Photo: Chris Gordon
On Monday, the Washington Capitals held Breakdown Day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. For two hours, Caps players filed out of the locker room and conducted exit interviews with the media. Because of the whole no playoffs thing, there were a lot of long faces.
There’s about three hours of interview video to surf though on Monumental Network. Because I hate myself and care only about you, dear reader, I’ve transcribed all the key quotes. And because this is RMNB, I also pointed out the fashion choices. Sadly, there was no crazy hair this year.
A dour Alex Ovechkin, wearing a white Nike shirt (without a catchy slogan like last year), addressed the media for 12 minutes. He lamented his plus-minus and told the media to stop comparing the team to four years ago. “It’s not the same team,” he said. Ovechkin also said he’s “never going to ask for a trade” and that he wants to “bring a Cup here.” When asked if he’s still having fun playing hockey, he replied with a long face, “Yeah.”
“If you remember when Hunter was here and I didn’t score goals, you guys said, ‘Why don’t you score goals?’ I said, ‘My job to block shots’. Whole world say, ‘Ovi stop playing what he used to play, he’s gone. We never going to see him again.’ I don’t want to turn my back on this kind of position again. I get paid to score goals. I scored 50. You can’t point [at] one guy in position, say he didn’t do his job. Look at everybody’s numbers. Watch the video and everybody have a bad year.”
Male fashion model and part-time hockey player Mike Green revealed that he “fractured, cracked – whatever you wanna call it – a rib” and it “crippled” him at the end of the season. Poor guy. He finished the season as the team’s best possession player. Green, wearing some kind of fancy blue dress shirt and perfect hair, seemed disappointed about missing the playoffs. “This is the first time in my career here we haven’t made [it],” Green said. “It’s definitely an odd feeling for sure. We all play for one reason, to give ourselves a chance to win a Stanley Cup, and we fell short.
“We had a lot of guys in and out of the line-up. The most partners I’ve ever had in a season. It was tough to catch our ground and run with it. I think [defense] is an area we really needed to hone in on – especially in this league. You can score as many goals as you want, but if you’re not strong defensively, it’s tough to win. I think as players we could have been a lot of better.”
The Holtbeast, rocking a black Jimi Hendrix shirt and a new haircut many of our readers are struggling with, admitted that the technique changes he was asked by the coaching staff to make during the season were the source of his struggles. “Olie and I have been on the same page since day one,” Holtby countered. “He’s been keeping me sane through everything. We talk about everything and we realized that we had to get back to where my natural instincts led me.” At the end of the year, Holtby played well and returned to previous form.
“It’s obviously been well documented the changes we’ve tried. Nothing against the philosophy of the changes, I think [my struggles] had to do with my natural instincts didn’t quite coincide with the changes. That led to a lot of second guessing myself and over-thinking things. When you start doing that, you start to struggle. When you struggle, obviously your confidence goes down a bit. That’s kinda what happened, but it’s something to learn from. The lesson I’ve learned this year is how to battle with that adversity.”
Nicklas Backstrom, wearing a red hat backwards, which made him look approximately 7-years-old, addressed the media for nearly ten minutes in a hushed tone. “I think we can improve in every area,” Backstrom said, when asked what the team’s struggles were. “Everyone has to be better. As players, we weren’t good enough this year. That’s why we missed the playoffs.” When asked by CSN’s Chuck Gormley if the team needs to make a change to improve, Backstrom said, “That’s a tough question right there. The coaches have their structure and system, but we as players didn’t execute. We’re trying to play as we’re told, but we weren’t good enough.” In regards to the first line’s even strength issues, Backstrom said, “We’re too much minus. We were on the ice for a lot of goals.”
“I haven’t been in this situation before, so I’ll stay tough, but we gotta improve. We gotta be better. We weren’t good enough this year.”
Brooks Laich, wearing a black
Izod Lacoste shirt that your dad will wear to Easter dinner, talked to anyone who would listen to him. He reminded us that he still feels “mentally and physically liberated” after his groin surgery but added, “I’m still not ready to play.” He also did not pass his exit physical. Laich stirred up some controversy when he said, “The closest we were to winning a Stanley Cup was with Dale Hunter.” Ballsy, and incorrect.
“With my whole heart, I believe that I will be 100% and ready to resume my career and excel at the game, not just participate, come training camp. I believe that with my whole heart.”
Eric Fehr, wearing a low-key, grey zip up hoodie, posed with fans before entering Kettler and then spoke briefly to the media about what he thought the team’s problems are. “We just need to do a better job sticking together as a team,” Fehr said. “I think at times, we’ve spread out too much and we’re not supporting each other. Just making it a lot tougher on ourselves than it needs to be.”
“We need to be a little bit more aware of where we are on the ice, especially in the D-zone. Our team is going to be a better offensive team by making better defensive plays. It’s not just keeping pucks out of the net, it’s getting pucks out of our end faster, spending more time in the offensive end.”
Troy Brouwer, wearing a Caps hat and looking super buff in a v-neck button-down grey thing, believed “situational play” was the Caps biggest weakness this season. After scoring a career-high 25 goals, Brouwer gave a vote of confidence to the coaching staff, saying “we believe George will be our GM and Oatesy will be our coach next season.” He also disagreed with Laich’s claim that Dale Hunter’s system was best for the team. It’s “very taxing on the body,” he explained. “We’re so close” to being a good team. “It’s such a fine line.”
“I think where our problems really hurt us is the situational play within a game. Whether we’re late in the game and trying to protect a lead, we don’t need to score more goals. We don’t need to try and dangle at the blue line and turn pucks over and spend more time in our own zone. We have to make it tough on other teams. Getting pucks deep, making sure other teams are expending a lot of energy trying to get back into the game. That’s where we really need to clean up our game.”
Tom Wilson, who came dressed for an evening on Martha’s Vineyard wearing a t-shirt, seersucker shorts, and flip flops, reflected on his rookie year. He didn’t want to compare it to expectations, saying he had none. He was just happy to get into an NHL lineup. While Wilson didn’t get a lot of playing time, he said sitting on the bench and learning from NHL players and coaches was valuable to his development. However, maybe he shouldn’t have punched guys in the face so much.
On fighting so much: “Honestly I don’t think that’s what [the coaching staff] wanted.”
Dustin Penner, who didn’t contribute much to the Caps after being acquired by George McPhee, was his normal self: awkwardly telling jokes that sometimes were kind of funny, I guess. Wearing an Under Armour hat and a white t-shirt, Penner said he’d be open re-signing with the Caps because, “I need a job next year.”
“We didn’t make the playoffs, and we didn’t win four rounds in the playoffs.”
A very colorful Karl Alzner wearing clothes I can’t even begin to describe, thought the Capitals were plagued by inconsistency all year. “We talked about this the last couple of days,” Alzner said. “Just about having so many close games and finding different ways to lose them: overtime, shootout. I think inconsistency was our biggest issue.” He also thought the team didn’t really have an identity.
“We weren’t quite there to be a high-powered offensive team. We weren’t quite there to be a strictly defense, shut-them-down team. We weren’t quite there to be a grind ‘em out and make ‘em really work for it [team]. We were little bits and pieces of everything. Maybe next year we need to focus more on one aspect and really nail that down as our identity. “
Marcus Johansson was typically Swedish: simple, tasteful, and without movement of his left arm. Mojo talked about Washington’s struggles at even-strength before everyone deserted after two minutes when some guy named Alex walked to the podium.
“We didn’t end it like we wanted at all. It sucks. You wanna win. That’s why we’re here.”
Joel Ward, wearing a fitted hat and white t-shirt, reflected on his career year as well as the Caps’ disappointing finish. Ward pointed to the the Caps losing so many two-goal leads as the team’s biggest problem. “It wasn’t like we were getting our ass kicked,” Ward said. “I would really like to look up that stat. I’d say if we could cut that [number] down to half at least, [we would have made the playoffs].” Ward, whose third line was the best trio all year, thinks they can play even better next season. “We’re ready to come back with the same mindset, stay hungry and finish a little bit more if we can.”
“From being stuck in the bathroom and scoring 20 goals, I’ve had a few ups and downs.”
Jay Beagle was the resident redneck skater boy, wearing a camo Fox hat, a Volcom shirt, and DCs. He reflected on his time up and down the lineup and how Adam Oates had helped improve his game. Beags is totally #TeamOates. It’s not hard to imagine why.
“It was fun [to center Ovi]. It’s an opportunity not many people get to have, to play with one of the greatest goal scorers in the league. It was an opportunity I wanted to run with, to absorb, and play my hardest. Just make sure I don’t let an opportunity go to waste.”
Dmitry Orlov, wearing a gold chain and white t-shirt, spoke with the media for one minute in English and he probably summed up the season better than any other player. RMNB’s Igor Kleyner spoke to Orlov in Russian and will share his interview in the next day or two.
“Sometimes we maybe had bad luck. Sometimes good luck. Sometimes maybe we don’t work hard or something. Everybody knows. Hopefully we’ll play better next season and make playoffs.”
Connor Carrick, rocking a salmon colored zip-up hoodie, was positive about his rookie season. “I’m much more ready for whatever next year brings,” Carrick added. When a reporter accidentally interrupted him while he spoke, the media member apologized, and Carrick responded, “You’re good, I talk a lot.” Love this guy, though Qdoba > Chipotle.
“I feel like I aged ten years this [season].”
“You play 82 games to make the playoffs, and that’s when the fun starts. Unfortunately, we couldn’t reach the goal.”
Wearing a rugged beard, Jack Hillen revealed to The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera that he suffered a concussion from his collision with Alex Ovechkin. He is still not symptom-free. “Next year I just want to be healthy,” Hillen said.
“It’s nothing to do with the system. Blame the players. Blame me for not being healthy. Blame all sorts of things. It’s not the coaches’ fault for us not making the playoffs this year.”
Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.