Things are about to get real in Washington, or at least that’s how it seems. According to Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, a recent chat with Alex Ovechkin may result in a new attitude for the high-flying, rock star Washington Capitals.
According to Capitals Insider:
About a month ago, Bruce Boudreau and Alex Ovechkin sat down for a lengthy discussion at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
“He was really receptive to everything,” the Capitals coach said of his star left wing. “He asked, ‘What do I have to do? What do you want me to do?’ He threw out some ideas. ”
Boudreau wouldn’t go into the specifics of their conversation, but he did say the two talked about the need for Ovechkin to take his role as team captain “a step further” as well as the importance of establishing “a more serious tone” in the dressing room from the first day of training camp.
Will it work? Is that what’s needed?
The Capitals have long been criticized for their attitudes and their professionalism. What we saw on HBO’s 24/7 was the Capitals being in disarray while the Penguins were organized and serious, at least at first.
Compare Bruce Boudreau’s angry, profanity-laced locker room speech to Dan Bylsma’s determined talk:
The Capitals are emotional and uncontrolled while the Penguins are serious and dedicated, or at least that’s how it seems
But is professionalism and seriousness really what the Capitals need? And do they need it from Ovechkin?
Yes, Alex Ovechkin is the team’s captain and leader, but he isn’t the reason why the Capitals have been eliminated from the playoffs early recently. During the 2011 playoffs, he led the team in goals (with five) and points (with 10.) On most nights was the team’s best player. He’s showing leadership on the ice, even if he isn’t showing it in the locker room (and that he isn’t showing it there is debatable.) It’s the rest of his team that isn’t responding.
Where was Alex Semin during the playoffs? Nicklas Backstrom? Mike Green? If those players can’t step up their game during the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s something wrong with them, no matter how relaxed their dressing room is.
Of course, it makes sense that the team would want to try and change something. There is a lot of pressure on them to win now, especially since Tomas Vokoun has only a one-year deal with the team. Yes, a lot of that pressure is manufactured and unnecessary, but it’s still there.
We know Ovechkin wants to win the Stanley Cup and we know he works incredibly hard during the playoffs in order to accomplish that goal. But what about Green, Backstrom and Semin? Do they want the Cup as badly? And, if they don’t, is anything Ovechkin says or does going to change that?
More from Boudreau & Capitals Insider:
“We’re not all 22-year-old guys anymore. He’s the captain. I think he’s a great captain on the ice because no one works as hard as him, and no one wants to win more than him.”
“He’s going to take it a step further. That’s maturity. It’s not anything more than that.”
Since getting the ‘C’ in January of 2010, Ovechkin has definitely been of the lead-by-example variety. To me, it sounds like Boudreau implored him to be more assertive and vocal — and less concerned about hurting feelings — both in the dressing room and, if need be, in front of the cameras and mics, too.
It doesn’t feel like Ovechkin is responsible for the Capitals’ problems. However, Boudreau hit the nail on the head there, perhaps inadvertently, when he said “no one works as hard as him.” The issue with the Capitals isn’t Ovechkin. Yes, maybe he could do more to inspire his teammates and maybe he could be a more vocal leader, but at some point you have to put some responsibility on the rest of the team as well.
It seems that Boudreau at least partially understands that.
“I’ll be phoning everybody to make sure that they know the importance of getting off to a fast start,” Boudreau said. “This is a very serious year for us. Even though every year has been serious, we want to take it that step further, and that’s going to take a real commitment from everybody. We’re not those [young] guys anymore. Guys have been in the NHL five, six, seven years now.”
Then the coach added: “We’re taking a little bit more of a serious tone.”
It’s not that Ovechkin needs to grow up or become more serious. It’s not even that the tone in the room needs to be more professional. It’s that everyone needs to work hard. Like Boudreau said, it’s “going to take a real commitment from everybody.” These players are all adults. They know what it takes to succeed in the NHL. At some point the Capitals staff has to look around the room and see which players are taking responsibility for their actions and which players aren’t. It’s up to the players. All of them. They have to learn to work hard regardless of what Ovechkin tells them. They have to do this on their own.
This isn’t the Capitals last chance at a Cup. It’s far from it. Almost any team that has Alex Ovechkin and a decent supporting cast will be a contender. But if the Capitals want to change the league’s perception of them, they’ll need to step it up as a franchise. That includes every single member of the Capitals organization. Maybe Ovechkin setting a more serious tone in the locker room is the first step, but it’s not the only one.