Photo: Alex Brandon
The Washington Capitals have less than a 5% chance of making the playoffs. Tonight, they take on the best team in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues, in what is practically an elimination game. They need everyone on board. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board.
Speaking with the press today in St. Louis, Adam Oates revealed Braden Holtby will be starting tonight. That wasn’t too surprising until Oates explained the reasoning behind the move. Jaroslav Halak had told the coaching staff he was uncomfortable playing against his former team.
“I talked to Jaro about [starting],” Oates said. “Olie and I talked. Both of us have been traded [during our playing careers]. We know the feelings when you go into your old stomping ground. It’s not always easy; you’re not always comfortable at least the first time.”
“We talked to [Halak], and he just wasn’t 100% comfortable [playing],” he said. “Unfortunately at this time of year and where we’re at, we can’t afford that.”
Later, Halak spoke with NHL.com’s Lou Korac, saying, “It’s still too fresh. Maybe if it was under different circumstances, like next year, you know.”
I appreciate Halak’s honesty — it takes courage to be this forthright — but the Capitals are literally playing for their season tonight. This looks bad on a bunch of levels. It’s one more reason why this season has been excruciating for fans.
A goaltender making nearly $4 million– acquired at the deadline to play in big games exactly like this– doesn’t want to play– because he’s uncomfortable?
That’s a hard sell.
Recently, Ryan Miller declined to play against the Buffalo Sabres, the team he spent his entire 15-year career with. Halak’s situation is different however. He played only in parts of four seasons with the Blues after starting his career in Montreal. It shouldn’t be that weird.
At the very least, Oates and Halak should have kept private their reasons on why Halak wouldn’t play. This situation makes Halak look meek and makes Braden Holtby look like second fiddle instead of the starting goaltender he’ll likely be next season.
So here we are, Caps fans. Here we are. Can the season end now?