Above is video of the St. Louis Blues post-game interviews after losing to the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 last night. That loss pushes the Blues to five straight games without earning two points, and in fact, they’ve only taken a single point total over that time, getting out-scored 26-11. Again: a Ken Hitchcock team has given up 26 goals in its last five games.
Skip ahead to the 2:00 mark to listen to David Backes’ comments about his team. For the video impared, the transcript is below (but you’re missing out on the murderous tone, which is also key):
“There’s no secret, it’s going out there and playing for the group. We got too many guys lookin’ at the stat sheet and wondering how many goal, and assists, and…cookies they got rather then taking a hit to make a play and getting run over so we can get a puck out so that your teammate can maybe have a three-on-two, or…so you can block a shot and kill a penalty when we really need it so we can stay in a game.
We just don’t have that desperation, that accountability, that responsibility to each other. Look at that team we played tonight, they all have that. They’re guys that are willing to get run over for the guy sitting next to them. I said it after the playoffs and it still rings true. We need all 20 guys to have that mentality, that ‘I’m willing to sacrifice my body and the stat sheet so that we can be successful,’ all 20 guys need to be willing to do that every single night, or else, we’re going to have too many interviews like this.”
By the way, 90% of North American hockey coaches just got wood reading that interview from a team captain. They LOVE that quote.
When you’re on a losing team, and more specifically a talented-enough team on a losing streak, the dressing room is a relatively miserable place to be. It’s pure silence immediately after the game, with very few murmured conversations between players (once the cries of “F***” die down, of course). Their coach likely told them exactly when to be at the rink the next day and didn’t say much more until he has time to analyze the video and cool down (unless he was irate, but still, coaches rarely talk much post-game).
And when the guys return in the morning it will be the same thing. There will be a little more chatter, guys icing shoulders and getting stim on the medical tables, having coffee and chatting, but the tone is completely different from the morning after a win, when it’s laughter and jokes. That light atmosphere and winning air leads to better practices with less nerves and more sure hands, which breeds confidence and more wins. Practices after losing suck. You hear a lot of pucks off the glass and posts, some coaches yelling, and not much more.
But it’s the “accountability” thing that makes it really miserable. When Backes makes that quote, he has certain players in mind, and those “certain players” know it. He may have yelled at them on the bench, or made some snide remark to them, or just gave them enough looks that they know – they’re the players under the captain’s watchful eye. And for them, less is going to be more difficult than most.
And that’s why coaches love a guy like Backes: he’ll make the dressing room uncomfortable for guys who aren’t putting themselves on the line. And incidentally, it’s also why teams pick guys like Backes to be the captain – they know he’ll put his body on the line for the good of the team, so he’s allowed to get on guys who don’t. A leader who puts himself first can’t very well say much in the dressing room, which is why you see so many “heart and soul” players sporting the “C.”
That’s just how it will be for players on the St. Louis Blues until thing get better, AKA, they get a win. A handful of guys have been indirectly called out (or maybe directly behind the scenes), and they’re on notice: if you don’t buy into what “we” are doing, “you” are going to be in trouble.
Whether that means trades, practice fights, healthy scratches, who knows, Backes made it clear after the game last night – things in the Show Me State are going to be awfully uneasy until some players acting like prima donna’s do exactly what David Backes wants them to: “show me.”
Don’t tell anyone you’re going to be better. Don’t make excuses for the past. The only way to make life good again for a losing team is to play another game and prove you’re willing to do what it takes. Actions speak louder than words.