The two-week anniversary of the Washington Capitals’ last win is Friday, when the team kicks off a stretch of five road games with a matchup at the New Jersey Devils.
But even as the losses pile up, Coach Adam Oates and the players maintain that no dramatic call to action is required. In fact, most say Knute Rockne speeches are a creation of fiction and not the reality of NHL dressing rooms.
“I don’t believe it works. I don’t. [It] never worked for me,” Oates said. “You can yell but if you don’t fix the mistakes, the mistakes [will] still occur. You might scare someone but it still occurs. The bottom line is you’ve got to be professional. That’s the bottom line because we are the pros. And if I change they’re going to go ‘He’s panicking. Look, he’s changing’ and I don’t want to do that.”
Oates, in his second season as coach, has been unfailingly straightforward with his approach regardless of whether the Capitals are playing well or poorly. He dissects what they did correctly, what corrections they need to make and doesn’t rant and rave. If he alters that approach now, even though the team has lost six straight and 13 of the last 17, Oates believes he will be sending the wrong message.
“I talked about it with the other coaches today. I think, for me, I have to be consistent,” Oates said. “I can’t come in and all of a sudden turn into a different person. You’re going to have losing waves, you’re going to. We’re not happy about it but we have to be just as professional as if we’re winning 10 in a row because obviously it can flip.”
After Washington’s 2-0 loss to the Senators on Tuesday, veteran forward Brooks Laich said that there hasn’t been yelling in the dressing room as the team slides and that there doesn’t need to be because as the adage goes, actions speak louder than words.
“To this point I don’t feel that we’ve needed that big rah-rah speech, guys are able to get themselves excited and get themselves ready for games,” Troy Brouwer said. “But if it continues on this path we might need it whether it’s our captain, our assistant captains, or coach somebody to come in and make sure that guys understand that this is completely unacceptable right now.”
One of the biggest hurdles now may be rebuilding confidence, because after six straight losses any mistake holds the potential to knock the Caps off track. That was the case against Ottawa this week.
“When they scored that first goal last game, we were dead,” Karl Alzner said. “We haven’t really had that feeling in quite a while. Normally when teams are scoring against us, at least lately, I guess we’ve been still upbeat and still been able to stick with things. The last game was different, I don’t know if it’s the fact that it’s the [sixth] one in a row or what it was. I don’t know what the exact thing is.”