Gary Green sat in the nosebleed section at Capital Centre Wednesday night, watching his former team, the Washington Capitals, lose their 13th straight game and wondering whether things could be any worse. Yesterday, he opened his morning paper and saw something he considered worse.
Green read that Pollin felt he had "lost control" of the team. He also read Pollin's comment that the Capitals had played "patsy hockey" under Green. When Green was fired, he praised Pollin for his efforts to improve the team and absolved the owner of any blame for the current state of affairs.
"I don't know why he would make that statement," Green said yesterday when his reaction was solicited. "You can introduce a new coach without getting on my case. I was disappointed as could be. It just was not in the character of the man.
"When it comes to be considered by other hockey teams, those quotes go a long way in the media. General managers tend to take something like that and accept it as gospel. I think that's unfair.
"Any control I lost of the team, I lost because I was on their case. What can a coach do when a player stops playing for him? If the general manager tries to get rid of a guy and nobody wants him, what do you do? People think off the top of their head, 'Get rid of him.' But on a low team, even the best players have a low value. Nobody in this league trades $10 bills for $5 bills."
Green read the comments of new Coach Bryan Murray, about the purported lack of conditioning and organization, and was not disturbed.
"Whenever a new coach comes in, you can read the headlines, 'New Coach Takes Over and Team's Not in Condition.' What else is he going to say?" Green asked. "I sent a message to Bryan and told him, 'Don't let the conditioning fog the quickness factor.'
"If a quick player and a slow player go head to head for two periods, the slower player is drained by the third period. He's had to work his buns off, while the quicker player can still go 100 miles an hour because it's come easy for him. Speed and quickness are a big factor with this team now.
"You can condition guys to death and not increase speed or quickness. I don't know how much more we could have worked them. We were going two hours on the ice, with a lot of hard skating. And 13 minutes on a bike is a tough chore."
Green wished Murray well, while cautioning him not to overrate the ability of the players.
"I really hope Bryan can turn them around, and for some of the key players' sake who worked hard for me I hope they turn it around," Green said. "I still feel a big part of this organization and I hate seeing this organization not successful.
"The majority of coaches when they're canned hope the team loses its next 30 games. I don't. I really like Bryan Murray. I'm glad he got the job. If I was ever a general manager, I'd hire Bryan Murray over a couple of other people who were involved in this situation.
"Bryan is a good coach and he never did me any wrong. He worked hard in Hershey and players came up to me with the right attitude and fundamentals. I have a lot of respect for the guy."
Pollin's "patsy hockey" quote and the implication that Murray would introduce discipline where it was lacking did not sit well with Green.
"I wanted an aggressive hockey club, too," he said. "But make sure you get aggressive players. Don't expect Ryan Walter to do all the pounding for you. He'll do it, and he never gave me any less than 100 percent, but when you play the toughest of the tough, don't expect a 5-foot-10 guy to do it all. If you want aggressiveness, you should start with the draft and pick 6-1 guys who like to hit, rather than a skating type like Errol Rausse.
"We could have been more aggressive and started fights. Why, when you can't kill penalties? Quickness and speed also come into penalty killing.
"As for discipline, if one of the players on our hockey club didn't know his responsibilities on the ice, then he needs a brain transplant. The basic break out of our end zone hasn't changed in 2 1/2 years. If they knew it two years ago, how could they forget it?
"The whole catch in system hockey is that you have to move as quickly as possible when the puck moves. If the first guy is a step too slow and he's caught out of position, then a second guy tries to cover up and the whole thing breaks down."
Green noted that most of the Capitals' coaches, after a break-in period, had lifted the team temporarily, then were unable to maintain it.
"Within this organization, you can get the most out of what you've got for a while," Green said. "You can get them pumped up emotionally. We got a lot out of some guys last year who were not able to sustain it. I'm convinced I got a lot out of the guys, for what they are capable of giving. But some players were expected to perform at levels they aren't capable of."
Green declined to name names, but he noted the Capitals had too many "sixth defensemen" and "fourth-liners" forced into roles for which they were not qualified.
"I wasn't critical at my departure and I wish other people hadn't used it to be critical of me," Green said.
Detroit, the only team Green beat this season, will be at Capital Centre tonight at 8, as Washington attempts to end the 13-game streak on Friday the 13th . . . Fred Shero confirmed that the Capitals were turned off by his insistence that agent Mark Stewart participate in discussions. "They said they didn't like to deal with agents," Shero said. "Players have agents; why not coaches?" . . . The Capitals, who failed to score during three two-man advantages against the Penguins, are zero for seven in that situation this season.