Tuesday morning, Adam Oates announced that goalie Jaroslav Halak wouldn’t start against his old team in St. Louis. Why? Via Katie Carrera:
“We know the feelings when you go into your old stomping ground and it’s not always easy and you’re not always comfortable, at least the first time,” Oates said. “We talked to [Halak] and he just wasn’t 100 percent comfortable. Unfortunately this time of year and where we’re at, we can’t afford that and Holts has played great lately. We feel really good about that and Holts is playing.”
This became a national headline, on hockey sites and beyond. For a team fighting desperately to stay in some sort of playoff contention, it seemed to be yet another unnecessary hurdle, yet another bit of unneeded drama. And the immediate response from plenty of Caps fans seemed anti-Halak: wondering why he would beg out of such a huge spot, wondering how he could not want to face the Blues, wondering why he was on this team if not to play in a game like this.
For the contrary position, here’s Alan May, on ESPN 980’s The Drive.
“First of all, I don’t think it should be made public, at all,” May said Tuesday afternoon. “I just think the coach is supposed to name the starters without complicating things. And we’re not privy to the entire conversation. I just don’t think that players should be put in positions to have to answer and defend these situations. Because we don’t have a microphone; there’s not cameras in there to see the entire conversation. And it really shouldn’t be something that we’re able to talk about.”
So how could Oates have avoided this?
“You name your starter,” May said. “You tell the goalie you’re playing, and that’s it. I just don’t think it’s good that this stuff is happening right now. I’ve seen coaches who won’t play a goaltender because they’re playing their old team, and they don’t even have the conversation. They just tell them, you know what, Braden, you’re playing….It’s just a lot of little nitpicking going on here and there, and I just can’t believe that we’re actually talking about this right now.”
Steve Czaban then asked May to assumed that Halak really had begged out of the game, wondering how then to assess the player’s actions.
“You know what, I don’t think you guys are getting what I’m saying,” May said. “I don’t think we’re privy to the entire conversation. I don’t think it’s that black and white. Was he baited by the coaches? Was he not? If you asked me, if I was playing against one of my former teams — are you nervous about tonight? — I’d say yeah, a little bit. I want to make sure I play good against my old team. There’s a lot of different ways that different people answer those questions.”
And then May was asked why Oates would have made public his conversation with Halak.
“I have no idea,” May answered. “There’s just a lot of things that have been baffling lately. And this falls in line with the things that have been going on. I’m not sure. Maybe the coach has run out of answers. It’s just right now, I think the number one thing is guys should be ready to play. Guys go in the lineup, guys get sat out, goalies start, goalies don’t start, goalies back up, and you put your team on the ice.”