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10/8 – Revisiting The Capitals’ Players and the Affect of Being Taken Out in the 1st Round Last Post Season

October 8, 2010


I’ve got some extra time today. It’s quiet in a certain federal building in B-more and I worked a bit more trying to catch-up from a sick day yesterday. So, here I am, making two posts in one day. What can I say – I’m all about the hockey. I have a one-track mind most days. Anyway, I have been reading a lot in preparation for the newly begun NHL regular season. I read this today and it reminded me of something I wrote the day after the Capitals lost last season’s round 1, game 7 to the Canadiens.

I was very specific when I posted that blog entry. Note the commonalities between what I wrote:

As strongly as some fans feel that a public apology is what they, as fans, deserve – I feel the opposite just as strongly. Put yourself in the skates of the players. These guys start playing hockey when they are little kids. They work and they practice and they commit and they dedicate themselves to one thing and one thing only. They play hockey and they have made it to the professional, elite level. They just played yet another regular season of 82 games and came out with an astounding number of points – far above any other NHL team this year.

If you had just played those last 7 games – how would you be feeling right now? Chew on it and think about it for a little while. Be empathetic and try to remove your disappointment as a fan. If ANY fan out there thinks that even ONE of the guys on the team are not totally devastated in one way or another (whether it has manifested itself outwardly or not) – you are probably wrong, wrong, wrong.

and what Brooks Laich is quoted as saying about the quick playoff end last post season:

Myself, I was born 27 years ago and I’ve been chasing the Stanley Cup ever since. It’s all I’ve ever known,” he said. “And when you put in 12 months of work with the offseason, the preparation, the weight room, the practices — and you’re never guaranteed anything — you put in that work and you want to see results and all of a sudden you’re knocked out in the first round. It’s not very easy to take. Waking up in the middle of the night and not sleeping for a few hours because you’re frustrated.

There are so many factors that go into playing the game from a mental perspective on an individual basis. The team is comprised of individuals. I know, based on what I read in Boudreau’s book that he believes the team ideal then allows the each individual to achieve out of that ideal. I couldn’t agree more, however, the way I look at it from a psychological aspect is this: No team exists without individuals, but no individual wins the Stanley Cup alone – not even Wayne Gretzky.

One of the things I was hoping would happen in the playoffs was to see Boudreau pull Mike Green for at least an entire period. Why? Because it was about a clear as a freshly replaced piece of rink glass that Mike Green was self-defeating BIG TIME. His play translated that and the more he played, the worse it got. Sometimes, it’s better to let a player in that situation run around the locker room bitching and moaning, than it is to let the player stay on ice. All of this is in retrospect of course and as usual, I’ll state it again – I’m not the head coach. From my perspective, he needed time to refocus, get mad, be frustrated, yell, kick things or whatever and playoff ice time is NOT the place for that. Brooks Laich is a versatile player and adjustments could have been made by having Brooks cover the defense. Or maybe Laich and Green could have switched positions. That way, Green could let go of the “I’m a defenseman, but I’m offense minded” dilemma.

All of these things are markers providing me with fuel for the “teams need a good hockey-minded psychologist (or mental attitude coach – which is how I’ve learned to market my services over the last few years) whether it’s an acceptable practice in the NHL or not” standard line. In July of 2008, I wrote this post touching on the subject and here is the all important quote:

Players can talk to each other. Players can talk to coaches. Players can talk to their families. But I sincerely doubt that players actually say what players really need to say to any of those people. A staff psychologist would give all parties involved with an organization the ability to say whatever the heck they wanted to say – outloud – to someone who will at least listen, without the fear of having what was said repeated to anyone. Sometimes that’s all that is needed to change a player’s entire demeanor. I can equate a team psychologist to a “mental safety net” or even a priest, if you like. All teams have staff concerned with the physical and strategic parts of the game. Why don’t they all have at least one staff member who is strictly concerned with team dynamics, and the mental and emotional aspect of being an NHL hockey player? I truly believe that is a valid question. I am also putting out into the virtual world an invitation to ask me why I would be an excellent person for just such a position. I can back-up my “mouth” with results, otherwise I would not have opened my “mouth” in the first place. (End shameless self promotion).

I do know that at least one of the 30 NHL teams does have a staff “mental attitude coach”. I do know that several NHL coaches feel that they play that role just fine. How much time do you think it takes to get to know the mental status of each of the players who dress for a typical NHL game? I’m a little curious as to when the coaching staff has time to work on systems, watch video, strategize, live and breathe the game AND have the ability to address the individual mental states of ALL of the players who combine to make a Stanley Cup winning team. Hmmmm – seems like a really good question to me.

Goalies alone need A LOT of mental coaching on a day-to-day basis. The game is mostly mental for a netminder and here are some NHL goaltender quotes to back me up on this one – is that Olie Kolzig at the top of the page?

Okay, so I’ll stop pushing the issue for now, finish out my work day and head straight into FIRST CAPS GAME OF THE SEASON MODE! I believe the guys got hit hard with a difficult end in the post-season. This season, I also believe that the lessons learned from that will translate into an even better, faster, smarter, Stanley Cup winning Washington Capitals. I doubt any of the guys want a repeat and now they know to think about the differences between regular season hockey and playoff hockey. No assuming anything when the playoffs approach guys. Make your regular season games count for now. GO CAPS GO!!!

I love hockey so much, I wish I could marry it! peace – mia –


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