Doing Some Accountability Accounting

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 30: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals talks to his team during a timeout against the Buffalo Sabres at the Verizon Center on September 30, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

One month into the 2011-12 season, there's no question that the buzzword around the Washington Capitals is "accountability." Bruce Boudreau has made it clear on multiple occasions that on-ice misdeeds have consequences, and this new merit-driven regime has already seen the captain benched, the number one goalie snubbed for the Opening Night start, a 39-year-old veteran dropped from the top line to the fourth, and so on.

One player who had, up until Tuesday night, seemingly escaped any discernible punishment for his poor play was Alexander Semin, who was humming along with just two goals, seven minor penalties, and a minus-two rating in a dozen games. But after his second tripping minor of the game against Dallas (one that led to the Stars' insurance goal), it was Semin's turn to face the music. Per Steve Whyno at the Washington Times:

Asked about the general subject of penalties and how to address the problem, coach Bruce Boudreau was simple and to the point.

"You address it by taking ice time away," he said. "Alex Semin got two shifts after the second penalty, both on power plays. As hard as he worked in the first period, and scored a goal and every thing else, but he can't be leading our team with penalties with nine minors in 13 games."

Yep, Semin got his. Well, other than the fact that he actually skated three shifts after the penalty, not two (as Whyno noted, and which is detailed here), but that's neither here nor there. What is more interesting is that if we take a look at the shift chart for Semin and his linemates for the night (Marcus Johansson and Cody Eakin), we see that Semin really wasn't skipped at all:

Semin_shift_chart_medium
Click to enlarge (Semin is on the top line, his penalty expired at roughly the 48-minute mark; the light-green background represents Caps power plays, the light-blue Dallas man-advantages)

Boudreau's implication was that Semin had had his ice time reduced as punishment for his offenses. To the contrary, he skated two power play shifts (presumably something a skill player like Semin cherishes) and didn't miss an even-strength shift that his line skated.

Knowing what motivates individual players is part of what makes a coach in any sport effective. Some players need the carrot, others the stick. But accountability is only effective if it applies across the board. And it's only real... if it's real.

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