Reconstruction Time

As implosions go, by a perennially imploding franchise in spring, this may have been an all-timer. And you know where we stand: there should be serious repercussions.

On an individual game basis, the scoreboard will suggest that this Caps-Bolts series was close and competitive. In reality, the Capitals were never in this series beyond the knotted up nature of late in game 1. Once Tampa Bay secured victory in overtime then, while spectacularly fatigued, and while the Capitals were not, the lasting psychological damage was inflicted.


Once again, Bruce Boudreau was no match for his NHL bench counterpart in spring. Many adjustments needed, none made. Guy Boucher was uniformly impressive in this series in every respect save one — his aptitude with metaphors. He called this a David versus Goliath matchup, but he had no notion who the actual David was. But he’s a young man and a rookie coach perhaps without access to the grainy footage of Capitals’ playoff history, and its uniformly grim outcomes.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this fantastic flameout in yet another spring was that the very premiere players who in all piety expressed resolve for righting the wrongs of previous springs again, with the exception of the captain, came up conspicuously small. The story of the Tampa Bay upset — upset sweep — was the character and determination and drive of the Lightning’s Top Three, fairly embarrassing their Washington star counterparts. As such, there must be not only a regime change in D.C. but a cultural reconstruction.

About a half dozen roster spots ought to be safe for 2011-12 — those of Ovechkin, Neuvirth, Carlson, Johansson, Alzner, Wideman.

The rest need to be rigorously re-evaluated. The rest are wholly marketable (to the extent that there are parties interested in discussing them).

But re-evaluated by whom?

Earlier this season I wrote about a country club culture enveloping this franchise — an aura of pampering and entitlement, of rampant, conspicuous Playboy-ism, and of premature, illusory achievement settling in. The owner didn’t much care for that characterization. When the winning once again became habitual in March, he reminded me of the file. I don’t expect to hear further challenge from him about this assessment this offseason.

Some seven years ago Capitals management embarked upon a rigorous roster rebuild. Beginning immediately, team management — which may be reconstructed itself — needs to reconstruct the entire culture of this franchise.

For it is a franchise of abject failure. Quick — when was the most recent instance you gathered your buddies to toast to the last four Southeast division championships?

Today this franchise is unworthy of its fanbase, which is one of the best in the league. The reconstruction must address this.

For going on 40 years, the Capitals have yet to achieve a durable, intimidating postseason identity. That identity, I submit, must cease being elusive, and achieving it must specifically guide the reconstruction I believe imperative in this moment. The surest way to forge such an identity is to select a coach the likes of which we’ve never before seen in D.C. A coach who will not accept 30- and 40-minute nightly efforts. A coach who will not turn a blind eye to his twentysomething charges making the last-call rounds in Georgetown in-season. A coach who knows no notion of “optional skates” in autumn, but rather, perhaps, in July. A coach with the gravitas and guts to stare straight into Ovi’s eyes in a month’s time and say, ‘Young man, return home if you must this summer, but for every photo of you I see on line in a Moscow discotheque this summer, we’ll skate in miles come September as a group.”

Call it a new creed if you will: Less clubbing, more running.

Or perhaps you thought the Capitals looked rather spry in the third periods this postseason — particularly against Tampa. These were the least impressively conditioned Capitals for third periods of a postseason I’d seen in my lifetime. They looked better conditioned in the compressed schedule of last season, with its Olympics participation. Imagine. A storyline suddenly emerged that Tampa Bay was exploiting the Capitals’ lack of speed. When did the Caps suddenly become a slow hockey team? The answer is, they didn’t.

They just looked that way.

By all accounts Bruce Boudreau was the proverbial “players’ coach.”

How has that worked out with this bunch?

The Toronto Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek has long been one of my favorite writers in all of hockey. For decades his prose has delivered erudition, nuance, and general elite thoughtfulness. But yesterday Duhatschek penned what I regard as his least impressive column, ever: ‘Boudreau shouldn’t take the fall in Washington.’ He labeled talk in support of Gabby’s firing “absurd” and “patently unfair.”

“Boudreau’s record as the Capitals coach is extraordinary,” Duhatschek wrote. And he’s right, Gabby was great at winning here — October through March. During regular season play, Gabby’s gone 189-79-39. But there’s a dramatic counterpart to that regular season success, in the postseason. There Gabby’s won two of the six series he’s coached in, 17-20 overall, and you’d be hard-pressed to identify a single series in which the Caps were regarded as underdog. That’s not an inconsiderable body of underachieving work.

Duhatschek continues:

“What we have is a coach who develops kids, game plans well, and has his team alive in the second round of the playoffs when 22 other clubs have already gone home. People talk about the Capitals needing to take the next step – and they do and they will eventually. But it is not as if their window of opportunity is closing any time soon either, not with three young goalies in the system, four young defencemen in the lineup now and a superstar just approaching his prime years who is still one of the most fun players to watch in the game.”

“Game plans well”??? As with his contention of Gabby’s winning excellence, Duhatschek offers no contextual support for this claim. Indeed, in game 2 against Tampa, Gabby lamented how a “river hockey” approach overtook his club. In the absence of coherent and sustained game plans we saw the Capitals often pursue a highly individualized style of play, with the captain especially susceptible to it. By the bitter end, we saw a band of misled brothers wholly uncertain of what to do against Tampa Bay, how to counteract “character” game-breakers who rose to the occasion. By the bitter end, you didn’t sense that when all the chips were on the table, there was great resolve and great buy-in by these Caps for what their coach was preaching. They bore all the emotion and passion of exhibition play in September. Especially in this series’ third periods.

Duhatschek here bears an outsider’s sneering elitism in his column. I doubt he’s paid much for hockey tickets the past 25 years, but in Washington they are very expensive. And going up in cost for next season, apparently. Let Duhatschek try and lecture the federal government bureaucrat here straining to pay for his family’s admission at Verizon Center the past four springs, and see if that fella agrees that we’re still just going through requisite “growing pains” with our allegedly contending core of hockey stars.

Chicago and Pittsburgh in recent years seemed to perform at appreciably higher levels with their talented youngsters in spring.

The next coach of the Washington Capitals likely won’t attempt to make ploughhorses out of his roster’s thoroughbreds. “Free Ovi” ought to be the summer battlecry. But most especially, the men who wear the Washington crest beginning next season need to be led by a figure of unassailable street cred — preferably a warrior from the past who wore the crest himself.


This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Bruce Boudreau, Eastern Conference, Media, Morning cup-a-joe, NHL playoffs, Print, Tampa Bay Lightning, The curse of Washington hockey, Washington Capitals, Washington the hockey town. Bookmark the permalink.

72 Responses to Reconstruction Time

  1. Pingback: Caps Lose Series, Season to Tampa » We Love DC

  2. sonja says:

    There’s part of me that agrees with everything you write here. Especially the bit about soaring ticket prices. With two kids playing hockey (cha-ching) we cannot afford to go and watch our heroes play IRL anymore because ticket prices are so high.

    It’s also become glaringly obvious that this team needs some discipline. They need to skate together more often and they need more work/less play … or less play of the staying out in Georgetown variety. I think we all did that when we were young and found out that when it began to effect our day job, we had to do something different. These young guys are going through that … it’s starting to effect their day jobs and someone needs to tell them to shape up!

    On the other hand, I thought Alan May had an interesting perspective on this mess. He said (on one of the post game blood-lettings last night) that he thinks BB is doing a good job, but that the coaching team needs some close reevaluation. Specifically, he thinks the special teams coach needs to be looked at because the PP was soooo horrible. It may be that the entire coaching staff needs a good hard look because BB was/is not the only guy making gross mistakes, he’s just the easiest target.

  3. Chubbs says:

    Dale Hunter, come on doooowwwwnnnn!

  4. morgan says:

    Ted had better wake up, his investment will soon get pretty shakey if he keeps snoozing at the helm.

  5. bhrome says:

    Gotta say, take the “C” off Ovie; it’s not helped any. And I was struck with a horrifying thought this morning – what if Mike Keenan was brought in to replace Bruce? I highly dislike Keenan, but can’t argue he’s effective in drastically changing team culture. Maybe not desired for the long term, but it would definitely light a fuse.

  6. sentientcheese says:

    I’ll admit, this time of year is the time I least like reading OFB. If only because the anger is palpable. That being said.. its rather compelling stuff.

    Wouldn’t it be grand if egos aside, we could install Bruce as a forwards coach? Its obvious (see last year) when he doesn’t have to care about D, he can create explosive offensive schemes.

    And as for Dale…. I dunno… I know the knights are rebuilding… but are they doing well in general under him? Or were you talking about mark hunter? :p

  7. sean says:

    “the federal government bureaucrat here straining to pay for his family’s admission at Verizon Center the past four springs”

    These are the only people still able to afford tickets anymore. Outside of Govt related jobs we are losing our shirts out here. On another note, Teddy got rid of all those redneck Caps fans that went to the Cap Center. He has filled the stands with people who think it’s cool to be a caps fan and “I’m better than you cuz I have season tickets fans”. Do you think these people are going to stick around if things are not righted?

  8. Sam W. says:

    After having spoken at length with the very gracious and knowledgable Alan May at a Playoffs viewing party at Penn Quarter Sports Tavern a few weekends ago, I’m on board with some roster changes for this team. He wouldn’t name names, but he echoed some of the sentiment here. There are guys on the squad who aren’t working the way they ought to be in order to win.

    Ovechkin gets a lot of flack from the general public, especially fans of other teams, for being selfish; for being a partier; for being irresponsible; and for being a “one-trick pony.” What these critics don’t know is how much he works on his game on his own time, how badly he hates to lose, how earnest he is in working to improve and expand his skill set, and how physically active he is when he’s not playing.

    He comes from an athletic family who pride themselves on team play which garners measurable accomplishments. His greatest influence is his mother, who won gold for the Soviet Olympic women’s basketball team. Does anyone really believe he’d let her down, or that he’d engage in habits or behavior that would be detrimental to his ability to compete? I doubt it.

    I can’t say the same for his buddy, Alexander Semin. That guy is talented, insanely skilled, and yet he picks the times when he feels like being the difference maker. There’s no room for that on this team. I know he is a natural sniper and a sick puck-handler, and I understand why McPhee wants to keep him here, but the guy has got to go. Close enough is never good enough.

  9. martin says:

    BB must go, this much is clear. BTW, I think Alan May would make a good special teams coach.

  10. EnzoBigBlue says:

    Finger pointing time should be today but if you reflect back to earlier in the season, the majority of the educated fan base knew something was wrong with this team, the staff, and the system. Too many players were having statistical lows even before the system change. Comments from the Georgetown party crowd during the season were that their was a new king of partying in season and it was not Ovi it was Backstrom. Also for all the character that was brought in at the trade deadline I felt that it never showed up in the second series. Watch for Arnott to speak out candidly about the capitals players, system and coaches and if you value his opinion I am guessing it will be revealing what many of us think and what OFB got chastised by TL for writing about. Status quo will be hard for us activated fans to tolerate.

  11. DCPensFans says:

    You know what’s really a crime? They give Mike Wise a column and not you.

  12. TG says:

    I’m not sure firing the coach is the answer. Although, I said that Hanlon isn’t the one on the ice and I didn’t think that they should fire him. So what do I know…

    If I were in charge, I’d do two things. One is I’d get BB to hire another/different assistant. Once such as Bob Hartley, or Ken Hitchcock, someone who’s been “to the mountaintop” before, a different voice, someone with a different perspective.

    They also need someone towards the tail end of their career who can act as another leader in the locker room while on the 3rd/4th lines, or the 5th/6th defenseman. Like Fedorov was, someone like Lidstrom, or Scott Niedermeyer if he were still playing.

    But like I said, there’s a reason I watch from the stands and not behind the bench

  13. David says:

    Fire Bruce Boudreau! You said it perfectly. “Bruce Boudreau was no match for his NHL bench counterpart in spring. Many adjustments needed, none made.” Even the Pens won three games and pushed the Bolts to the very edge without Malkin and Crosby through good coaching. There is to much talent on this team to lose in April/May. They got all the talent in the world but it does not matter without a good coach. Time for a change!!!

  14. Anthony says:

    I learned all I needed to know about Bruce watching 24/7. While he’s clearly a devoted student of the game, he showed himself to be a terrible communicator. His “Keys to the Game” whiteboard was packed with full on sentences, not the nuggets Craig and Joe provide each night. Bruce may know what needs to be done, but he surely isn’t able to get that message through to the team.

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  16. muddapucker says:

    Sometimes, change is necessary whether it is deserved or not. A message has to be sent. As much as I like Bruce, Bruce now has to go because there is no perceptible change if he remains. Sure you can change players (and some need to go) but the philosophy and management remains the same.

    I am not sure that to be called a “player’s coach” is a good thing. Players subconsciously take all a coach will give. They know how far to push. Its a coaches job to “keep em on the rock pile”. They should respect the coach, but not be his buddy. It doesn’t work that way.

    Don’t worry about Bruce, he will land on his feet, but his effectiveness as the Cap’s coach has come to an end.

  17. mostholy2 says:

    I actually feel worse about the team at the end of this team than last year. Last year you could see the effort and work against Montreal as we pretty much carried play for that series.

    I feel the opposite exiting the Tampa series. Everything that we thought we knew about the team at the end of the season turned out to be false when things counted. They were supposed to be defensively responsible, they were supposed to be able to close out close games and hold leads, they were supposed to be more disciplined and stick to their system, their penalty kill was one supposed to be one of the top in the league. In this round, they were unable to do any one of those things.

    The coaching staff isn’t either providing leadership or able to communicate it down to the players to get their players to buy in and play like they are supposed to when it comes to cruch time. The team plays like a bunch of stupid kids, doing the same failed things over and over again and expecting a different result. The team needs fewer “kids” and more “adults” to get further than they are now. BB needs to go because he can’t get the team to play like grown-ups.

  18. Jim S says:

    The entire organization needs an overhaul. Bring in a new GM, and a new coach. The new GM would serve as a fresh set of eyes to provide an accurate evaluation of the “talent”. GMGM has too much invested in these players he drafted, signed, traded for, to be able to provide the honest evaluation of the players that is needed. As for Bruce, this is the second time in 3 seasons that he has been completely out-coached by an NHL rookie coach…Pittsburgh in 2009 and this season.

  19. It is a tough time of year to blog, but it is also a rewarding time for me personally from the vantage of the caliber of commenter here. To a man and woman there has been notable reflection shared with this file, and I deeply appreciate that. For I learn from it. It’s one of the best rewards of Washington becoming a hockey town; I remember well what I was able to read within the primitive Usenet days of old when it came to Caps’ hockey, and that bears no resemblance to what we find here and at JP’s site and in so many other local digital forums.

    We’ve much to discuss in the days and weeks ahead while we lick our wounds. I hope all of you will return for it.

  20. Pingback: Lightning Strike the Caps Again… Caps Fall to Lighting » capitalpowerplay

  21. Marc says:

    Of course the sweep is bad news, but this is not an “all-timer.” To give just one example, last year the team finished “higher” (President’s Trophy) and lost to a lower-seeded team, earlier in the playoffs.

    Doesn’t change the fact that I think the Caps have to change coaches.

  22. bhrome says:

    @PnB – always. While I tend to lurk more than post (considering my hockey affiliation is not the Caps), you guys always have great insight. Actually, DC in general is quite a standout in the hockey blogger market, of which I’m thankful.

    Great stuff this year, OFB. Looking forward to some quality ice discussion over the summer, and back to the grind come September.

  23. Teka says:

    Would it be possible (if almost unheard of) to demote Bruce back to Hershey, or make him a “systems coach” of some sort? He did an amazing job at keeping everything between the AHL and NHL running similarly, but I agree we may need someone a little more hard-edged and no-nonsense as the behind-the-bench figurehead. I just hate to lose him from the system entirely, because I think the younger guys do get a lot from him, which obviously helps their transition up.

  24. Boomer says:

    First off, i do agree with your statement that the Lightning stars outplayed the Caps stars in this series, of that there is no question in my mind. Although I agree that changes need and will be made to the roster, I do not agree their needs to be a reconstruction. It is an easy observation to say theeir will be changes, the Caps have at least six UFS’s, and the only one i would try to keep is Brooksie. I would keep Gabby as coach and have him continue to develop our young talent. I do not see any help coming from Hershey for next season, but in two years Eakin, Orlov or possibly Kuznetsov will be ready for a look in the NHL.

    Your assesment regarding a pampered class of player on the Caps is way off base. Young hockey players have always been known for enjoying th enightlife. This evolves as they mature, marry have kids etc, today’s players have the means to party in Georgetown rather than at Langway’s in Lanham. But the two parts where you are totally off base is in regards to the training facility and optional skates. Having a world class training facility is a big factor in attracting potential free agents or to get player’s to waive a no trade clause in order to join the Caps. We were long seen as a hockey wasteland, but now with the success (regular season only so far) and press received under Gabby along with the Kettler facility, we have become a desired destination.

    I do not know of any coach, and even a coach who rules the roost like Iron Mike that would pace the players through a bag skate or a required practice late in the season when the player’s body needs rest more than they need to practice.

    As for Gabby being outcoached in the playoffs, whwere is the specific eveidence of that? You ask Duhatschek for specifics on his claim that Gabby is good at setting a game plan, so what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  25. JR says:

    As disastrous as his season was, it’s too soon to take Backstrom off the untouchables list.

  26. Boomer, behold the Puck Daddy from about 11:00 last night:

    “In eliminations against the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009), the Montreal Canadiens (2010) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (2011), Boudreau was outcoached. Bad line changes and too many men on the ice penalties – on a power play, no less – undermined the team against Tampa. He’s been unable to extract the same level of intensity from his players in the postseason as he has the regular season.”

    ” . . .This should be Boudreau’s final game as head coach, because standards need to be higher than this.”

  27. joshinTX says:

    As much as I hate to see the Caps lose, once again, I absolutely hated the idea that all the pundits were claiming that the new defensive minded Caps were better prepared for the playoffs. That was the stupidest argument I’ve ever heard and yet it was repeated time and again. I hope all these pundits are not eating their words.
    Go back to the offensive minded Caps of yesteryear and let the chips fall where they may.
    We lost to a hot goalie last year, a fluke who also happened to take out the defending champs with Crosby and Malkin by the way.
    Yet this year we barely eked out a series to the Rangers, one win with a fluke goal in OT after coming back from an 0-3 hole in the third and another win in OT as well. THat was not dominant play that the subscribers to the NEW DEFENSE oriented Caps were claiming.

    Bring back the fun hockey and enough of the stupid stuff. I live in TX and subscribed to Center Ice to catch as many Caps games as I could. If they go back to this wannabe Trap style I certainly won’t be inclined to lay down $150 to subscribe again. I’ll just catch them on VS, when they’re on there.

  28. Geo says:

    asst. Dean Evason’s name apparently comes up in head coach talk, so it really wouldn’t surprise me if he gets an NHL or AHL offer some time and moves on.

    If they really think it’s assistant Bob Woods’ fault that Hannan ended his shift at the wrong time in game 2, and that he and Green had lucky shots bounce off them into the net in the series, or that Carlson/Alzner did at times look like what they are (rookie defensemen with little NHL playoff experience), then by all means change Woods. I just don’t think you can fault him for those things.

    If they can Boudreau, what could they do?

    They could get an old war horse like Mike Keenan (60+ now, busy as a TV analyst eviscerating Boudreau’s decisions) who’s gotten a Cup with the Rangers, and had other deep playoff runs with them and the Flyers earlier; but little success in his last few coaching stints. He wears out his welcome fast, but if you think the team has a 1-2 year window anyway, maybe that’s the kind of change they make.

    They could promote Mark French from Hershey and say “what the hell; maybe Mark is the next Dan Bylsma rather than the next Bruce Boudreau.

    They could do what OFB has floated in the past — check in with Dale Hunter and see if a jump to the NHL appeals to him; or maybe he’d even be interested in an assistant’s role.

    I do agree that we’ve sort of returned to 2003-ish (albeit back then they couldn’t draw more than 14,000 fans to a Verizon Center playoff game) — an entertaining team full of great people we love to root for, who simply can’t get it together enough for a decent playoff run.

  29. Boomer says:

    @Pucksnbooks…what the hell is a Puck Daddy? The bad line change in game two was a combination of a slow change by Carlson and and hannan misreading the play and going for a change from the side of the ice where the puck was being played…the too many men was again a player mistake, two guys jumping on for one guy coming off, once the coach has called the next line it is up to the players to make the change…neither play had anything to do with Boudreau’s being outcoached so I am still waiting for an explanation or specifics on how Boucher outcoached him?

  30. Tre Kronor says:

    BB has to go – I said that here back in December and then waffled as the team seemed to improve defensively – but what was I thinking? BB should have left after last year’s train wreck. I completely disagree, however, with the the idea expressed by many here that the Caps roster is somehow competitive to vie for deep runs as presently constructed. It is not. The team is soft to a large degree – too many forwards (i.e., on all 4 lines) that can’t seem to stand tall and stout down low, along the boards and in front of the net. Our net presence save for Knuble is insigificant. The proof of this soft roster is the last 4 years of dismal flameouts – and humilation at the hands of more consistently physcial teams that have strong and skilled forwards that pay the price in front of the net – the Flyers, Penguins, Canadians and now Lightning. 4 years clearly tells you what this team is about – and it’s not much. Whether BB goes or not, there is no way this roster can succeed if it remains the same. The question is not only whether Ted has the guts to let BB go but also to insist on significant personnel changes. My bet is he does not because he is way too patient and way too loyal to a fault. If he does not, you can guarantee the same results next year and more misery.

  31. sean says:

    So the Coach has no bearing on how a team plays? It’s all on the players? There is a reason BB is nicknamed Juggles, he just can’t let lines stay the same even if they are playing good. Cohesion, Chemistry and Heart are what this team lacks overall, and I think the Head Coach is the one that is supposed to instill these qualities.

  32. Boomer says:

    No Sean, it is the Wizard who installs Heart!

  33. xke4me says:

    Boudreau is good at grooming young players for the NHL. He hasn’t proved successful at knowing what to do with that talent. I don’t think the players believe in him anymore either.

    I agree that McPhee needs to go. He doesn’t seem to be able to think outside the box and look outside the Caps organization for players who can augment the team. This isn’t youth hockey where you make the best of what you get. If your system doesn’t have it, you need to buy it.

    Backstrom was asked to play more of a role as a goal-getter. Not sure he was capable of the change. Let him go back to his role as the play maker and see what happens. Ditch Semin & Green. They’re valuable enough somewhere else that we can get what we need.

  34. @ BOOMER: Here’s an excerpt I believe answers your request for an example of out-coaching, from my post last night:

    The problems abound: The too-many-men negating that all-important first goal in Game 3 (there’s a reason they call it a bench minor—after all, who runs the bench?). The consistently poor effort in the third periods of pretty much every game against a supposedly more-tired team. The woefully ineffective powerplay, aided by the early insistence on keeping Alex Ovechkin on the point when, it seems, he is clearly more effective elsewhere.

    Tampa adjusted to the game situation on the fly. When the Lightning were in the lead, they went for the kill, abandoning their 1-3-1 system to put pressure on the Caps. When the Caps had the lead in the third period of Game 3, what did they do? They went into a defensive shell, as if one goal were a safe-enough margin. After the game, too many players said something to the effect of, “We took our foot off the pedal” in the third period. The only reason to take one’s foot off the pedal in that situation is to put that foot onto the opponent’s throat. That’s something a coach must reinforce.

  35. Boomer says:

    @Mike Rucki…I agree to a degree…toomny n the ice is usually a player mistake, not the coach…I too like OV lower down in th e zondspecially around the net on thePP, but with Green out for much of the season and again last night, Wideman out and Poti out, that left a spot on the point that needed to be filled. The third period woes had to do with trailing in all but game three, and the Lightning staying in their 1-3-1 with only occasionally switching to an agressive forecheck or to counter attack when they had numbers.
    I believe the Caps have players and the coach to install a hybrid system, to play to their strengths..we were outplayed by their players up and down the lineup more than we were outcoached, but we will see what happens between now and the opening game next Octobr.

  36. 50Eagle says:

    “…lecture the federal government bureaucrat here straining to pay for his family’s admission at Verizon Center the past four springs…” What is honorable about being a bloated overweight overpaid underworked federal government bureaucrat?? While Ted hopefully dismantles this team, let’s hope that the digusting overweight federal government learns a lesson and dismantles the bureaucracy…. Oh wait, that’s about as likely to happen as the Caps ever hoisting the cup.

  37. P Dobry says:

    Too exhausted to speculate right now, but add Boyd Gordon to your list of guys that should be guaranteed a roster spot. He was to this playoff dissapointment as John Carlson was to last years. I’m beginning to resent those glimmers of hope in Washington. They keep letting me down.

  38. Brad in Arlington says:

    Totally agree on your points. Problems with Bruce, Problems with players, no discipline or focus. Seriously, making news for partying mid season? Optional practice (and zero attendance by “young guns”) when they are essentially sucking?

    Bruce has to go. It’s a shame, but it is true. And, coach alone won’t help. Multiple players need to go. Period. Semin is at the top of that list. Backstrom, because of his price, is next. He gets paid too much to suck. Will he be better next year? The year after that? Who knows. It’s part of ending the country club. Players need to know there is a price if they want summer a month early.

    I like your six players to keep, but can we keep Holtby? And, maybe Hendricks? He’s only $800K, not 6.7 mil.

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  40. Matt says:

    The team doesn’t impose their will on the opponent. They win, but they don’t dictate game flow.

  41. sean says:

    from Caps Insider, BB is staying and “Everyone needs to held accountable”. Does that mean no team lunch before golf?

  42. tracy says:

    saying that BB is a “player’s coach” sounds like a parent who wants to “be his kid’s friend”.

  43. HITTMAN says:

    Bring in Hartley, Hitchcock, Crawford, or anyone else who has won a cup and is idle. Those calling for Ovechkin to lose the C don’t know shit. Nobody else comes close on this team to his level of commitment and desire.

  44. Dave H says:

    I keep seeing the optional skates mentioned. Although I can’t find it now, I remember reading somewhere that Guy Boucher just plain didn’t hold practices very frequently during the regular season. So how does that fit with a country club atmosphere? Seems like giving his players rest during the season may have helped come playoff time.

    Playoffs are about a lot more than just “effort,” you have to have some luck and stay healthy. Anyone who’s ever been part of a team that was dominant in a league knows you become a marked opponent, you get every teams A game. That adds up, especially in a sport as violent as hockey. I think this is one of the biggest contributors to the “presidents trophy curse.” Everyone keeps talking about Green, but remember how much of a beating he took against New York in the first round? It’s easy to pile on guys for “effort,” but sometimes effort leaves you gassed by the third period, no matter how good of shape you’re in.

    Also, I keep seeing speculation of various guys out partying, is there anything to back this up or are they just whispers? Surely, in the age of iPhones and 3G, that if they were really out partying all the time pictures would surface. I’m not saying they aren’t, but I’m curious to see some evidence to support the allegations.

    Overall I honestly believe part of this teams biggest problem is the management of minutes and health over the season. Guys like Green that skate big minutes and are targeted on a nightly basis are going to be worn down by the end of the season. It caught up with Carlznerson too. I’m not a fan at all of jettisoning any of the players, but I do think the coaching situation deserves a long hard look.

  45. Thaddeus Guy says:

    Poor Pucks. Because you have to worry about paying for tickets now that you spend most games in the press box too.

    If you can’t afford tickets? Tough. Not my fault. Be mad at the market and study some remedial ECON 101, because the tickets are priced at a level that the market can bear. 100+ sellouts say that the market can take another price hike. Get used to it.

    BTW, I’ll be laughing as I sell my lower bowl tickets at a profit this year too. SUCK IT! HAHA!

  46. Geo says:

    imho, before they go after retreads — aka, coaches who won a Stanley Cup a decade or more ago and otherwise since have coached teams that generally go nowhere in the playoffs if they even make the playoffs — they oughta look at assistants on other NHL staffs. Who’s up and coming?

    And look all over the AHL. Who’s doing a marvelous job in spite of constant call-ups from the NHL affiliate?

    That’s all Tampa’s Guy Boucher is ( — a guy with one marvelous AHL season under his belt and some junior hockey league coaching experience, who both Tampa and Columbus wanted to hire. He’s not some NHL senior citizen with a Cup and 20 seasons under his belt. Same with the Penguins’ Bylsma in 2009.

    And yes this is all a moot point cause everything gmgm says right now suggests no changes with BB, although conspiracy theorists will highlight he said nothing specific about the rest of the staff.

  47. DOC says:

    WOW : All these comments sound so Familiar Year after Year same old EXCUSES. Every year after the Caps have a Early DISMISSAL, During the Playoffs and trying to put the onus on one particular Person/Party, Do the real DEAL.

    1. Get rid of Boudreau find a more talented Coach who is willing to work Harder!

    2. Now to your so called Captain.Ovie is a disgrace to have the Letter “C” stitched on his jersey and lacks leadership and partys too much with all the money he is being paid. Toss him to the curb or let him go back to his Homeland hes done.

    Now Green he seems great inquiring penaltys. Backstrom has lost his interest playing for the Caps as he sees no Stanley Cup in the future.

    As far as Goaltending Neuvi can stand his ground has great Skills/Talent .But no Defence to be found to lend a hand when it gets busy.

    So now one has to wonder will the Caps overcome their quest for the Stanley Cup ?????. With the present Team this will never take place!!!!!!!

  48. BC Caps says:

    GM needs to work on (re)moving the defensive liabilities and the underachievers on this team and the way to do that is to part with a couple of the purely offensive players. On my “untouchables” list, in order:
    Ovechkin, Carlson, Backstrom, Johansson, Alzner, Holtby, ONE of Neuvirth/Varlamov, Laich.
    That leaves Semin, Green (don’t forget Orlov is on deck), and THE OTHER of Neuvirth/Varlamov as primary trade bait. That would allow for a trade such as, as a wishful example, the Leafs swapping Phaneuf for Semin? It’d be like having a young Chris Pronger and would add much needed fire and brimstone that they so desperately need. Because as configured right now the Capitals are just too physically soft and emotionally fragile.

  49. sonja says:

    Wow … done with taking swipes at the Caps, now apparently the blog author, his place of employment, and everything else is fair game. Sounds like some of these commenters need to change out of their pajamas and come out of their mommy’s basement …

    No … they are not in their mommy’s basement, because any self-respecting mother I know would not tolerate such potty-mouth. All the mothers I know (and I count myself as one) would sternly remind their children that if they did not have anything constructive to add to the conversation they need to keep their words to themselves. Perhaps these commenters just live under a rock.

  50. TG says:

    So I’ve thought about it for a while, and I think I’ve got an idea of what I’d do if I were GMGM. Of course, I also admit that he’s way smarter than me.

    First, I go to Coach BB and strongly encourage him to get another assistant coach. One that’s not one of “his guys” so that he can get a different perspective on things. How about Bob Hartley? Or someone of that ilk.

    Next I go to Philadelphia and say, “We’ve each got a problem. How about Varlamov or Holtby for Richards or Carter?” That’s a win/win trade, which of course means it won’t happen.

  51. judy says:

    #32 DALE HUNTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and the headlines will read: captain turned coach finally gets his name on Lord Stanley’s Mug!

  52. Bucky Katt says:

    Whelp….appears like the status quo will remain in effect if what is being reported over at Puck Daddy is correct. Oy gevalt! Personally, I don’t want an apology out of TL nor the same old excuses that crop up year after year. Although if TL truly wants to make it up to the fans, how about returning the Round 2 ticket money?

  53. Spank That Donkey says:

    The Kolzig Curse will only be lifted when Bruce Boudreau, aka Uncle Fester.. is relieved of his coaching duties…

    Remember me? 2007/2008 you mocked the Curse… I said that Uncle Fester should have given the goalie who endured the blow up, and grueling years of rebuilding the team at least one game in goal… one game, especially game seven.. because as pretty boy goalie Huet, was being pushed around by the Flyers…

    You mocked me… There is only one way, to break the Curse!

  54. DONNAB says:

    I just saw BB and GMGM press conferences. It was done only 15 hours after the loss, but GM did mention not changing the coach. I did agree with most that BB needs to go until someone mentioned just to change his assistant(s) and i have to say that that sounds like the better way to go. He really is great with young talent and lets face it, there is more young talent coming. I agree with taking the C away from OVI. A captain needs to lead his team all the time, not just sometime. Listening to Jason Arnott was interesting as he talked about The Caps as “them” not “us” so it makes me think he will not be around next season??? Does anyone know if OVI left to go play the IIHF World Hockey? Unfortunately, I think Green needs to go. he just does not have what it takes to make it in the playoffs, unless the Caps can get a vetran D man to help him with his game. Having said that, it seems as the entire team doesn’t have what it takes. They need more players to play beyound their capability in the playoffs as St. Louis mentioned when talking to the press that it takes players to play better than they normally can play to win in the playoffs. I hate to say this but does anyone see it as being a North American thing? That North American players seem to give that “extra” in the playoffs, they seem to have more passion?? I don’t know but some of the Caps just didn’t seem to want it that badly…..

  55. OvieTracker says:

    I totally agree about changing the country club culture of pampering and entitlement. The recent playoff ousters prove to me that discipline and leadership are sorely lacking, and having a coach that enables the partying ways of the younger players is doing them and the team no favors. It’s time everyone–and I mean EVERYONE who wants to wear a Capitals jersey–has to realize that sacrifices have to be made if you want to be considered an elite team and serious Stanley Cup contender. That attitude adjustment means that one’s off-ice time must be re-arranged to accommodate hockey games and practices and not the other way around. Way too often I’ve gotten the impression that some players have the attitude that they won’t allow hockey to interfere with their partying rock star lifestyle. They need to learn that they earn their handsome paychecks by dedicating themselves to be the best they can be at their sport. The Washington Capitals aren’t paying them to set attendance records at all the local night clubs and bars. They also aren’t paying them to sign as many commercial endorsements as possible. Unless and until these Caps get their priorities in order, they are destined to repeat their playoff flameouts.

    As for Ovie’s captaincy, I felt at the time he wasn’t suited for this responsibility. It’s too much of a distraction that impedes his being the best player on the ice. The captaincy has reinforced his worst trait, and that is to try to make things happen by himself instead of adhering to the team first philosophy. A team Captain is also supposed to be a liaison between the other players and management, and I’m sorry but Ovie is too much a free spirit to be play the “company man” role for this team. And while his command of English has improved, I don’t see him being the vocal go-to guy in the locker room either. I don’t think management will take the C away from him, it would be too huge a blow to his ego and could have massive negative repercussions in his on-ice performance. My hope is Ovie himself will realize the C is too much a burden and will voluntarily agree to step down and give it to another player who can handle the responsibility better. But in order for Ovie to do that, he must be mature enough to realize his shortcomings and not allow his ego to get in the way of taking one for the team. But I think he still has a lot of growing up to do before he finally “gets it.”

  56. Brent says:

    I enjoyed reading posts on this site much more when they the majority of them celebrated what is great about hockey and shared the joy that we all enjoyed following a hockey team that was (and I believe still is) loaded with friendly, likable, high character people from top to bottom. I am not arguing your right to be bitter, it is just a different tone then the one I remember when I fell in love with this blog, when the team was not nearly as enjoyable to follow, by the way. I realize that as fans we make an emotional and financial investment in our chosen teams and that grants us the privledge of sitting in judgment, but I must say that am I glad that you are not grading my performance in any endeavor. I am also willing to wager you would not want someone else shredding you record and accomplishments immediately after a painful event. Again, I am not challenging you right to do so, I am merely saying I don’t enjoy reading it. I hope that you receive some sort of cathartic benefit by venting your anger and frustration when you right these types of post (which are becoming more and more frequent.) I hope you can forgive me if I forgo reading them in the future, as I generate enough anger and frustration on my own, I do not need to share in your.

  57. APCaps says:

    Have really enjoyed OFB since I found it. You guys do a great job and the insight on this blog and from commenters is truly tremendous. I have a great many thoughts that I won’t post all at once lest I create “War and Peace II”. I start by saying I am as passionate about the Caps as anyone I know and have an account at Best Buy for universal remote replacement to vouch for it. I, like most on this site, was shocked by the performance against Tampa and am struggling to come to grips with what I thought was a team better equipped for the playoffs than in prior years. Thoughts of total reconstruction are, frankly, not consistent with the way the owner operates (in the post-Jagr era) and, in the age of salary caps, etc., not truly practical. I think the core group of players is still a strong core group of players and that continuing to move forward around Ovi, Backstrom, Green, etc. is still the logical way to go. Semin is, as we all know, an enigma. Such talent but a headcase. I often wonder if he would have been long gone but for Ovi’s influence. On the other hand, I wonder if Ovi’s mental preparation suffers trying to help his headcase pal (who still refuses to admit he speaks English) deal with his inner demons. Bashing Backstrom is really over the top. Yes, he had a subpar season, but I don’t buy into the “he doesn’t care — he had his payday theory.” The pain on his face is evident after every loss. My guess is that he was way more injured all year than we will ever know and he will return to form. You don’t go from 100 point guy to a 60 point guy without some real reason. I’ll chalk 20 points up to the “defensive mindset” but the rest I’m writing off to injury — feel free to make your own evaluation. For what it’s worth, I’m ambivalent about BB. I think what should really happen is that GMGM (who isn’t going anywhere) should have candid player exit interviews with all of his guys and make his decision based on that. We all know Brooksie would throw himself on the train tracks for BB so he gets quoted all the time, but other guys may not feel the same way. If he’s lost the team, let him go. If he hasn’t, bringing in someone new is not, in my view, the panacea that others seem to think it is. These are PROFESSIONALS. They should not need a coach to motivate them in the 3rd period of a playoff game. If they can’t do that on their own — that’s shocking. I think they have heart but are a group of headcases, haunted by the ghosts of Caps past.

    My take on the series for what it’s worth. Too much time before the series to get complacent and read their own press clippings. When game 1 was 2-1 late in the second, after having grossly outplayed Tampa, having Roloson make multiple ridiculous saves, having Brooksie’s skate to stick miss by an inch for a “kick-in” no goal, the lack of killer instinct that was a hallmark for this team kicked in and when Tampa got one off of Hannon’s backside and then on the PP, they got the “here we go again” mentality. Only to be reinforced in the second game OT after Ovi’s late game-tier when they outchanced Tampa in the beginning of OT only to drop it on the bad line change. By the time you get to game 3 and play the best period of playoff hockey in period 2 and find yourself, finally, with a lead going into period 3, the “let’s not F it up mentality kicks in” and the players try to shield the lead. Tell me what you think BB should have done? Do you think he told them to sit on the lead? That was the players. Two goals in 30 seconds toasted them and the series was done.

    Need to pick up some more French Canadian and American players who will play at all costs (Knuble, Laich, Hendrick). Love the skill of the Russians and Swedes but other than Ovi they are soft. Need to keep some of that talent but upgrade with more toughness and net presence. Not a total rebuild but some retooling.

    My take anyway.

  58. Tre Kronor says:

    @ACAPS: You are spot-on – this team needs more North American large bodies that can control the boards and play down low – Semin is the prime example of a winger that can’t control the boards even though he might try from time to time. Acquiring this type of roster though – a la the Sharks, who now seem to have found the roster potion with by and large North American beasts that crushed the Caps earlier this year with the type of play we need – would require that Ted insist upon it. I am depressed to read this morning that he won’t and that he’s really fine with 4 years of ineptitude in playoff hockey – so expect more of the same soft play from this franchise – one which clearly will not face reality.

  59. Marc says:

    @APCAPS, the old trope that Europeans (esp. Russians and Swedes) are “soft” and can’t win you a Cup? Really?

    How do Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, and Ruslan Salei fit into that theory?

  60. APCaps says:

    @Marc. I didn’t say all Europeans — just ours. Agree fully that the guys you pointed out would be fine since they play like North Americans, but as much as I love Marcus and Nick (and thought Fleishman had a good skill set before his departure), they aren’t going to really muck it up whole lot — at least not with any success. And it goes without saying that Sasha would rather try to pry to puck out of a scrum from at least a stick’s length away that actually use his body to get to it. My comment was, I acknowledge, an overgeneralization, but as it relates to the Caps group of Europeans, I stand by it.

  61. martin says:

    @APCAPS “…These are PROFESSIONALS. They should not need a coach to motivate them in the 3rd period of a playoff game.” Yes, they are professionals but most are guys in their 20’s that NEED motivation and constant reminder that they are paid $$$$$$ and maturity that surpasses their peers is expected. Going back to the country club analogy – little less carrots and a bit longer stick might help.

  62. APCaps says:

    @Martin – as Homer Rice, the coach who invented the triple option in college football once said, “You can motivate by fear, and you can motivate by reward. But both those methods are only temporary. The only lasting thing is self motivation.” I disagree that just because they are in their 20’s they can’t be disciplined and self-motivated without the coach being in their face. I also find it laughable that eveyone wants to strip Ovi of the C. Do you really think that most captains spend significant amounts of time having conversations motivating their teammates? Most captains lead by example. Does it help to be able to stand up once in a while in the locker room and give a speech. Probably. Does it matter so much if it comes from the captain or another veteran leader? I don’t think so. The harm that would be done by stripping Ovi of the C would be far greater than any good that would come of that. You can disagree with the choice that was made when he was given that title but changing it now would be to compound the problem as if you are saying, “boy, if we had a different captain, we wouldn’t have flamed out against TB.” Give me a break.

  63. Tre Kronor says:

    @ Marc: As one who follows Swedish hockey and players closely, I can tell you that the Caps’ need for physical down low FORWARDs is more than likely not going to be met by more Swedish players – we need more North Amercian large players who grew up in small rinks and can play tough physical hockey in the playoffs. The Caps stink at this – and they will next year too if GMGM really stands by BB and the roster’s current make-up. D-men like Lidstrom and Kronwall play a different spot and are not called upon as much to control the puck along the boards low in the offensive zone, which our European players (except Ovie) are generally not able to do, and if they do, they certainly don’t strike much fear in our opponents (again, Semin is the prime example and Johansson, as much as I like him, lacks any phyicality whatsoever – and Backstrom, who can control the puck, rarely if ever dishes out the hits). Holmstrom and Franzen are, by Swedish standards, freaks and not typical. But, if you are onto the Red Wings, you raise a different issue and that is the need for a coach who strikes fear and excellence in his charges and who can discipline his players into playing a system and playing it well – and adapting at this stage of the season. BB ain’t no Babcock.

  64. APCaps says:

    @Tre Kononr — Agreed. With the exception of the 4th line (the one that used to be the 4th line before BB stuck Sturm on it — what was that about) with Hendricks, Gordon and Bradley, the team rarely does a good job of cycling the puck down low and keeping continued pressure on a defense. Which, when I think about it, makes BB’s decision not to play the 4th line much in Game 1 because TB was down men and only rolling 3 lines even more curious. If the goal was to wear them down and out given their series with the Pens, why not take the body early and often like a good prizefighter. Then, you would suspect, by the third, the Caps would be able to operate at will. Oh, right, I forgot — we decided to only play 40 minutes each game in this series.

  65. Geo says:

    I’m surprised Bloggers haven’t brought up (or, at least, not more often) the parallels with Bryan Murray’s Caps tenure. Bryan was, in his first 4 years of Caps making playoffs,:
    Lost in 1st Round>Lost in 2nd Round>Lost in 1st Round>Lost in 2nd Round

    BB in his first 4:

    Bryan’s next 4:
    Lost in 2nd Round>Lost in 1st Round>Lost in 2nd Round>Lost in 1st Round

    BB’s next 4: ?

    I wouldn’t blame fellow old fogie fans for seeing a Ground Hog Day pattern there. Maybe we can hire Bruce’s brother in a few years (a la Terry Murray, who finally got them past the 2nd round)? 😀

    Though Bryan didn’t have the weight of X years of this constant 1st/2nd round flameouts or the Internet or the current Caps’ offensive firepower. And he had a hellish division to try to get through in the playoffs under the format then.

  66. Geo says:

    Wait, I got Bryan’s last 4 seasons messed up.

    It was: Lost in 1st Round>Lost in 2nd Round>Lost in 1st Round>Fired.

    Sorry! 🙂

  67. steve says:

    I have absolutely had it with this franchise! I’m tired of pouring my heart into this team all year long, only to have it smashed every playoff season! There is no team in any sport with a worse playoff history than the capitals! When they actually win something i’ll be back. Until then, i’m gone. I can’t stand anymore of the excuses!

  68. Nick says:

    I have read your column and Eric Duhatschek’s column. You both present reasonable arguments, but what stands out about yours is the reference to Duhatschek’s “sneering elitism”. There is no basis for this comment and it reads like a cheap shot. I’m sure he doesn’t pay for his own tickets, but I’m not sure what this has to do with anything. The popular sentiment is that Boudreau should be fired. Duhatschek offers a reasonable counter argument to this. He basically contends that they are a good team that has run into two hot goaltenders. That’s pretty much the epitome of playoff hockey, hardly the views of a sneering elitist.

    Duhatschek doesn’t mention it, but there is a school of thought in hockey that you have to lose before you can win. Two perfect examples of this are the Islanders of the late 70’s/ early 80’s, and the Redwings in the 90’s. Both suffered through several years of league-leading regular seasons followed by disappointing playoff exits. The Redwings switched coaches after the first year, only to suffer through 3 more similar years with Bowman. The Islanders stuck with Arbour throughout. Coincidentally both achieved success in the fourth year. By comparison this only the Capitals third playoff failure.

  69. Brent says:

    I’m not really sure which side of the argument that this puts me on with regards to BB, but lets look at some history. When BB was in Lowell and Manchester, he coached teams that had incredible regular season records but consistently could not get out of the first round of the playoff, losing two or three years in a row as a 1 seed to 4 seeds (the AHL uses a divisional playoff format) that ended up getting him fired. GMGM immediately hired him to coach Hershey saying that once he became available he was the one and only candidate. BB then went on to the finals in the first year in Hershey and then won it all in year one, went back to the finals in year two, only to lose to a hot goalie (where have we heard that before) before getting the gig in DC the next season. In fairness, those Hershey teams, as well as the ones that followed under Woods and French up to this year, were absurdly talented. While we can all agree this Caps team is also incredibly talented, I do not think you will ever see a team with that much of a talent advantage over the competition in the NHL. Again, I do not know if this is an argument to keep BB (he has proven that he can get the job done, at least at the minor league level) or to get rid of him (maybe he needs a change of scenery and/or he can only win with a loaded team.)

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