Last night the Washington Capitals were down a goal late in the game, and head coach Bruce Boudreau chose not to put superstar Alex Ovechkin on the ice.
Ovy was understandably pissed, and muttered something to himself.
Then he celebrated when his team scored, was put on the ice in overtime, assisted on the OT winner, said the right things in interviews after, then called it a day. And, it was a pretty damn good one too – got a point, got a win, got out of Dodge.
Ovy being pissed at his coach and muttering something - even if that something was what Deadspin and the above video speculated - is a non-story. I can’t tell you the amount of players I’ve heard curse out our coach on the bench during a game. Hell, I’ve done it myself plenty of times. That didn’t mean I played any less hard, or stopped wanting my team and teammates to succeed. No, I was pissed because, in that instant, I thought I was good enough to be out there on the ice when it mattered.
And as a player, you can play the worst game of your life, and in that big moment still expect to go out there. You see a guy - and I’m sure Ovy saw a few - and think “tough night or not, I’m still better than that guy. I should still be out there.”
That doesn’t mean that when you take those thoughts and turn them into “you f’ing piece of ___” under your breath that you want a trade. That you want your coach fired. That something has to change.
The dynamic in a team dressing room is rarely altered by a key player sitting in a big moment, or a role player getting the chance to shine unexpectedly.
Why? You play 82 games, and these emotional highs and lows come so frequently that you don’t have time to dwell on one minor personnel disagreement from one game. If you take a few games “off” to dwell and pout, you’ll get swallowed whole by the competitive nature of the sport. Your stats would get hurt, your spot on the depth chart would get hurt, all of that.
What Boudreau did was basically the definition of coaching – making a decision between player A and player B when things matter most. And we can rest assured that he got Ovechkin’s attention – look at how much the move is getting from us in the media. It’s good for Ovy to know he’s not entitled to anything.
So you be a pro, prepare the same way and play better the next day. You earn your ice time.
This likely won’t happen to Ovy again, possibly ever. But it’s fair for the coach to play the guys that are playing best that night in the big moments.
Ovy being pissed he didn’t get the nod to do what he does best? That’s fair too. I don’t care what he called Boudreau.