No one ever accused Bruce Boudreau of lacking fire. (N.B. "Fucking shitbums.") It seems Caps execs are succeeding fire with fire, tapping Dale Hunter, who amassed the equivalent of two-and-a-half full days in the penalty box during his NHL career. Hunter, by all accounts, is a gentleman off the ice. But as he prepares to coach his first game against St. Louis tonight, I think it's worth remembering that he was a goddamn menace on skates.
The 1993 playoffs were brief and frustrating for Hunter and the Caps. They were seeded higher than their first-round opponent Islanders, and had won the season series. But after three straight overtime losses—two of them in 2OT—they returned to Uniondale for a crucial game 6. Already down 4-1 in the third, Hunter had his pocket picked along the boards by Pierre Turgeon, who wristed it past Don Beaupre to seal the game and the series.
Frustration; it sums up the 2011 edition just as well as those '93 Caps. Let's hope coach Hunter deals with frustration better than he did 18 years ago: by checking Pierre Turgeon after the goal. Turgeon separated his shoulder, missing the next round of the playoffs, and Gary Bettman—named commissioner not three months earlier—suspended Hunter for 21 games. It was, to that point, the longest suspension in league history.
That's been surpassed since: Marty McSorley's yearlong suspension following his assault conviction, Chris Simon's 30 games for stomping Jarkko Ruutu's leg—but those were extraordinary circumstances. How many games would Hunter have been suspended in today's NHL? Jesse Boulerice got 25 games for cross-checking Ryan Kesler a few years back, and that actually happened during play.
All of which is to say, the Caps don't need an enforcer. They've got one, and he wears a suit.