Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hanlon's Time Is Up

Capitals 1, Thrashers 5

So much to write about and so little of it is good...

With the Caps reeling but most people still viewing injuries and bad luck as legitimate excuses, and only one game removed from upsetting the Senators in Ottawa 4-1, the team began its ten games in sixteen days stretch on November 15th. At the outset I expected that the stretch would determine Glen Hanlon's fate, but that no matter what happened the team would hold on to him until the end of the busy stretch on December 2nd. Now I'm not sure he will make it that far.

Say what you want about McPhee (so many Caps fans are at this point), but he's no idiot. Hanlon isn't going to make it much further as the Capitals head coach; by this point it's gone well beyond a question of "if" become a question of "when". I wouldn't be shocked to see Bruce Boudreau behind the bench in Philly Friday afternoon. I would be shocked if Hanlon is still here after December 1st. If that happens, it's time for McPhee to go (this coming from a guy who devoted so much space to defending McPhee yesterday).

In losing tonight the Capitals faced their usual three obstacles against the Thrashers: failure to score, stupid play at especially inopportune times and bad luck.

The stupidity was courtesy of John Erskine's cross-checking penalty on Slava Kozlov at 14:59 of the second. Moments earlier Kozlov had established position and Erskine (not the most agile skater) had gone down; it was not a cheap shot by Kozlov. Erskine's response was to level Kozlov (who weighs about 175 pounds) with a cross-check, to the back, right in front of the referee. It's hard to overstate what a stupid penalty that is, even with its impact being magnified as the Thrashers scored their second goal on the ensuing powerplay. If Milan Jurcina is watching from the press box for a bad turnover then Erskine should be without a sweater for a while for his play, which was simply inexcusable.

The bad luck resulted in the Thrashers third goal; those watching at home saw a good breakdown of the play by Al Koken. Watching in real time I'm sure many people were, like me, wondering "how the hell did Havelid get so open for that pass?" The answer was that the man who supposed to be on him, Chris Clark, had gotten into an altercation at least ten second earlier and was being held against the boards in front of the Capitals bench. Not only did the officials not call a penalty (or penalties), they didn't even stop the play, letting Ilya Kovalchuk find Niclas Havelid wide open in the Capitals' zone.

The Capitals aren't losing games because of single breakdowns or bad plays anymore. Simply put, they're playing like losers. They no longer have that attitude or physicality they carried the last couple years and they no longer expect to win. As soon as the opposition scores, they fold and their body language sends the message "well, here we go again, let's just get through this and go home". The biggest offender is Viktor Kozlov. If you're as skilled as Semin, Nylander or Backstrom you can get away with not playing a particularly physical game and still being a very solid contributer. But if you're not (and you are 6'4'', 225) you need to play physical.

Let's be realistic now. The season's done unless something amazing (a 10 game win streak or something) happens. All I can offer is that, no matter how poorly the Capitals play this year, they have the talent to compete in 2008-09.

Quick Hits

  • Hell of a classy guy that Bobby Holik. With less than five to go and his team up by four goals he's throwing a temper tantrum in the penalty box after being called. Then he gets an unsportsmanlike penalty from the bench in the game's closing minute. This is why I hate Atlanta. Whether it's Sutton taking a run at guys in the closing minutes of games, Boulton using him elbows in a Karl Malone-esque fashion, Captain Bobby wetting his pants over an irrelevant call, or the team stamping "LOSER" across people wearing the opposition's jersey on their Jumbotron, the organization lacks class. And let's not forget their "there's plenty of room left on the bandwagon" advertising campaign.
  • Jeff Schultz fared much better against Atlanta's top line than I would have expected.
  • Your team is down four goals near the end of the game. You're supposed to be one of the toughest players on your team and you get knocked face-first into your own net. What's the best response in that situation? Well that's up for debate I guess but I will tell you, Mr. Erskine, that it is not to lay on the ice and meekly swipe at the opposing player's skates.
  • Speaking of lack of toughness, Brashear needs to go after Holik for manhandling Clark behind the Thrashers net in the closing minutes. There's no excuse for letting someone go after your captain like that. Period.
  • To his credit Shaone Morrisonn did come out looking pissed and playing the type of game the Capitals needed to play.


usually frustrated caps fan said...

DMG: Great post; as for me I'm perplexed as those who want to see what I have to say can see in my own blog - Mark's Musings - at:

Basically I just can't see why other than the fact Glen hanlon isn't the right coach to take the Caps to the next level this group of players can't win. Hanlon is a class act but if this group of talented guys can't get it together and play for him maybe it really is time for someone else to set the execution plan.

DMG said...

I think the team just lost confidence in itself and in Hanlon's sytem after so many losses.