Getting The System Into Their System

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

There's a new coach behind the Caps' bench, and like every coach before him, he has his own unique ideas about the way he wants things done on the ice. Today was Dale Hunter's second practice as the Washington bench boss, and the first real chance he got to begin implementing his system. "It’s always a bit of an adjustment," says Caps center Brooks Laich. "But at the same time, you can look at it as a positive. Maybe if you’ve been struggling this year or having a tough time, now all of a sudden it’s a clean slate and a refreshed attitude. And you’ve got a guy that’s positive behind you and supporting you – not that we didn’t have it before – almost a breath of fresh air for some guys. “It’s going to take a little bit of time. You’re used to certain positionings on the ice; we’ve been doing it for three or four years and we’ve got to break that mold a little bit. And coach Hunter is going to put inplace where he wants us to be and we’re going to have to learn that. You’re going to have to think on your feet and absorb it real quick and make the adjustment right away." Expect the transition to take some time. Four years ago, Bruce Boudreau took over a 6-14-1 team and piloted them to a remarkable 37-17-7 record the rest of the way. But before the Caps took off like Jason Chimera out to nullify a would-be icing call, they were a very pedestrian 3-3-1 in Boudreau's first seven games at the helm. “There are a few things that are different for sure," notes Laich. "In the [defensive] zone, it’s a little more man on man. The two defensemen, we aren’t necessarily always going to have one defensemen in front. The two might be in the corner, which is a little nontraditional. So as a centerman, usually if there are two d-men in the corner, you’ll call one of them off. Well, that might not be the case now. "There are little transitions like that and things that as players, you should be able to adapt and learn quickly. If you don’t know it, ask questions. If you need to take some stuff home and figure it out or look at more video, our coaching staff is available for that. There’s no excuses for players why we shouldn’t catch on real quickly." It will be interesting to see how much patience Hunter shows to those who lapse within his system. Here's an archive refresher from yours truly from Nov. 2007, in the wake of Boudreau's first loss as bench boss, a Nov. 26 setback to the Buffalo Sabres at Verizon Center:

“There were some turnovers there that can’t be excused,” admits Boudreau, “and it’s a double-edged sword a lot of the time because you turn it over, and now you’re down by two goals. I initially sat that one line out for two shifts, just to let them know that I know that they screwed up. So here’s the little message. But in the end, do you cut your nose [off] to spite your face? “These are questions [you have to ask], because you need those guys to score if you’re going to be successful. So it’s really a tough call. Maybe if our record was 30-8, you don’t play them. You sit them out. But it’s at the stage where I think every win is important. There are 58 games left, but they’re all important for this franchise. So you’ve got to really think hard whether it’s worth doing, or whether that message is going to be a message that night or will it be a message that continues. That’s the question.” The line in question was the trio of Michael Nylander, Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann. That unit was broken up shortly after the second turnover on Monday, and the lines were juggled a bit more at practice on Tuesday. Fleischmann is likely to sit out the Florida game. Tuesday’s practice was only Boudreau’s second with the team since taking over the reins last Thursday. In between his first practice with the team on Thursday, the Caps have played three games. “It is like training camp but with games in between,” says Boudreau. “You’re trying to implement some new stuff. The first three games, we didn’t have a chance. It’s all verbal and video and sometimes it’s not anywhere near as good as being on the ice and being able to spot people and talk to people while they’re actually trying it.” Boudreau put the players through their paces on Tuesday, but he did not skate them as long and hard as he has been known to do at times in Hershey. “I think we spent a lot of energy [Monday],” Boudreau states. “I just don’t think we were really smart at expending a lot of the energy. To come out here and have a real long practice I think would be counter-productive with three games in four nights.”

next up:

The Hunter-Evason Trilogy

January 14, 2013

A few years back, Brett Leonhardt and I did a fun feature on fighting. We went through the Caps’ room and asked players for their recollections on their first NHL fights. It was a great video piece, and one that got some good play back when we posted it, more than two years ago. We included the

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