August 17, 2011
TORONTO — Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said the text messages started arriving about 10 minutes after Florida Panthers forward Matt Bradley(notes) candidly criticized his former team on Ottawa's TEAM 1200 (listen here).
Among the critiques? That Boudreau overused his star players.
"Oh yeah?" said the coach, watching the NHL's Research and Development Camp in Toronto. "Oh well … it's his opinion."
With that, Boudreau offered a blanket "no comment" on any retort to Bradley's analysis. But the debate regarding the former Capitals forward's statements isn't likely to be as truncated.
Bradley played six years with the Capitals but said "nothing came of" the talks to bring him back this summer. He signed with the Florida Panthers on July 2.
Now a former Cap, Bradley said the Washington locker room was "maybe a little bit too nonchalant, and guys weren't disciplined the way they should have been," before specifying which player in particular had some discipline issues — Alexander Semin(notes).
Here's Bradley, on why the Capitals were never able to break through in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
"You know I don't have a definite answer. I mean, there's reasons why. We had some guys who didn't show up in the playoffs, and I'll leave them unnamed. I think, you know, our locker room was maybe a little bit too nonchalant, and guys weren't disciplined the way they should have been. Those two things are big things, and I'd say that's about it,
"I think I heard you guys say we had a lot of guys that played hard and played well, and it seemed that sometimes the guys that weren't playing well were the ones getting rewarded with the most amount of the ice time. In the playoffs I don't think it matters who you are. It's who's playing well for you at the time, and that's not always what happened with our team. It wasn't the guys who were playing well at the time, it was the guys who were our best players for the most part who were playing no matter what."
"It wasn't like guys going out the night before a game and stuff like that. But it was not being ready to practice, or missing practice with questionable injuries. Not being focused."
The player he called out was Semin:
"I don't mind saying Alexander Semin's name, because he's one guy who has so much talent he could easily be the best player in the league and just, for whatever reason, just doesn't care.
"When you've got a guy like that, you need him to be your best player or one of your best players. When he doesn't show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia. That's tough to win when you've got a guy like that who's supposed to be your best player not being your best player, or one of your best players."
As far as Boudreau's player selection a.k.a. hanging with the stars too long and not using a merit-based system, Bradley said:
"Yeah, and I'm not talking about myself at all here.
"There were a lot of guys who played well that didn't probably play as much as they needed to. I love Bruce and Bruce is a great coach, and he was in a very tough position there because in Washington our top guys are definitely the stars and the guys that people want to see on the ice, so I totally understand. That just doesn't happen on our team, it happens on a lot of teams, too. When you're paying your top guys a lot of money and those guys carry you through the whole season, and if one of them isn't going it's very hard not to play them and I understand that that's tough.
"But I think in the end, if you want to win, sometimes you have to sit some of those guys down and maybe send a message and try to get them going."
"Well, I never worry about Ovi. He's all-in guy. He's young, he makes his mistakes, the same as anyone would. I often try to put myself in his position, and you gotta to remember: He's 25 years old, he's got a guaranteed $120 million, he's on top of the world and he still, for the most part, makes the right decisions.
"I don't worry about him. I don't worry about most of the guys on that team. That's why I think in the end they'll do well. Like you said: Ovi has some growing up to do as far as taking care of himself and things like that. But as far as his want to win, he really does just want to win the games, and he doesn't care if he scores or not.
"That isn't an act. He's a great guy, great player. I'd never say anything bad about him."
The thing about Bradley here is that the majority of the Capitals' dressing room probably won't see his words as mutinous.
The grunts on the Capitals aren't the issue when it comes to the team's playoff struggles. They're not on a power play that converted at 14.3 percent last postseason and an embarrassing, debilitating 3 percent in 2010. They're not the ones getting substantial ice time without substantial results.
Boudreau may not be ready to respond to Bradley. Ultimately, it's not on him to do so. It's on his star players that, frankly, Bradley called out as being half-hearted underachievers.