The dog days of summer are among us, and the hockey world has a thirst for some legitimate hockey news. Thankfully we have newly minted Florida Panther Matt Bradley to help us along. The former Washington Capitals’ winger took to the airwaves in Ottawa and was asked about the Capitals troubles in the postseason and also went on to speak about the overall culture in the Capitals locker room. He even went on to speak about an individual specifically.
When asked about the postseason troubles that have been plaguing the Capitals over the last few years, Bradley spoke about a number of different players “not showing up”, however he refrained from naming any players specifically. When pressed further about the issue Bradley stated “Our locker room was maybe a little too nonchalant, and guys weren’t disciplined the way they should have been.” Bradley didn’t stop there. He also called into question some of the habits of his former teammates, more specifically about their practice habits and their overall work ethic stating that certain guys weren’t ready for practice due to “questionable injuries”.
For the entirety of last season and the majority of the season before, I’ve been pretty candid about the lack of leadership on the Capitals team, and it starts with the Captain Alex Ovechkin. Obviously any news regarding an injury or any other reason why a player missed practice we have to take at face value. Anyone outside of the locker room should do that. But the frequency of hearing news that players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin are “taking their option” and missing practice or a morning skate is a growing concern for me. So Bradley’s comments come as no surprise to me. But what does this boil down to? The message is pretty clear to me that there are guys on the roster who’s commitment and work ethnic need improvement, or it points straight to the top with Bruce Boudreau. Head coaches have a lot on their plate. They have to be role models, leaders, and without question they have to create an environment of discipline. Perhaps that is lacking right now in the locker room. To be fair to Ovechkin, Bradley did go on to say that he never questioned Ovechkin and went on to say that he’s “an all-in guy”. But still, there is a perception. The question would not have been asked if there wasn’t one.
Matt Bradley did have something special saved up for Alex Semin. The story has been written on Alex Semin numerous times. The secret is out. Semin is an all world talent that dangle through anybody, but his enigmatic nature has always been his major flaw. Semin can go on torrid streaks, scoring goals seemingly at will, and other times will disappear and do more damage to the team then good. He at times appear lazy on the ice and his work ethic has in the past been criticized. Whether justified or not, one thing everyone agrees on is that for the Capitals to have any success, Semin has to be a contributor. Apparently Matt Bradley agrees saying “could easily be the best player in the league but for whatever reason just doesn’t care”. When it comes to perception, this is spot on. But let’s be fair to Semin, you don’t become an elite player in the NHL by not caring. Semin has never been criticized for being out of shape or being a bad teammate. It’s just that his performances on the ice and perhaps his “questionable injuries” Bradley was possible referring to has cast a bit of a shadow on Semin.
As this story gains a bit of steam in the blogosphere, it will be interesting to see if any other former Capitals share Bradley’s feelings about his old teammates. Oh…and that first game against the Panthers just got a bit spicier.
What’s your take? Is there a culture problem in the Caps’ locker room?
About the Author: Jeremy is a life time hockey fan currently living in Washington DC. Jeremy also runs a Capitals blog called The Nation's Capitals where he frequently posts blogs about the state of the Caps. His other interests include music and politics. Jeremy has a degree in Political Science. Being from DC, politics kind of comes with the territory.