I'd just like to take a moment to stick a note in for the Cap's next regular season campaign at the end of this regular season. It's the least I can do given I am being told
Don’t Worry About the Last Game - Worry About The Playoffs :-)
Ted Leonsis (April 14, 2009)
Can't you just feel the confidence, the clarity, the absolute truth that the habits and shortcomings of the regular season are a thing of the past now that our team has gotten past the boring hum-drum regular season.
Thus, this is a note for next regular season. Because it won't apply to the playoffs.
It's a very well-worn subject that - along with great success - this Capitals team has shown a great deal of inconsistency throughout the reglar season. Beyond accounting for injury. It's not particularly news either that they have also shown that they in fact play better after the rare tongue lashing and/or harsh workout is loosed as a last resort. However, as coach Boudreau states:
I hope it doesn't take me coming in and screaming and yelling to get them going . . . You yell at your kids too much, they'll tune you out.
There is certainly some historical justification for Bruce's concern:
"At some point, players sort of tune things out," general manager George McPhee said. "And that's why the change was made. ... He's a very good coach. I didn't believe it that these things had to happen, but I believe it now, that at some point the players need a new message.
Wilson's dismissal came a month after the Capitals, who were thought to be a sure bet for the playoffs ... finished ninth in the Eastern Conference -- one spot away from a postseason berth -- with a 36-33-11-2 record.
sportsillustrated.com (May 10, 2002)
Given the "tune-out" concern, after numerous unfocused performances throughout this season and a growing collection of quotes regarding lack of focus from players like Brooks Laich and John Erskine, rather than yell at them, Coach Boudreau's recent response to a poor outing was one more of frustration:
I just have a hard time because, never being able to stick in the NHL, I know how much I would have given to play. Defensively we were so out of whack, but it is over...
Is this tack from Bruce and Ted the best approach: Assume the team will just play better when the playoffs start? And then cross our fingers at this point again next year?
Assuming this is true, the question remains:
How do we coax the focus, professionalism, determination, pride, team-play out of this talented group of individuals for the next 82 game campaign?
There was no solution to this issue for the entire regular season.
The Capitals team that tuned out Wilson by year 5 of his tenure had 8 players who were 33 years old or older. With names like Bondra and Oates, we counted on these guys for points to win games. If you're yelling at guys after every game who've been around that long ... where do I start?
Today's Capitals team has three players over the age of 32 today. None of these three are particularly expected to score, and they have generally not exceeded this expectation.
Despite what the organization may say, it is still a young team. They are still learning what it takes to build an NHL league championship team versus a tournament championship team. For a number of these players, Bruce has been their only true NHL coach.
These are not Ron Wilson's Capitals
They are at a place where they should be able to take the heat until they show they can light the fire under their own ass every night. Bring it.
Or we can keep adding to the list of players saying puiblically the reason a game was lost was because the team couldn't get up for it. Sure such statements from players may not hurt anyone's length of tenure, but they can't help any either.
I thought about posting this after the playoffs, but depending on how we do some may see it as either an attempted "I told you so," or else whining despite post-season success. Neither would be the case.