Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind, don't matter, and those who matter, don't mind. ~Dr. Seuss
Girls just wanna have fun ~ Cyndi Lauper
Make some fun, happy time ~ Alex Ovechkin

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stripping Ovi

I’m still amazed people want to strip Ovi of the “C”. I’ll grant you that the decision to make Ovechkin the Captain was made by GM George McPhee and Coach Bruce Boudreau, but it was reported that when this was in the works, the team was in on the decision. Let’s take a trip down Reality Road, ok?

First up; per from 1/5/2010:

Boudreau said he had polled the team in recent days and Ovechkin was the unanimous choice.

"They were really happy when I told them (Tuesday) morning and this doesn't happen too often, but the group got up and cheered," Boudreau said. "I had talked to a lot of them in the last couple of days and they said Alex was the only choice, 'He's our leader and he's our guy.”
So, if the team wanted him, and the General Manager wanted him, and the Coach wanted him, how does that result in the idea he isn’t the right guy?

I’m also amazed that people say he doesn’t show leadership qualities and the job should be given to a more outspoken veteran guy.

Show of hands; how many people have actually been present in the locker room between periods that are NOT members of the Capitals team or staff? …Anyone? I thought so. Assumptions are being made that claim Ovi does not have what it takes to be the team captain.

Ok, let’s tackle the argument that he’s too young. How about a little look around the league?

Out of 30 teams, 13 of the current captains were born between 5/1/1984 and 4/29/1988, with the two youngest being Stanley Cup winners. (And, yes, #3 Andrew Ladd also won 2 Stanley Cups but he was not a captain on either team at the time they won.)

Jonathan Toews 4/29/1988

Sidney Crosby 8/7/1987

Andrew Ladd 12/12/1985

Alex Ovechkin 9/17/1985

Shea Weber 8/14/1985

Ryan Getzlaf 5/10/1985

Dion Phaneuf 4/10/1985

Ryan Callahan 3/21/1985

Dustin Brown 11/4/1984

Eric Staal 10/29/1984

Zach Parise 7/28/1984

Rick Nash 6/16/1984

David Backes 5/1/1984

How about the argument that Ovi is Russian and English is his second language? I call bullshit there as well. You and I know that Alex’s English is fine and he works hard to speak it and be understood.

Next up; Alex is a selfish player who is out for himself. Come on, really? The guy has tons of heart; one of his greatest wishes is to win a Stanley Cup. Naturally, you have to be selfish to do that and not support your team, because it’s an individual achievement. Yeah, right.

Have I covered all the main arguments? I hope so. The biggest issue is what it says about the team if they strip Ovi of the “C”. Like we need a vote of no confidence right now? Let’s get real. We have enough to complain about and it’s only November. Who is or should be Captain is not really an issue, it’s a diversion. As a fan base, we are concerned about our team. I get it, but let’s not get detoured down Reality Road.

Author's Note: Anyone who clicked the link expecting this post to be about something else...sorry, but thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chemistry Shemistry - Handicapping the Lines

I've blogged this several times in the past, but unfortunately, this issue is still relevant; line juggling has to be as frustrating to play as it is to watch. 

I could relate this to just last night's game, but it goes much deeper than that. Bruce Boudreau has stated many times that he switches up the lines in accordance with the particular opponent they are facing. Break that down to mean the opponents have figured out the line in question and can beat them; so Bruce wants to throw them a curve ball. In the immortal words of Craig Laughlin: "Hold it here".

Yesterday, Boudreau decided to throw Cody Eakin onto the B line as a reward for a few good outings and to add a "little chemistry". By doing this, we saw an A line of Ovechkin/Johansson/Semin and a B line of Eakin/Backstrom/Brouwer to start the game, with veteran Mike Knuble being dropped back like a kid being punished in school. Now, don't get me wrong; I'm not ragging on Eakin per se; I'm questioning the thought process behind the "promotion" in general. (After all, isn't getting the call up a promotion and reward in itself?) In all honesty, that "reward" was more of a "lab experiment" then it was an addition of a "little chemistry". 

Does it really make sense to scramble lines on a minute by minute basis because you think your opponent knows all your moves? At some point, logic demands you give your lines a chance to prove themselves, continue to work together and overcome the opposition even if they do know your game. Don't second guess their already established chemistry, work on how that chemistry can adjust to the opponent. 

Look at the result of almost every pre-game lineup change and compare it to the actual lines at the end of the game. How often does that original pre-game line stay intact? How often do the lines get reshuffled back to the most common pairings? The "lab experiment" blows up like the Hindenburg and we are left with soot-covered goggles. The purpose of lab experimentation is to get satisfactory results. Are you satisfied? I'm not. Even though the team should be able to pair with anyone at any given time doesn't mean that it will work. 

So, how about the issue of benching players for poor performance? I'm totally in sync with accountability, but is the poor performance due to a change in the lines? Throw a donkey onto a team of horses pulling a wagon and the entire team either has to compensate for the donkey or the team just breaks down all together. (Yeah, I know, weird analogy). But, do you blame the donkey or the person who put him there in the first place? Where does the accountability lie? I’m not jumping on the “Fire Boudreau” bandwagon just yet, but if the entire team has to be accountable, that has to include the coach of the team as well.  

At this point, many of you will say "it's November, it's not like it's going to hurt to shuffle the lines right now". To a certain extent, I would agree, but only if there weren't a history of apparent crisis management preceding it. Continually switching the lines ultimately betrays a lack of confidence in your players' abilities. Last night I tweeted a thought from my husband, "Why isn't the team responding to BB? Think they might be done with him and they are sending HIM a message?" Is it possible that, even subconsciously, the team has said enough is enough? I suspect we'll find out the answer to that soon.

Editors Note: Interestingly, Boudreau was fired 11/28/11, only 8 short days after this was posted. Do not deny my psychic abilities!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hockey 'n Heels in Pictures

Last night, I attended my first Hockey 'n Heels. If you've never attended before, this event is sponsered by the Scarlet Caps to further educate it's members on many aspects of hockey. Attendees were given the opportunity to learn to pass pucks (with Karl Alzner), shooting skills (with Alan May, Troy Brouwer, and Matty Perrault), and how to handle face-offs (with Assistant Coach Bob Woods). The informational panels were Chalk Talk with John Walton and Alan May, Bruce Boudreau's ever popular discussion on game preparation with film footage, and  Fitness and Conditioning with the Caps Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Nemish. Attendees also posed for a picture with Nick Backstrom.

Bruce's panel was very entertaining. Great to see how the coaches use game footage to determine how to prepare for an opponent. Chalk Talk was a lot of fun. John Walton and Alan May were very informative while being extremely personable. As you may have guessed, the only panel I didn't attend was the Fitness and Conditioning one. Attendees were expected to do actual exercises, so that was not gonna happen, sorry Coach Nemish!

One bit of advise for anyone who has never attended the event but plans to: ice is slippery (duh!). While I didn't fall on my ass, it took a lot of careful manuvering out on the rink in flat boots. To those who wore actual heels to the event (and there were some), kudos to you!

Anyway, here's some pics. I have more posted on my Flickr account as well.

My thanks to the Washington Capitals Scarlet Caps for allowing me to tag along and to Sarah Kogod of NBC Washington for using some of the above on the Capital Games blog

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You Gotta Have Heart

Recently, I have seen tweets that accuse Alex Semin of being lazy and selfish. I have also seen tweets that call Mike Green a wuss for not playing with his injury. Geesh, I even saw one that said Alex Ovechkin is statistically on pace for only 41 goals and 82 points this season, "what a bum". (Yes, I recognize sarcasm.) And then there are the tweets that Vokoun lost the game for "us". Seen them all. There are a lot of stats floating around that could back some of these things up, but one thing stats do not convey is the heart and soul of a player and a team when times are tough.

I know every fan of a team is disappointed when they lose. I feel your pain. But let's get real here, folks. Pro athletes are human. Shit happens. I will admit, like so many others, I joke when Semin causes a penalty. Do I think he does it on purpose? Not usually. Do I think he is selfish or lazy. Nope. Do I think Mike Green is a wuss for not playing injured. No way. Yes, I get frustrated when I see Ovechkin standing on the ice waiting for a pass and I'll yell "Move Ovi, get in there". Do I know why he's doing this at this particular time? Not a clue. And nobody else except Ovi does either. (Well, maybe the other players on the ice do too - I hope).

Lest we forget, hockey players have a lot demanded of them, not only in the aspect of the game itself, but outside forces brought on by fan expectations and physical limitations. Football players get at least 5 days between games, sometimes 12-14 days if they have a by week. Even baseball pitchers are on a 5 game rotation. Their league recognizes the need for them to rest between outings to stay healthy. Hockey often requires back to back games, with travel in between; very constant physical activity while playing and many situations of possibly extreme exertion.

So, all statistics aside, let's examine the human factor. The heart. How can anyone know for sure if a player's heart is in the game? You can look at so many examples and draw conclusions, but would you be right? Does anyone really know what goes on in a player's head at any given moment?

Remember back when Ovi got a two game suspension in December of 2009? He was quoted to say afterwards that he would not let the suspension effect the way he plays. But when he returned, I thought the opposite. Watching him play, he seemed to be more cautious when it came to hitting players. All sports psychology aside, he seemed to take the suspension and criticism to heart and; to me; he adjusted his playing style accordingly. The key word in that thought was "heart". This man is one of the "Faces of the Franchise". Don't think that affects him? You gotta believe he would be the last person who would want to be known as a dirty player and human instinct is going to kick in.

So, what do you think Alex Semin is thinking when he sits in the penalty box for a stupid mistake? Well, what would you think if it were you? Of course, you'd be muttering "shit, shit, shit" (or whatever the Russian equivalent is), who wouldn't? Thinking that all of Semin's penalties are because he is lazy or selfish only shows that you have left out the human factor of "heart". What you "see" can be diametrically opposed to what you actually "know". Just watch his face break out into a beaming grin after he scores or assists on a goal, and you know his heart is in it. Maybe his lack of interaction with the media in the past has given people the impression that he is aloof and uncaring. If so, I'm glad he's finally breaking that boundary and beginning to speak up. It might help fans see his human side. It could go a long way to correcting some bad impressions people have of him.

And what about Mike Green being a wuss for not playing while injured? When your personal stats rely on games played, shots blocked, protecting your goalie and the net, goals scored and minutes on the ice; sitting out due to injury only makes your numbers look worse. But what does that do to a player's heart? Do you seriously believe Green enjoys sitting out games? Of course he wants to be out there. But do you; or your team for that matter; jeopardize a player's health or a team's win by letting an injured player actually play? Maybe in the playoffs, but not now. Hopefully, once he gets back into a game, his heart will be more into it than before because, not only is it his job, it's who he is, it defines him.

How about people calling Vokoun out for letting in goals and losing the game for "us"? Think back to his reaction to his first loss as a Capital. The guy was truly regretful about letting the game get to that point, he spoke from the heart. Would you want to be thought of as the reason your team lost the game? Seriously? Vokoun's heart as a player was fully evidenced after that game. Why would it suddenly change? It's going to take time for him to get used to playing with a team he is still learning about. Yes, we all hope he's got it figured out by now, but if you got a new job, how long do you think it would take for you to figure out all the nuances of your co-workers? Shit is gonna spring up to throw you for a loop long after your first day on the job. Still doesn't mean your heart isn't into it, just that shit happens. You learn from your mistakes and move on.

As you can tell, this post is a total opinion piece. Am I going to stop yelling at Ovi on my TV? Nope. Am I going to stop cussing at Schultz for "letting a goal get by"? Nope. Do I expect them to give 100%? You betcha. I'm just speaking from the heart, hopefully getting to the heart of the matter, and now I'm going to go play "Heart and Soul" on the piano.