Does Bruce Mean Business?
Over the offseason, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau came out publicly and said that the team would have a more serious tone, on and off the ice. Based off Boudreau’s lineup choices for Saturday’s opening night, it looks like he wasn’t kidding.
As he should, it seems that Boudreau will be holding players very accountable for their play on the ice this season, and he’s making his point very clear.
The starter while playing for Florida, G Tomas Vokoun was expected by many to get the nod for opening night on Saturday. Despite the speculation, Vokoun found himself sitting on the bench as the Caps faced off against the Carolina Hurricanes. Did Boudreau give Vokoun the night off too avoid first game jitters in front of the home crowd or is Boudreau trying to send another message?
Vokoun played in three games in the preseason, but only won a single one of them; a shootout victory. In his three games played, Vokoun averaged about 22 saves per game and gave up a total of 10 goals. If Vokoun expects to get the starting job, his numbers need to be much better.
Is it safe to assume Boudreau’s starting goalie decision on opening night was his way of reminding Vokoun that mediocre numbers by his standards will not be tolerated? Benching goalies is nothing too shocking, it has to happen eventually, so is another one of Boudreau’s coaching decisions from Saturday even more worthy of evaluation and speculation?
It’s clear that C Marcus Johansson is a part of the Caps’ plans for seasons to come. With the exception of two games played in Hershey, the Caps’ 2009 first round draft pick spent his entire first season in North America up with the Caps. Despite these facts, the Caps definitely don’t want Johansson to get too comfortable just yet.
Johansson certainly had his fair share of rookie struggles last year. His adjustments to North American play in addition to the NHL were obvious; especially in the face-off circle. Despite this, Johansson still finished with a respectable 27 points in 69 games played (13 goals and 14 assists) and 2 goals with double as many assists in 9 postseason games played. Despite this production, it hasn’t transferred so far to this year.
Johansson was pointless in all of his games played this year in the preseason. To make it even worse for him, Mathieu Perreault, a center who looked to make his presence known in the preseason, led the team in points scored in the preseason. As a result, Perreault found himself starting on the second line in Saturday’s season opener while Johansson found himself watching the game from up above. Interesting to note though, despite not playing in the game, Johansson still took the pre-game skate with the rest of the team.
Based off of this, is it safe to assume that Bruce is boldly telling Johansson that if he doesn’t show up to play, he has no problem benching him for someone like Perreault? It obviously wouldn’t hurt the team either seeing that Perreault finished with a plus-1 during the Caps’ first W of the season.
When asked about Johansson, Boudreau told reporters that they’re “not asking him to be superman or to invent the wheel.” However, Boudreau also said that they expect him to play up to his potential and capabilities, something he had not done in the preseason.
When also asked to comment on the subject, Johansson said “it’s never fun to sit and watch the team play.”
While these are two actual examples of Boudreau benching players, will he continue to do the same in the future if players do not play up to their potential? If so, who could might these players be?
It’s obvious that Jay Beagle’s role is to play on the fourth line or fill in elsewhere for injuries. Though, with other able players, and the fact that this is Beagle’s first year starting the season in Washington rather than in Hershey, could his leash be the shortest?
Though John Erskine is currently out for injury, once he is healthy again, will Boudreau hesitate to swap him out with another defenseman that is not playing to the standards he should be? It’s obvious management has a lot of faith in Erskine, they just signed him to a new two year contract extension.
A usual suspect of underachieving, will Boudreau hold Alex Semin accountable of not dong his best and bench him if he doesn’t? If Boudreau wants to have a more serious tone, that means he needs to be more serious too, making benching Semin when he is under performing a must.
While it still might be a bit too to early to tell or not, it will still be interesting to see if Boudreau will continue to bench more players or not this year if they are not playing as well as they should be.