I had this whole rant drafted Friday about everyone overreacting, being irrationally pessimistic, and how they did not know what they were talking about when trying to “fix” the Caps via online media outlets. Then, I watched the Capitals get pumped by the Toronto Maple Leafs, 7-1 tonight. It was only tonight that I really started to think that major changes could be coming to the Caps. There are many highs and lows in an 82 game NHL season. Sometimes making the right change or not making the wrong change can alter the course of a team’s fortune for the season. What can the Washington Capitals do at this point in the season to get back on track?
The easiest and probably most popular in social media is firing head coach Bruce Boudreau. It’s always easier to get rid of coaches and not players. Their contracts usually don’t carry the same monetary guarantees. None of us really know if making a coaching change would help or hurt the Caps at this point. Given the team’s performance during the month of November and the expectations for the Capitals, it wouldn’t be surprising if Boudreau was let go. A change behind the bench could help motivate the players. A different voice might be listened to differently. However, what if Bruce Boudreau isn’t the problem?
Player leadership needs should be looked at as well. Call it coincidence with some of the supplemental disciplinary things that were happening at the time with Alex Ovechkin but I truly believe he has not been the same player since the “C” was sewn on his sweater. In fact, I don’t believe the team has played at the same, highly motivated level since Ovechkin was named the captain in January 2010. They were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in a heartbreaking 7 game first round series. Then, the Caps struggle through the middle of the 2010-2011 season. We all know how the Caps made it to the second round in the 2011 playoffs only to get swept by the Lightning. The expectation was that the Capitals would progress as Ovechkin matured into the leader of the franchise. It hasn’t happened. If another player is named captain, then what?
It could cause more problems than it’s worth. Say they give the “C” to Brooks Laich (my own personal choice). Does Ovechkin shutdown? Does it cause a rift in the room between Ovi’s buddies like Semin and Backstrom, with the rest of the guys? Whatever chemistry is in the room after having such a terrible November for this club so far, is probably not worth risking. Even if you do put the captaincy on someone else’s shoulder, it wouldn’t mean that the entire roster would suddenly come to life and play full, sixty minute games.
That’s the problem now. To a man, the Washington Capitals are not playing motivated hockey. They are just going through the motions when they lose. Since motivation comes from within, the entire lineup has to want to win. Each Caps player given a sweater on any given night has to commit to winning. Can a leadership change in coaches or players help shock everyone into that? Sometimes. Ultimately though, it’s really up to the individuals.