So I was having quite a discussion about the state of hockey in Washington today with some people from The PENS-BURGH!!! Facebook group and it got me to really thinking about the circus surrounding the Capitals the last few seasons. I can not for the life of me remember the last time that a mega superstar player has fallen so suddenly and even before hitting his prime. I am going to be honest and I want to put this out here right now. I am NOT a fan of Ovechkin or The Capitals. I am going to try to look at the situation without bias and give an honest opinion of what I think needs to happen to start fixing the mess.
The firing of Bruce Boudreau by the Capitals was a way to show the fans of the team and the players in the dressing room that there will be changes coming to the team. The issue I have with the firing is that there were rumors from weeks ago on many different sports networks that claimed Ovechkin and Semin were purposely playing half assed to get Boudreau fired as the team was tuning him out and ignoring him. Now is this true? Well, I will say that clips of both players in game action of late has been brutal with the defensive efforts in their own zone or lack there of.
I am not saying that Boudreau shouldn’t be fired as more successful coaches have been fired for less but I do think it is a crock that the superstars on the team may have purposely played poor enough to get their coach fired. If this is true, I would be embarrassed to be a Captials fan and would re-consider backing a team with this type of attitude.
It all starts at the top to try to fix this mess. They need to do a good old fashion house cleaning and bring in a management team that is committed to bringing a championship to the city. The new coaching staff also has to stop babying the stars on the team and make them accountable for their actions and lack of play. All winning teams have a system in place that they have their player buy into and Washington should be no exception. Ovechkin and company also need to realize that they have to evolve as a player if they want to be successful. Look at Sidney Crosby for example. He was a pass first playmaker when he debuted in the NHL but now is the most complete player in the league and has no major weaknesses in his game. Whenever he read or heard that he had a weakness in his game, Sid worked hard to not just get better in that area but also make it a strength of his game. Ovechkin has not displayed the ability or the desire to do this.
The other area that needs to be rebuilt is the actual team itself. The only player worth redeeming in the current Capitals line up at this time is Nicklas Backstrom. The attitudes of Ovechkin and Semin are squandering the talent that they have. I am not a huge fan for either man but I will not question the talent that they have. I do question their work ethic and commitment to winning. If they keep Ovechkin then they have to remove the “C” from his jersey and name a new Captain. Would you want the players on your favorite team rallying around a Captain like that?
There is one final thing that needs to be addressed in Washington and that is the current team culture. Obviously it does not work and needs a major overhaul. How to address that is a little more challenging and starts with the leadership in the dressing room. The dressing room needs structure and needs to be drama free. Drama will cause a ripple effect that will spread like a disease through a young team.
I am afraid that there is no easy fix in store for The Capitals and the appointment of Dale Hunter as head coach will not address all the issues that are present in Washington. If Hunter stands up to his dressing room and makes them accountable, it is possible he can salvage the season. As a Penguins fan however, I hope the team continues down the path towards implosion as I have to say. It is nice to see Ovechkin humbled.