Caps GM defends Hunter, says Murray will return


LANDOVER -- Washington Capitals general manager David Poile defended the organization's record and center Dale Hunter yesterday, and said coach Terry Murray will return next year.

bTC In a news conference at the Capital Centre, Poile said the Capitals have taken a lot of criticism from "all and varied" directions and that he is appealing for perspective.

"I'm very worried about this franchise in Washington," Poile said. "Hockey interest is down here and it has been down for the last couple years. As an organization, we're going to have to address what we're going to do in terms of selling hockey. And we're going to talk to our media and our fans in terms of perception.

"Are we a success or a failure?"

In Poile's 11 years as general manager, Washington has not missed the playoffs. "During my time here, we've had an excellent, consistent record -- the fifth-best record overall in the NHL," he said. "But by perception we are judged by the end results, and we've had the misfortune to lose in the playoffs. . . . If that's failure, so be it."

Washington averaged 15,855 fans during the regular season, a decline of 735 per game from 1991-92. For three playoff games against the New York Islanders, Washington averaged 15,842, a decline of about 1,000 from last year's playoffs, said Capitals vice president Lew Strudler.

Regarding Hunter, who checked the Islanders' Pierre Turgeon into the boards well after Turgeon had scored a goal Wednesday night, Poile said he "is not a goon," as has been suggested. Turgeon suffered a separated shoulder and concussion, and Hunter was suspended indefinitely by the NHL pending further review of the incident.

"Dale Hunter is a player in good standing with our organization," Poile said. "I support him. It was a bad hit, as everyone knows."

"My reaction [when it happened] was it was a bad hit. I went right down to the dressing room and made sure he saw the video before he saw the media. I wanted to show him the incident to make sure he knew what the situation would be."

Hunter called Turgeon Thursday night to apologize, Hunter told The Washington Post.

"I just wished him the best, said I was sorry the incident happened and that I hoped for him to get back playing," Hunter said in a telephone interview with the newspaper.

"He said, 'I appreciate you calling,' and it was basically that," Hunter said.

Turgeon's agent, Pierre Lacroix of Montreal, told The New York Times that he had asked "a major law firm in New York City" to investigate the case.

"Our attorneys will be very much involved and will come out with a recommendation," Lacroix said. "We are considering a civil damage claim against Hunter."

Asked if Murray will be a part of the Capitals' future, Poile said: "Yes, Terry Murray will be our coach, and I'd very much like to continue as general manager."

Owner Abe Pollin did not return messages left at his office, but Pollin said last week that the organization would be reviewed after the season ended.

Murray, who has two years left on his contract, said: "I want to stay here and help us work toward attaining our goal. One day, some day, it will all come together for us."


Season Avg. . SO* Record

'92-93 15,855 5 43-34-7

'91-92 16,590 12 45-27-8

'90-91 16,608 9 37-36-7

'89-90 17,251 18 36-38-6

'88-89 17,013 23 41-29-10

'87-88 15,955 13 38-33-9

'86-87 15,289 12 38-32-10

'85-86 14,997 12 50-23-7

'84-85 14,008 9 46-25-9

'83-84 11,837 4 48-27-5

'82-83 12,376 2 39-25-16

'81-82 11,377 2 26-41-13

'80-81 11,800 4 26-36-18

'79-80 11,062 3 27-40-13

'78-79 9,925 .0 24-41-15

'77-78 10,872 2 17-49-14

'76-77 10,931 3 24-42-14

'75-76 9,835 .3 11-59-10

'74-75 10,004 2 8-67-5


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