General Manager Max McNab, who has been receiving some criticism for the Washington Capitals' stumbling 1-5 start, directed some biting remarks of his own yesterday at players who are not showing the proper enthusiasm and execution on the ice.
He also promised to distribute tickets out of town to those miscreants who do not mend their ways in a hurry.
"I don't see anything close to being satisfied with at this point," McNab said. "I'm terribly disappointed in the start. Regardless of the guys we haven't been able to use because of injuries, we should be getting more. If it's a matter of moving guys, we'll move them.
"If they're giving their all and that's the best they have to give, then there should be heat on me. There's always pressure in this spot. But I'm convinced the changes we made were plus changes and the players have to feel the heat as much as upstairs.
"The players in the final analysis have to feel the heat as much as anyone. It's the old story -- the foreman gets after the worker, the worker gets after his wife, the wife gets after the kids and the kids get after the cats. There may be a lot of sick cats around here."
Perhaps there are fat cats, too, McNab indicated, with inflated salaries in the National Hockey League reducing the importance of the playoff money that comes with winning.
"There is a problem with a team that's down, as we have been, that salaries are still that good, the basic playoff incentives from the financial end are not comparable," McNab said. "But there ought to be pretty good character in that room to win for the sake of pride as well as money. Some guys make a good living without winning, and they're satisfied. You have to get those guys out of the room.
"The players who have disappointed us will just have to be moved if there is no change. We can't rest on past performance numbers. We have to ask, 'What are you doing for me today?'
"There is nothing wrong with our size and strength collectively. But our defense hasn't been stiff enough, for what they're capable of doing. Our overall effort just hasn't been what it should be.
"Every club has guys who are 80 percent pure National Leaguers, and if an 80 percent player is playing like a 90 percenter I consider him a plus 10. On the other hand, if you rate a pure National Leaguer at 95 percent and he's giving you 85 percent, that's a minus 10. That's the plus-minus I look at and the players have to face up to it -- right now we're in a minus situation. That's what brings on frustration.
"I'm not talking about goals for and goals against, but just effort and fulfilling your role. If one of a guy's attributes is playing an enthusiastic game, he has to play up to that. When they don't give you that and that's what got them here and kept them in the league, they're not earning their salary."
McNab mentioned no names as to those he considered playing below par. He did mention defenseman Greg Theberge, however, as an example of what he expected from the rest of the team.
"I've got to give Theberge credit," McNab said. "He was a long shot based on his defensive play in the American League, but he outfought a few guys for a job. It's an indictment to a degree on our other defensemen when a young fellow who is questionable coming into camp steps in and has been one of our better players. The other defensemen should be able to lift their enthusiasm to his level.
"He wants the puck and he gets it. Teams that win want that puck. There is nothing wrong with professional athletes showing enthusiasm. That is the factor that is missing. Theberge is showing the difference between his enthusiasm and that of the other defensemen, to be quite dramatic."
McNab's threat to move malingerers may be difficult to fulfill, other than on an up-and-down basis to Hershey. When a team is struggling, potential traders act like extortionists.
"I've talked to a number of clubs and the ones that are winning are satisfied and the others are hesitant to do anything that might hurt them," McNab said. "I had a long talk with one club today and their proposal was a little outrageous."