Photo credit: Mitchell Layton
Is that title too much?
The Capitals are likely to fall short in yet another run for the Stanley Cup. Almost forty years into the team’s history and in a city starved of championships, the stakes are as high as the desperation. The Capitals have started the last few seasons not with aspirations for the Cup– so much as expectations. And now that those expectations are (probably) going to be snuffed out, the fans are out for blood.
Bruce Boudreau’s blood.
The topic on the table is the continued employment of Bruce Boudreau as head coach of the Washington Capitals. Do you want to fire him? Well first, let’s be clear: who exactly are you talking about?
- the Bruce Boudreau who has a woeful 17-18 (.486) record in the playoffs? [UPDATE: now it's 17-19 (.472)]
- the Bruce Boudreau who has won two of six playoff series?
- the Bruce Boudreau whose team won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2010 only to be beaten by the 8th seed Canadiens?
Or maybe you mean this guy:
- the Bruce Boudreau who won the 2008 Jack Adams Award.
- the Bruce Boudreau with the highest winning percentage among active coaches.
- the Bruce Boudreau who took a faltering team mid-season and led them to their first division title in seven years.
- the Bruce Boudreau who in 2010 led the most dominant offensive team in the NHL since the lockout.
- the Bruce Boudreau who reinvented his team as a defensively responsible unit when the offense dried up.
- the Bruce Boudreau who wrote a book about hockey that we didn’t read.
- the Bruce Boudreau who turned Mike Green from 10-12-22 with a minus-26 over 113 games to 36-62-98 with a plus-38 in 103 games.
- the Bruce Boudreau who led the Caps to their franchise-record 14-game winning streak.
- the Bruce Boudreau who recovered from a 6-0 rout on February 25th to finish the season with a 16-3-1 record.
The age of Jaromir Jagr is over. Monumentally bad staffing decisions are a thing of the past. And while losses still sting, we are not idiots. And these are not the Washington Redskins.
But we need some straight talk on the post-season. The playoffs are a problem and ultimately the responsibility for that falls on Bruce Boudreau and his boss, George McPhee. So what’s going wrong?
Well, the regular season is not an 82-game preseason. October to March are not a preamble. The regular season is where habits are formed– habits that echo through the postseason. For Tampa Bay that means a focused system, strictly executed with tons of speed. The Lightning players follow orders like soldiers.
The Capitals don’t have soldiers. Not enough anyway. Instead they have divas: players who only care when they have to and do so only on their own terms. The regular season saw players sleepwalking through games, perhaps even literally. We saw some players vacillate between disinterest and self-interest. We saw players ditching Dean Evason’s and Bob Woods’ systems at will. Those bad habits became a pattern, and those swift postseasons became reckonings. Case in point: Alex Ovechkin’s suicide run into the Tampa Bay Lightning’s trap when the dump-in hard-around was the right and authorized move.
Bruce Boudreau isn’t the problem in the organization, but maybe he knows what that problem is now. It’s not tactics or strategy, it’s attitude.
No, Bruce Boudreau isn’t the problem in the organization. He’s just the guy who’s gotta solve it.
By Peter Hassett and Ian Oland
[NOTE: The title of this post is inflammatory, obnoxious, and not to be taken seriously. Which is odd 'cause that's what we think of the people who say it without irony.]