Following Saturday night's 5-2 drubbing at the hands of the visiting Lightning, the Caps have four days before returning to the ice Thursday night in Miami. If ever there were a time to pull the trigger on a coaching change, that time is now.
It's Rememberance Day and the Caps have the worst record in hockey overall and over their last ten games (tied with a handful of other floundering teams there). They are near the bottom of the League in goals for, are in the bottom-third in both special teams categories and have only two home wins in seven tries.
Without question, injuries to key players have played a part, and a coach can only play the cards his general manager has dealt him. But there are problems with this team that go beyond injuries, and those are the more troubling issues.
Even with the injuries, any team with a sniper like Alex Ovechkin and a playmaker like Michael Nylander needs to be more effective on the power play (and, frankly, with skill players like the Caps have, they shouldn't be in the bottom-third of the League in power play opportunities per game). There are teams with a lot less talent who have a much better power play than the Caps, and that is, at least in part, due to coaching.
The fact that Donald Brashear not only continues to get a sweater every night but also power-play time while Mike Green can't get a sniff of extra man action and Chris Bourque gets called up to provide a spark and barely sees the ice is, at least in part, due to coaching.
Most importantly, that a team can come out flat to start a game or a period at home against a division rival and fail to play with a sense of urgency when the game is still very much on the line is, at least in part, coaching.
It's easy to dismiss all of this as an emotional reaction to yet another disappointing loss, but these aren't the types of problems that were unique to last night's game. If you've seen a team that gives a full sixty-minute effort every night while playing for an astute tactician who makes all the right in-game adjustments and knows just what buttons to push to motivate his team, then you've been watching a different team than I have for the first seventeen games of this season.
I love what Glen Hanlon has given to and done for this organization - he guided an under-manned team of kids through incredibly tough times and did it with class and sensitivity. But at this point, I fear he's wandering the desert - these aren't supposed to still be those same incredibly tough times. Hanlon's message is either not the right one, or it's falling on deaf ears. Either way, the sum of the parts adds up to a need for a new voice to get this team back and headed in the right direction.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Bruce Garrioch "reports" on the Ovechkin contract negotiations and says that "[i]t's believed Ovechkin's camp, which includes his mother Tatiana, is looking for a bigger deal [than Sidney Crosby's], in the $9-to-10 million range." The missing data, of course, is the length of the deal (it's as if your friend were to set you up on a blind date with a girl who weighs "around 150 pounds" but doesn't tell you whether she's 4'9" or 5'9"), but one quick question: what makes AO think he's worth 3-15% more than Sid?... Kevin Paul Dupont has a lengthy profile on Chris Bourque in today's Boston Globe - just in time for C-Bo's return to Hershey.
- Hart: Kimmo Timonen (G, 3A, +1)
- Ross: Kimmo Timonen (4 points)
- Norris: Kimmo Timonen (G, 3A, +1)
- Vezina: Tim Thomas (W, 45 saves on 46 shots against)
- Richard: Daniel Alfredsson, Shawn Horcoff, Anze Kopitar, Alexei Ponikarovksy, Marian Hossa, Rod Brind'Amour (2G each)
- Calder: Andrew Cogliano (2A, +1)
- Aiken: Marty Turco (L, 6 goals allowed on 34 shots against, including 5 on 14 in the third period)