Mired in last, Caps fire Cassidy

Assistant Hanlon chosen to turn around team

Hockey

December 11, 2003|By Ed Waldman | Ed Waldman,SUN STAFF

The struggling Washington Capitals, in an attempt to salvage the season, yesterday fired coach Bruce Cassidy and replaced him with assistant Glen Hanlon.

After finishing last season in second place in the Southeast Division, just one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals are 8-18-1-1 going into tonight's home game against the Boston Bruins.

With 18 points in the standings, the Caps are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for last in the NHL.

Capitals vice president and general manager George McPhee said yesterday at a news conference at the Piney Orchard training facility in Odenton that he decided to fire Cassidy "based on our record and our performance.

"We are in this spiral ... that I couldn't sit back any longer," he said. "We still have every intention of making the playoffs - it may be tough now - but if we didn't [fire Cassidy] now, we may not have been able to do it."

The Capitals are 16 points behind the first-place Atlanta Thrashers in the division.

"What I've noticed with our club is that we have four or five players who are playing exceptionally well and four or five or six players who aren't playing anywhere near their capabilities, and the rest of the group is just there," McPhee said. "I thought that by making the change today, we could hopefully have those players who are playing exceptionally well continue their good play and have the group that isn't playing up to their capabilities pull up their socks and play better."

Hanlon, 46, said he believes the Capitals have the components to be "a very successful hockey team."

In elevating him, McPhee chose the runner-up when Cassidy was hired in June 2002 to replace Ron Wilson.

Many saw the hiring of Cassidy, who had no NHL coaching experience, as a gamble. He leaves with a mark of 47-47-9-1.

"I don't have a good answer for you as to why I didn't take Glen then," McPhee said.

Hanlon was a goaltender for 14 seasons in the NHL, with an overall record of 167-202-61 and a 3.60 goals-against average.

After he retired in 1991, Hanlon went into coaching. McPhee, who played with Hanlon with the New York Rangers and worked with him with the Canucks, hired him to coach the Capitals' top farm team, the Portland Pirates, in 1999. After three seasons in Portland, Hanlon became a Capitals assistant in 2002.

Hanlon said he intends to change the "losing environment" infecting the locker room.

"I don't think anyone should ever get up in front of anybody and guarantee wins," he said. "But I will certainly guarantee that we will create an environment here where all the players will want to be responsible to the group."

Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig said Hanlon "provides a different outlook on the game.

"He's an upbeat, positive individual, and I think he's going to interact well with the guys in the dressing room."

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