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Capitals Fire Wilson After Missing Playoffs

May 11, 2002|From Associated Press

The Washington Capitals fired Coach Ron Wilson, who led the team to the 1998 Stanley Cup finals but hasn't won a playoff series since.

Wilson's dismissal Friday came a month after the Capitals, who were thought to be a sure bet for the playoffs after trading for Jaromir Jagr, finished ninth in the Eastern Conference--one spot from a postseason berth--with a 36-33-11-2 record.

General Manager George McPhee said the players started to "tune things out" after five years under Wilson.

"I didn't believe it, that these things had to happen, but I believe it now," McPhee said, "that at some point the players need a new message."

The Capitals were hurt by injuries to several key players, including Jagr, and owner Ted Leonsis said at the end of the season he would not make a coaching change during the off-season.

Leonsis said Friday that it was McPhee's decision to fire Wilson.

"I was surprised given the way we played at the end of the season," Leonsis said, "but not surprised given it's the fifth year and Wilson had had some problems with some of the players."

McPhee said he was in no rush to hire a new coach. He said he had one name in mind, but that he had not contacted that person.

Wilson, a former Mighty Duck coach, was traveling with his family Friday and did not return phone calls.

*

The Florida Panthers fired interim General Manager Chuck Fletcher and replaced him with former Tampa Bay Lightning GM Rick Dudley.

Fletcher had worked for the Panthers for nine seasons, the last seven as assistant general manager. He became interim general manager when the team fired coach Duane Sutter and general manager Bill Torrey in December.

The Panthers were 22-44-10-6 for 69 points, tied for third-worst in the Eastern Conference.

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