Ned K. wrote this comment on last night’s recap. We’ve been hearing this opinion a lot this season (and we’ve been spreading it as well). It’s well worth the read.
I was at the game last night and I think it might be something a little different than that [lack of “heart”]. I think it was Peter (?) who posted here not long ago that the Caps have never looked the same since their teeth were pulled after losing the Montreal series. After seeing the game, I don’t think it’s a matter of players not caring, I think it’s about players feeling emasculated.
For example, for about half the third period the Capitals absolutely mauled the Chicago offensive zone. Even up two I could feel the ‘Hawks fans around me starting to cringe. That effort didn’t result in any goals, thanks in part to Crawford making some nice saves (easy to do when you’ve not been tested the whole game), but the Blackhawks looked bewildered. Even more importantly, they weren’t playing on the Caps end of the ice.
Like it or not, this team was put together to play the run and gun. When the reins are loosed and they are allowed to push, push, push, they can keep their opponents reeling. Why do we see the Caps give up so many early leads and then make their comebacks late in the third? Because at that point the coach has no other alternative than to release the hounds and let them do what they are good at.
As for motivation, think of your own job. Say you’re a sales guy, great with people, recruited to get things going in a new territory for your company. You’re all set to put in extra hours, hit the road, and start pounding the pavement and pressing the flesh to generate excitement about your company’s products. You see some great early success, far exceeding expectations, but at the end of the year you miss out on a big deal to a competitor who bid at a loss just to keep your company from getting too much of a foothold in that area. Suddenly, word from the top is that the reason you lost must be because you hadn’t done enough research on your competition. To “fix” things, they decide that you need to spend more time researching the bidding patterns of your competition so you can better predict when they will do this again. Number crunching isn’t your forte but you do your best, but the results are only decent. More time in the office means fewer new contacts, and sales growth slows to a crawl. After a couple of years of this now Leadership is starting to publicly question your abilities and your commitment. How motivated are you going to be day after day?
Trying to force feed the wrong system to the players you have is like trying to force feed a porterhouse to a horse. It doesn’t matter how good that steak is, the dang thing just isn’t set up to digest it. If you have decided you absolutely want your pet to eat steak, the solution is to change the pet. Otherwise you’re just meddling with nature and it’s not going to end well for either of you.
IMO, Uncle Ted and GMGM panicked after the Montreal series, then panicked again after the Tampa series (even worse). I think they had a good plan that they should go back to (if they can find someone capable of running an up-tempo team close to as well as BB). Or they need to trade every one of their star players, including Ovi, and start from scratch to build an organization dedicated to the dump and chase with talent drafted accordingly. Good luck filling the Phone Booth, though.