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Capitals Pick Weird Time to Attack from Within: A Fan’s Perspective
The Washington Capitals begin a crucial four game road trip on February 17 in Florida. Three of the four contests will be Southeast Division teams, while the last will be against playoff contender Ottawa. That looks like a crucial stretch of games to this fan. That is why it is curious timing that members of the team are attacking their coach.
At a time when one would think the club would be coming together and trying to address concerns, there are folks throwing jabs and questioning decisions all over the place. It makes for the look of a team in a downward spiral, and not one looking to do anything it takes to turn things around. When Dale Hunter took over this team, I knew that things would be different.
Hunter was a no nonsense guy as a player, and it would figure it carries over to his coaching. If you are producing, you are playing. As a fan, that philosophy makes perfect sense. Forget the stuff about a player having a long track record of success. What drives the sports world is the here and now, not what one did three seasons ago. Such is the case of Mike Knuble.
Knuble has always been a favorite of mine. He was one of the few players on the team that will crash the net and get those garbage goals a team needs. This season has been a tough ride for the 39-year old. He has produced three goals in 53 games. For a guy that the team could count on for 20 a season, it points to the fact that age might be catching up with him.
Dale Hunter sits him for three games, and suddenly Mike is up in arms. He will have to look at his options, though he is not asking for a trade. Where I come from, that is calling out your coach, which is akin to asking to be dealt some place else. Knuble is an assistant captain, so that conduct simply cannot happen in the press.
Then there is the Michal Neuvirth situation. Neuvirth is a young man who thought he was the future of the organization, in terms of goaltending. He led the team to a first round playoff victory in 2011 but ended up on the bench much of this season. That was due to the acquisition of Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun has played extremely well in the past few months and has gotten the most starts.
When Vokoun got the flu, Neuvirth thought he would start all games. He did start the first but then sat for the February 13 game against the San Jose Sharks, replaced by Braden Holtby. Neuvirth complained that he did not get told until game time he was not starting. Dale Hunter is a show me guy. Neuvirth has given up numerous weak goals this season, including the second one in his February 12 start against the N.Y. Rangers. It swung momentum and his team lost.
True professionals do not question their coaches and certainly do not do it in public. They lead by example, and when looking at Knuble and Neuvirth, the production is not there this season. There is also the case of Olie Kolzig, who called out Alex Ovechkin in the Washington Post. Kolzig notes that Alex has to get away from his the rock star image and back to the player he was three years ago. Olie is a respected person in the locker room, and his thoughts are probably correct.
I am sure he was trying to light a fire under Alex, but was doing it in the press what the team needs now? It all seems like poor timing for a team embarking on the most important road trip of the season. If they come back with a 1-3 or 2-2 record, they will be in a lot of trouble. The team needs to be focused on winning games on this trip, and not the circus that follows them around.
John Atchison is a fervent supporter of his hometown Washington Capitals. He has a passion for hockey and someday hopes to have a role in the Capitals organization so he can raise the Stanley Cup! Follow him on Twitter @John_Atchison.
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