Loose Caps Are A Feature, Not a Bug

Washington Capitals interim head coach Bruce Boudreau talks with left wing Alexander Semin (28) during the 3rd period against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The Capitals defeated the Hurricanes 5-2.

I was very intrigued by Matt Bradley’s comments about Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and the tone of his team’s locker room:

I think our locker room was maybe a little bit too nonchalant, and guys weren’t disciplined the way they should have been.

Tarik El-Bashir followed-up on Bradley’s comments and was met with a silence that seemed to agree with the comments.

I’m on record as saying Boudreau’s not a very disciplined (nor nuanced) coaching strategist. But I’m not sure that having a disciplined, tense locker room always translates into better on-ice play.

I understand Bradley’s point about nonchalance and how that could read as indifference. But how many players crumble in the playoffs because of the pressure of being in the playoffs? How many players compromise their game because they’re too worried about how they’re playing?

The fact that players feel loose and comfortable for Boudreau isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

To mix my sports metaphors for a moment, a lot of players come to the New York Yankees and have trouble adjusting to the culture of the organization, which is very, very serious. Almost like a paramilitary unit of some sort, serious.

Obviously, the Yankees have the World Series rings to justify their culture, but the New York Mets won a World Series in 1986 with one of the wildest, rowdiest, most nonchalant teams in sports history.

Back in 1986, Mets management wanted the team to be more serious and manager Davey Johnson spent a lot of time and energy making sure everyone felt loose. And given some of the substance abuse problems that resulted from that season, maybe it wasn’t the best call from a mental health standpoint, but from a World Series perspective, it was a solid move.

Different teams have different cultures. Coaches can change the culture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should.

The Capitals haven’t had the post-season success many people have expected, but they’re still a very young team. I see the fact that they’re not paralyzed by the intensity and import of the playoffs as a positive that can be built upon.

The Capitals don’t need to become super serious, with everyone weeping from the honor of being included in the post-season. The Capitals need better Xs and Os coaching and more consistent play from everyone.

But the fact that they’re comfortable in the post-season (even if it’s perhaps, a little too comfortable) isn’t something Boudreau should mess with.

A lot of coaches would kill to have players that aren’t knotted up in the playoffs.

Luckily for Bradley, now playing with the Florida Panthers, he shouldn’t have to worry about how his teammates are acting in the post-season for the next couple of seasons.