Washington Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth had the audacity to answer some interview questions honestly, and it’s probably going to blow up in his face. He’s been nothing but meek and mild since joining the club (does he even speak english?), but all that changed in one interview.
The answers he gives to questions from the Czech website iSport.Cz very much remind me of someone’s memoirs, who, once retired and removed from the situation, is able to give frank assessments of teammates and situations now that it can’t come back to bite them. Except in this case, it still can. (Stick-tap to Russian Machine Never Breaks for the find – for the complete quotes, here’s part one, and part two.)
On his goalie partner Braden Holtby:
I’m starting the season sure that I want to play forty/fifty games and I am really sure that I have the weakest competition (Braden Holtby) I’ve ever had. I will try to be number one goalie this season. Finally!
He sure is a great goalie. But I can’t compare him to Voky or Varlamov, that’s what I meant. In comparison to those two, he played nothing in the NHL and that’s why I take him as the weakest of them three. I’m definitely not saying that he is bad, not at all. I actually like the way he plays. But he is the worst of them three, that’s all.
He does go on to say that Holtby is a friend, but he makes another remark that basically implies he (Neuvirth) thinks he was as good in playoffs two years ago as Holtby was last year, and “the second season is the turning point,” meaning he’s not so sure his competitor can keep up the level of play we saw in last year’s playoffs.
How about that though, if you’re Holtby? Maybe the translation makes it sound a bit harsh, but “the worst” is generally not a phrase you’d like to fall out of a teammate’s face when he’s discussing your abilities.
Interestingly, he also mentions that he advised Vokoun to go to Pittsburgh, referencing Marc-Andre Fleury’s terrible playoff performance. As in, he sees an opportunity for him to play there. I’m not saying he’s wrong, it’s juat a fun, passive shot at Fleury.
On Alex Semin:
I see the leaving of Semin as a huge minus for the team, but then again I think it may do some good. He didn’t have the best work ethic. Maybe now when Ovi will be without him, he will put more into hockey. Maybe that’s what the management was going for.
But I think it’s nothing that isn’t well known. If Semin wanted to, he could have been the best player in the world, but he doesn’t want to every day. And that’s wrong.
The “bad work ethic” comments about Semin are so frequent from teammates (ones still in the League, mind you), that it’s an open-and-shut case. The guy simply doesn’t work hard enough for his teammates liking. But that’s not the shocker in that sentence, it’s the comment about Ovechkin. “Maybe he’ll put more into hockey.” Geez. What does that imply?
Does he have anything else to say about Ovy? Yes, yes he does.
He isn’t what he used to be, that’s for sure.
And if a team like ours wants to have a chance in Stanley Cup, we need Ovi to be the best. We all expect that from him; he has to be the real leader. But it’s hard you know, he achieved everything as a player. He was on absolute top, and then one can only fall down. I just hope that Ovi will stop falling and instead stops and maybe tries to get back on top. As for his attitude in the locker, he is still the same guy. Even when it’s not working out for him, he is in a good mood, he celebrates with the others. He is the right team player. He will stay like that forever.
Well, that’s a bit of a recovery, I suppose. At least he has nice things to say about his demeanor.
After being asked how he felt about Adam Oates being hired, Neuvirth said some nice things, and punctuated it well by saying he’s doubly pumped because it means that Dale Hunter is gone.
When asked to elaborate on why he doesn’t like Hunter, he had this to say:
If only because Holtby was number one under him in playoffs. Generally, I didn’t find a way to him. I had good relationships with [Bruce Boudreau] and with farm-team coach Bob Woods, but not with Hunter. I don’t know, he simply didn’t talk to us goalies at all, I think he criticized us sometimes for no reason. From my point of view, it’s good he left.
I suppose that’s fair – “I didn’t like him because he didn’t play me and wouldn’t talk to me.”
My take on all the quotes is that they’re completely reasonable. His assessment lines up nicely with many of our own. BUT when you’re 24 and still in the league and fighting for the #1 goaltending job, you just don’t say that stuff. You Jonathan Toews it until you’ve had enough success to start going all Jeremy Roenick on guys.
If I were a teammate of his, these comments would make me a little wary of him. That said, I don’t think this will affect the Capitals on the ice, and I don’t think it would affect any other team if a goalie came out and said these things, because their position is such a solitary one. As long as he plays fine, we’re going to be good.
But I do think it could have some adverse effects on the dressing room. You want guys to get along as best as possible, and if you think one guy is going to torch you the second he’s away from the usual media, you could see how things could get testy, especially if the team starts to struggle.
It’s going to be interesting to see how things play out with Neuvirth and Holtby, what with Holtby’s playoff performance, and Neuvirth’s clear belief that he’s the better goalie of the two. If you’re a Caps fan, you’re hoping that competition pushes them both to be better, and these words stoked their competitive fires up another few degrees.