October 19, 2011
Our society is one of constant apology, whether it's between friends or between a consumer and a corporation or between a politician and their constituents. It's not so much we demand that someone sees the error of their ways — we just want to see squirmy regret, throw some dirt on the nastiness and "move on."
Matt Bradley(notes) began the healing process before the Florida Panthers' 3-0 loss at the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. In August, he called out former teammate Alex Semin as "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" and that "when he doesn't show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia."
In reacquainting himself with the DC media before the game, Bradley apologized (via Whyno):
Q: Is that the kind of thing that once you said it, you wish you could take it back?
Bradley: Yeah, 100 percent. As soon as I said it... people who know me know that's not my style and I'm not that kind of guy. As soon as I said it, I knew I shouldn't have said it, and for whatever reason I had a mental lapse. All I can do now is apologize and move forward because I can't take what I said back.
Q: Since then, that team has really stressed accountability. Do you think you affected some change?
Bradley: My only view on it is I had no business saying the things I said. I just want to leave it at that. It's a great organization, a great team. Alex is a great player, and I apologize for what I said. I'd like to move forward.
The first answer was the "move on" apology, atoning for having spoken out of turn about a former teammate. The second answer was a chance to say he was wrong about Semin or that his critique helped light a fire under an underachieving team. Bradley's not exactly Datsyuk when it comes to dexterity, but he dodged that one pretty good.
Fact is that he's got nothing to apologize for, as Alex Semin himself proved in last night's win.
Semin scored last night in one of those gleefully cathartic moments in sports: First game against the guy who dogged him, and Semin helps defeat his team.
Back-checking, using his speed for separation, unleashing a lethal shot … it's everything people see in Semin when they call him one of the most naturally gifted players in the NHL ... and nothing you see from him in the postseason.
Not the "Semin doesn't care" part, but the idea that he could be the best player in the league based on flashes he shows. How many players are capable of completing a sequence like this? Who can backcheck away a Florida opportunity, then score on a tough-angle goal as they streak down to the opposite end? There definitely aren't many guys in the league who can.
Some believed Semin had "final say" in this little blowup with Bradley, which is complete nonsense. It's Game 6 of the regular season. It's not Game 1 of the postseason. Having Alex Semin score an electrifying goal for the Capitals in October is about as commonplace at Verizon Center as a Jersey Foul.
If this doesn't vindicate Bradley, Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington believes the rest of the Capitals' cultural shift does:
Why else would Boudreau start training camp with the most grueling fitness test of his four-year tenure?
Why else would he make what were once optional practices mandatory?
There is an air of accountability around the Capitals this season that, by all accounts, was missing last season. And while Matt Bradley is not the sole reason for that, he's certainly one of them. And for Caps fans thirsting for a Cup, that may be a good thing.
The obvious criticism of Bradley is "well, where the hell was this when you were cashing a check from the Capitals?" That's fair. It's also fair to say we have no idea what he said or did behind closed doors when it came to his former team's effort. (Stupid HBO, missing all the good stuff.)
It's also fair to say that in order for a message to resonate, it depends on the messenger. Bradley had the respect of his teammates in Washington. His move to Florida allowed for a moment of candor; one he can apologize for, but he can't take back what he spilled on Semin.
If Alex Semin does what he did last night in the postseason, Bradley should ask for a playoff share from the Capitals.