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Posted at 12:40 PM ET, 02/14/2011

Line change: What will motivate the Caps?

By Washington Post Sports Editors

Tarik El-Bashir wrote in his latest On Hockey column that the Capitals' best players should shoulder the majority of the blame for the team's recent woes.

They're playing uninspired hockey, and El-Bashir writes that Coach Bruce "Boudreau can't make his stars play with the desire they displayed on a much more consistent basis a season ago."

But what, if anything, will motivate them if nothing else has done the trick for extended periods of time this season? Would a trade deadline splash do the trick? Or threats of less ice time? More HBO-worthy speeches from various players and coaches? Weigh in below.

By Washington Post Sports Editors  | February 14, 2011; 12:40 PM ET
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Next: Michal Neuvirth to start against Coyotes


What would motivate them...

1) Change in system.

2) Coach that believes in the system they are being sold.

3) Benching or a trade of a star who is NOT performing up to his contract value.

Posted by: SoaringCaps | February 14, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Boudreau has to hold players accountable for poor play. Schultz has routinely been invisible or worse on the blue line. Boudreau should sit him for a good long time, not continue to reward him for terrible play by keeping him on the top line.

Posted by: 10642 | February 14, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Aren't the fans who pay their salaries enough motivation for them? They're grown men; professional athletes...why do they need any other motivation?

Posted by: R617 | February 14, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Neuvirth gets the start tonight.

Posted by: ThePat | February 14, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Although I'm sure that Caps management has a much better handle on this than I might, but one has to believe there's the possibility of a coaching change in the not too distant future if the Caps continue to struggle.

Posted by: Blueline | February 14, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Send them all to Hershey for a game, bring the Bears up here. Let them both see how "the other side" lives?

Posted by: padre123 | February 14, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Boudreau is known as a coach that does not hold his players accountable. If the coach can't keep his players motivated then it's time for a coaching change.

Don't get me wrong, I like Boudreau. Maybe he can be Director of team snacks.

Posted by: Padow1 | February 14, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

As has been mentioned many times before, 24/7 was not good for BB in the least. What has been established is that the players arent/cant be motivated by their coach, he doesnt demand things from his players, they dont buy into "his system", cannot figure out lines, cannot choose a goalie, doesnt hold individuals accountable (minus a couple that usually dont deserve it and arent part of the Super Boudreau Best Friends Alliance), etc etc. So again...what IS he doing for us exactly?

Really, can anyone answer this question? Kool-aiders, the question is open to you as well.

Tarik has it wrong, its not the players, its the coach. Plain and simple. You could argue they currently play just to collect a pay check, but get them a new coach and then they have something else to play for.

P.S. I think Im getting splinters from this fench, I'd like to come down off it, but still need a convincing side to come down on.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | February 14, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

how about some new blood?

Posted by: brian58 | February 14, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Tarik..Looking good.

Posted by: washingtoncapitals | February 14, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Caps might need a shake up to wake them up. If I were GMGM, I would look at moving Laich and the 2011 #1 pick for a second line center. Laich is a UFA at the end of the season and he has been struggling at times. Moving him will also be a clear signal in the dressing room that the teams needs to work harder and play better or their will be huge changes in the off season. You trade away some leadership but you then ask players like OV and Backstrom to become better leaders on the team to fill the void.

Posted by: madflava | February 14, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Barring the unlikely circumstance where the Capitals squeak into the playoffs as an 8 seed and then go on a magical playoff run, the more likely reality is more of the same, culminating in a first-round exit if they're even lucky to get that far.

I'm getting an early start on my annual Capitals heartbreak.

Knowing the history as well as I do, they're about to go on a great run that builds up hope once again... only to come crashing to earth when they come up against yet another hot no-name goalie in the playoffs.

Round and round it goes and nothing ever changes.

Posted by: ninatotenburg | February 14, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Boudreau has to hold players accountable for poor play. Schultz has routinely been invisible or worse on the blue line. Boudreau should sit him for a good long time, not continue to reward him for terrible play by keeping him on the top line.

Posted by: 10642 | February 14, 2011 12:48 PM |

Agreed. He was horrible against the Kings and was responsible for their second goal, didn't even bother trying to body a guy who just went right around him.

He led the team, and the NHL possibly, last year in +/-, but he's been slogging through this recent stretch and has hurt the team.

Also, on their first goal if Perreault had been working hard to backcheck on a breakaway he could have prevented the first goal. That was just a lack of focus and effort.

This road trip will define the season. If they falter here, they need to bring in a new voice who commands respect, has been through the fire before, and has an offensive background.

Posted by: saltine182 | February 14, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

1) Most make more money in a year then many will in several lifetimes.

2) Their largest support base, season ticket holders, are about to get renewal notices and if they go up at all, they will very angry.

But to be frank, I don't think anything will motivate this team at this point.

Posted by: Capfan12 | February 14, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Motivation comes from the top. BB has proven over the years that he is able to motivate. It is also known that over time that coaches get tuned out. The decision needs to be made whether it's a coaching or personnel issue. Personally, I don't think benching star players or changing coaches mid stream will do any good. I also don't think the Caps are in the dire straits that most do either. As long as they make the playoffs, none of the regular season matters as we proved last year. The Caps could be 56-0-0 and we as a fan base would be saying it doesn't mean squat until mid April.

So they are struggling a little. So they are lacking in motivation. I just think that we are all in with what coaching we have. I just don't see any viable options out there. The assistants (Dean Evason, Bob Woods, even Mark French in Hershey) wouldn't be options because they coach this system as well.

I think we should take the Leonsis approach. Let's all take a big breath, exhale, and calm down.

With all of that being said, not making the playoffs or falling the same way we did last year and I will be the first on to call the demo crew to blow this thing up.

Posted by: Big_Pushy | February 14, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Trade Green. That will shake things up. He wants to play forward all the time. He's become a liability and BB gives him waaay too many minutes. MP belongs in Hershey, like Bourque, he's too small for the bigs.

Posted by: jfk10 | February 14, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

What would I do to motivate the players? The coach? The GM? I would do ... nothing. Let them determine their own fate through the end of the season and, if they make it, through the playoffs. Then deal or keep, based on performance.

I don't think you threaten right now. This generation does not respond well to threats. If the opportunity for the Cup does not motivate them, then get rid of them.

Posted by: trfnews | February 14, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, it's not a lack of effort. It's a terrible system that completely saps any offensive options out. The Caps are playing as well in the system as they can but when your system generates almost no odd-man rushes you just aren't to score. Good defensive systems are designed to create havoc in the neutral zone. This system keeps our offensive players deep in the defensive zone. It's a complete overreaction and needs to be scrapped.

Posted by: ouvan59 | February 14, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Russian Vodka, and the 21 year old girls in Arlington...

Posted by: CapsBaby | February 14, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I keep thinking Green will snap out of it and play like he's capable, but I don't know. I also thought by now he'd have been able to shake free of #55, but BB just loves that guy. I don't get it - Schultz struggles mightily against quick, powerful forwards [as the playoffs have resoundingly shown - Plekanec, Kostitsyn, Briere, Gionta, etc.] which is a problem, given that's how the league's going. Loktionov made one move and was gone - Schultz wasn't within ten feet of him as he closed in on Varly, all alone. And he's a 3rd-liner.

You don't often get that open in the NHL, talk to any pro making the jump and they're invariably amazed at how little time and space NHL d-men give you. Well, excepting Mr. Schultz, anyway.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 14, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

why are the WaPo contributors too scared to speak of firing BB?

Posted by: Bagher | February 14, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I don't think firing BB will fix much. These guys will still be underperforming for what they are paid.

I saw the idea of trading Green or Laich above. That will certainly wake people up. I would think trading Green would hit closer to home with these guys though.

BTW, I know I'm just an idiot fan, and I'm sure this idea has been beaten to death....but why not play Green as a forward? Will the team be worse without him at the blue line? Seems to me that he would become a pretty amazing two way, back checking wing with a great snap shot. Just a thought.

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 14, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Amen Tarik. Shouldn't being the 2010 SC Playoff choking dogs be motivation enough? Guess not.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 14, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

It's too late to fire BB, who will the Caps hire to replace him? If you change the coach, the best option is to wait until the off season. Of course the Caps will have to sacrifice another year without coming anywhere near the Stanley Cup. Is it the system or the work ethic of the players. That's hard to determine. I do think the trap system they are using doesn't fit the players on this team yet. Right now it could be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Posted by: madflava | February 14, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

If you move Green to the wing, who do you replace him with? We don't have anyone else who can fill his spot on the blue line.. I don't think the Caps would trade green. If anyone it will be MP-Gordon-Beagle and draft picks for someone... Laich would be interesting to use as trade bait but I think his value has taken a huge hit this season. I think when Fehr coming back will be a nice boost to the offense, I would like him on the top line with 8, and 19.. I think he could put up 30 goals if he was on top line full time

Posted by: CapsBaby | February 14, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the coach or this new system is causing these guys to miss passes or open net shots. That is on the players confidence alone.

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 14, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse

You would play Erskine more.

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 14, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

For those who say it is too late to fire BB, I say hogwash. The Pens hired Blysma in mid-Feb and won the cup same year. Flyers hired Laviolette in Dec. and went to finals same season. The timing couldn't be more perfect. Another stud defenseman would be great too.

Posted by: Pius5 | February 14, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

BTW...I think most playoff bound teams would be more than happy to have Laich on their team. That guy works!

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 14, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I am not saying that team wouldn't like Laich on their teams, but for all the "work" he does, it isn't showing in that stats this season... I wont argue that it something to look into, we are a playoff team to don't forget... Also playing Erskine more, I don't think his skill could replace Green. Erskine isnt a top 4 kind of guy. I don't think you can replace a top 1-2 gay with a 5-6 guy

Posted by: CapsBaby | February 14, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

One of the players that currently sees himself as 'untouchable' needs to be traded to wake up the other players.

It may not be a simple thing to effectuate, ie a trade for a high profile player, but it seems relatively simple to deduce from an uninspired locker room that a boot in the pants is the only thing that is going to work.

The coaching staff and GM have tried to rattle these players verbally during the season but not one of them has been moved by their words because NOBODY thinks there is anything meaningful behind them.

Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Green, etc. all have reached a level of comfortability where they don't think there are any dire consequences to not performing other than a curse word or two from Boudreau.

McPhee needs to step up here and show the locker room that there are indeed consequences to not playing up to one's contract.

These guys are ALL well paid now. These guys in question aren't working on rookie deals or two-way contracts.

With big money comes the responsibility to lead and be consistent.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 14, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I think they are one west coast road trip from being on the outside looking in, unfortunately.

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 14, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

RoyHobbs4 -
Well said, sir.

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 14, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

@Pius5...I am not saying that it is too late to fire BB, I am saying that there isn't anyone else out there to replace him with. You can't promote Mark French from Hershey because he plays the same system. Bob Woods, same issue. I am not sure if Dean Evason plays a different system but I just don't see those guys as options if Bruce goes by the wayside.

Posted by: Big_Pushy | February 14, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I agree with what you are saying, but I really dont see GMGM doing that.. While it would probably benefit the team, I don't seem him trading a high profile player..

Posted by: CapsBaby | February 14, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Erskine has been as good as any defender on the Caps this year. don't get his name mixed in with all of this other chatter.

Posted by: doughless | February 14, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Trade, trade, trade! Get a guy with character, who can be a leader and crash the net. I would have loved Iginla, but he's apparently off the table. Anyway, players need to know there are consequences for underachieving. If they aren't performing, get rid of them.

Posted by: StevefromSacto | February 14, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

You have to trade value to get value. I'd trade Semin.

Posted by: StevefromSacto | February 14, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

@madflava - yes! good trade if they can make it. No one going to be parting with a 2C anytime soon, though.

It's too late this year, to can BB. So maybe the question is, what can get him fired up? The head coach doesn't have to be an x's and o's genius: you can get an assistant or two for that. But he should be able to read the teams' moods and know how to help them.

But let's also wait - what if this team actually does the unthinkable this year? What if it actually scores a goal during a playoff series?? (Or wins two or three or..) Maybe being a coach is like riding a race horse. You can expect the thing to win every furlong but you have to keep it in the race.

Posted by: RedLitYogi | February 14, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the kind of player needed in a trade will be out there for the Caps to get. Could happen, but there just aren't that many 2Cs available at all and who in the East would send someone to Washington without GMGM having to overpay in terms of prospects? With as tight as the West is it is hard to see a major deal working out.

Now.......I've seen a number of reasonable suggestions already posted; many having merit. I'm certainly no hockey maven, but if I had this much problem getting everyone on the team to fully commit to playing responsible, high effort hockey for 60 minutes, AND I've already pointed a finger at my top players, I'd scratch Ovechkin and Backstrom tonight. Let them watch. What's the worst that could happen? No goals? Another loss?

I've never believed that coaches can motivate players. Motivation has to come from within. Sometimes motivation is sparked when your pride is wounded. Apparently lack of scoring and being out-worked have not yet done the trick.

Posted by: prestoj | February 14, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Tough to "teach a lesson" to a millionaire pro by benching him 'cause then he'll collect his paycheck without even working for it. A "kick in the butt"..? how so? another f-bomb tongue-lashing? We're seeing that that tactic doesn't work anymore because apparently neither the players nor the coaching staff believe in what they've been asked to do.
Coach Boudreau became successful with an offensive system. Most of the Caps players became successful by being offensive players. Now, both, the coach and the players have been asked to adapt to a system in which neither is adept in. The coach certainly knows that defensive hockey is not his forte. He was promoted to the NHL based on his success with his offensive system. He turned the franchise around with his system. It worked.
The players weren't drafted based on their defensive prowess. They were all high picks based on their offensive talents. Most were goal scorers. It worked.
The coach is teaching/coaching a system that he apparently doesn't believe in. The players are not adapting to it, and certainly not buying it, because that's not what they have done throughout their careers, and have now become below average players.
IMO, let Coach Boudreau coach his system. Let the players skate to their abilities and utilize their offensive talents. And IF, and emphasis on IF, McPhee can get the missing pieces -the defensive defensemen and wingers- we should be back to normal.

Posted by: scmonty1 | February 14, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Don't fire anyone and don't make an "example trade". I think if you fix the PP, confidence will follow and passion will be a side effect. I'm no expert, but in a season of futility there are a couple of things I would try. A) Take Ovie off of the point. He's a winger, let him play wing. Green, Carlson, Alzner, and Hannan are all athletic enough and skilled enough at "puck moving" to play the naturally-defensive role on the PP. B) This may not matter as much as I think it does, but it seems most of the 5-man PP units thrown out there are very right-handed heavy, often 4 out of the 5 (Green, Ovie, Knuble, Semin with Backs being the exception). Throw out some lefties, it opens up completely different shooting and passing lanes, especially at the point, and C) Play the mutts on the PP more. If PP productivity is as much about hustle as BB says it is (which I also believe) then put the guys who ARE hustling out there. This would include putting Stecks at center. I know Backs is a good faceoff guy, but Stecks is the best in the league, so use that to your advantage, and most nights I think Stecks would give you the "hustle factor" I'm advocating as well. Finally, make some/all of these changes and stick with it for four or five games. I think a little consistency is needed as well. Come up with two defined units, mixing in more lefties and hustle guys, Ovie on the wing taking normal shifts (not the entire PP) and stick with it for a week or two. I'll admit, the time to do this might have been a month ago, but it ain't working so it's time to do SOMETHING.

Posted by: ajtrue78 | February 14, 2011 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Been following Cody Eakin because I think he is a special kind of hockey player. Let's use his motivational model from the last two Kootenay Ice games. This past weekend on the road Eakin scores a hat trick Friday night and on Saturday night against his former team he comes within a goal of the Gordie Howe hat trick. Though he doesn't score a goal in that game he gets a five minute major for fighting a former teammate. His team wins both games to clinch a playoff spot in the WHL. That's the kind of motivation and leadership a team needs to go deep into the playoffs at any level.

Posted by: dull | February 14, 2011 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Are you kidding me? This is the same team that let up against Montreal and now they need something to inspire them? Their biggest rival already have a cup and they need to be inspired? WTH! I just ate and now I feel sick after thinking about this. Totally disgusting.

Posted by: martini0703 | February 14, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Forget sending them to Hershey & bringing up the Bears. We have 9 guys out due to injury including both goalies (Holtby & Sabourin), Brian Fahey & Andrew Gordon.

The only thing that is going to shake this team up is trading a core player. Trading a prospect, a rookie, or a 4th line player isn't going to do the trick. It has to be someone that will shock the team

Posted by: houseoflords | February 15, 2011 2:41 AM | Report abuse

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