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Posted at 01:03 PM ET, 11/09/2011

Debating the merits of bag skates

While watching Coach Bruce Boudreau put the Caps through a “bag skate” — meaning endless sprints and laps around the ice — this morning, presumably as a punishment for Tuesday’s listless 5-2 loss to NHL-leading Dallas Stars, a debate broke out in the media room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. We figured we would share our thoughts here on the blog. Please feel free to chime in below in the comments section.

Do bag skates have the desired effect?

Tarik: My position is that they don’t. Not at this level. They’re adults. The players know they didn’t compete hard enough against the Stars.

Alternate captain Mike Knuble said as much afterward when he used the words “losers,” “clowns” and “embarrassing” to describe his team’s effort.

I don’t see how skating them into the ground (or ice, in this case) delivers a message. Yes, their legs will ache. And if they're still hurting Friday and Saturday, who exactly does that help?

I’ve been covering hockey in some capacity for 15 years. And, off the top of my head, I can’t think of an instance where a bag skate signaled the start of turning point, at least not in the long term.

Bag skates, I feel, actually have the potential to build animosity toward the coaches and among the players themselves. What did Tomas Vokoun have to do with Tuesday’s result? What about the (small) handful of other Caps, such as Matt Hendricks and Knuble, who did take their responsibility seriously?

As I told everyone in the media room, I would have told the players to stay home, serve a one-day paid suspension, of sorts. A man can do a lot of thinking in 24 hours. He'll walk past a mirror or two. That, I bet, would have had a longer-lasting impact than suicide sprints.

Katie: Bag skates may not be a perfect method of negative reinforcement, but after the Capitals’ uninspired effort against the Dallas Stars Tuesday night, there needs to be more than a timeout to think about what they’ve done.

Accountability has been the No. 1 buzzword around the Capitals for months at this point. The message is work hard, practice hard, play hard, and in the 5-2 loss to the Stars, the latter was very much absent. Given that it’s impossible to bench the majority of a 22-man active roster, there is a need to send a message to the entire group that being out-hustled is not acceptable.

If a team won’t work in a game, then they will have to work in a practice. While not every player deserved the grueling gauntlet that Coach Bruce Boudreau put the Capitals through Wednesday – Mike Knuble, Matt Hendricks and Cody Eakin come to mind, among the skaters – leaving some players out could create even greater chasms in the dressing room than including everyone in the punishment.

If this season is about holding every player to the same standard, on Wednesday all 22 players, from Alex Ovechkin to Mathieu Perreault, were hunched over and gasping for air as they went through an intense hour and a half of practice that included four sets of suicide sprints.

Are you for or against bag skates? Share your thoughts below, and recommend your favorite answers — the most popular will show up at the top of the comments.

 

By and  |  01:03 PM ET, 11/09/2011

 
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