Dale Hunter, who took over as coach of the Washington Capitals in November and guided them to within one victory of the National Hockey League playoff semi-finals, resigned on Monday.
Hunter, a former star player for the Capitals, took over when Bruce Boudreau was fired last November with the team struggling and Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin arguing over being benched in critical late-game situations.
But Hunter, who left his role as coach for the London Knights of Canadian junior hockey to join the Capitals, motivated Ovechkin to play reduced minutes in the playoffs and throw himself in front of opponents' shots as well.
The move was not unexpected, McPhee said, adding that Hunter had not asked for a multi-year contract when he joined the Capitals.
Hunter went 30-23 with seven regulation draws during the season but crucially revamped the Capitals from a high-scoring team to one that became focused on defense.
Hunter said he wanted to spend more time with his family and return to the family business, operating the Knights, who won Ontario's provincial title and will play next week in Canada's national junior championship, the Memorial Cup.
Replacing Hunter, 51, becomes the key off-season priority for the Capitals, whose season ended only on Saturday night with a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in the second round of the NHL playoffs.
The Rangers advanced four games to three in the best-of-seven series and will open the Eastern Conference finals at home against New Jersey on Tuesday.
Source: AFP Global Edition