudreau and Maurice weren't the only ex-Eastern Conference coaches scanning the bottom of the standings for the next potential opening.
Consider these rent, don't buy warnings since the start of last season:
— Hired in February 2009, Ottawa fired Cory Clouston in April.
— Florida fired Pete DeBoer on April 10, a day after he completed his third season behind the bench.
— The Atlanta Thrashers fired Craig Ramsay after only one season when the franchise started anew in Winnipeg.
— In New Jersey, Jacques Lemaire retired and gave way to DeBoer. Lemaire has reiterated often his desire to stay retired.
See a pattern?
It's not any better in the Western Conference where Dallas fired Marc Crawford with a year left on his contract and the Minnesota Wild canned Todd Richards after the team missed the playoffs in each of his two seasons.
The Blues were the first team to make a move this season when they fired Davis Payne in the final year of his contract after a lackluster 6-7 start and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock.
St. Louis' move was an instant success — the Blues moved to 8-1-2 under Hitchcock following a 2-1 win Tuesday night that spoiled Hunter's debut.
Muller's debut behind Carolina's bench also ended in defeat Tuesday night when the Panthers beat the Hurricanes 3-1.
Carolina is stuck in 14th place in the East entering Wednesday's action, yet it is only six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Team owner Peter Karmanos Jr. made the decision now so the Hurricanes could still have time to finish with a successful season.
"I think it goes a long way toward getting the players' confidence," he said. "And the thing that we seem to be lacking most lately is confidence. So he's certainly a guy that can provide leadership and experience and the notion of having been there and make sure all the players have confidence in themselves."
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