Friday, November 16, 2007

Thoughts on Hanlon

Earlier today someone posted the following question in a comment: is it time to fire Hanlon?

Until now this is a subject that I've admittedly been rather wishy-washy on. In all my time as a fan I've been very reluctant to aim the finger of blame directly at the bench boss. I grow attached to coaches, almost as attached as I am to the players, and the thought of firing them often seems beyond my thought process.

That officially ends today.

I'm jumping on the "fire Hanlon" bandwagon right now, tossing aside my sentimentality which really has no place in sports in the first place, ditching my childhood naivete and saying that this team should be better. It should be better and there is no longer any excuse I can give for why they are not.

This is a team full of people talented enough to make a living playing hockey. So why is it that they are routinely unable to do the little things like complete a pass or get a decent scoring chance? Why do players continue to shoot the puck directly into the opposition's skates, often allowing an odd-man rush? Why do players like Ovechkin and Nylander continue to overplay the puck and ultimately turn it over?

The fact that the defense has improved enough to overcome these little breakdowns is beside the point and in fact is little comfort - it may be a goal prevented but it's also an offensive chance blown at the other end. When you're only scoring one goal a night you can't afford to be missing the net with your shots or turning the puck over on the power play.

Then there's the chemistry, an elusive animal that, until recently, seemed to be present in the locker room. There was a good spirit, a positive attitude, a sense that this team was in it together. But is it me or does that seem to be missing lately? Players sound increasingly dejected in interviews - we're playing well but we're just not winning, we're not getting the breaks, blah blah blah.

Twice in the last two weeks we've seen articles come out from scratched players airing their frustrations at the lack of playing time - something I don't remember seeing in recent years. It begs the question, why aren't Sutherby and Eminger getting ice time? You can say chemistry is delicate, lines are set, we want the depth to have two healthy bodies in the press box...but when the team is losing all the time, that argument stops holding water.

You can't claim that this team is better without those two in the lineup - and I'm not saying they're the answer, either. As much as I like both of them I can admit that neither is the team-saving type. I just know that I've seen Jeff Schultz fail to line someone up with a solid check or turn the puck over far too many times not to wonder what Eminger would have done in the same situation. I know that I've seen Sutherby give 110% on every measly shift he's been given this year, something we can't always say about some of the other forwards. It's not like this team can get any worse...might as well let them play a bit.

And what about the work ethic? This team has been one of the worst teams over the last three years but there was never a question that they came to play almost every night. Teams would say afterwards that the Caps were a hard-working team, tough to play against, and you couldn't take them for granted. Haven't seen those quotes floating around after many games lately...

So yes, it's time for Hanlon to go. I realize that I am but one voice and I come into this argument late and with all the authority of an armchair GM. But all these things - the lack of basic hockey skills, the lack of chemistry, the lack of hard work - these are all things that fall squarely in the lap of the coach. It is his job to drill the hockey fundamentals into his team's minds. It is his job to create chemistry where there was none. It is his job to motivate the team to put in a full sixty minutes of high energy, hard-working hockey.

Coach Hanlon is a great guy, a great coach, a great leader. He was a breath of fresh air after the disaster that was Bruce Cassidy's tenure here, a calming voice when the team was being sold off bit by bit, a reassuring presence when the Caps wallowed at the bottom of the league two years running.

But now it seems his work is done. Time for a change.


DMG said...

Wow, the only person besides me who has some support for Hanlon is changing her tune. But my support is waning as well.

Earlier I said we needed to look not only at results but at how the team was playing. At first that was an endorsement for Hanlon. But the way things have gone recently, it's a strike against him.

It's a little weird that I feel terrible about wanting the guy out because he seems like such a good guy. But perhaps with his motivational strengths and strategic weaknesses he is best suited for an assistants role.

I also think it's worth noting this, for what it's worth:

"All of us feel guilty that we're at where we're at, because we've got a good coach, a players' coach," Kolzig said. "He's preaching the right message, we're just not delivering."

Biff said...

Welcome to the club!

CapsChick said...

dmg: You have to know how painful this was for me to admit, but I really don't know what else the Caps can do. I love Hanlon and have always thought he's done a great job - I still think he's a wonderful coach and was exactly what the Caps needed through the rebuild.

I guess my thinking here is that firing Hanlon would be akin to yanking a goalie after giving up a few goals. Sometimes you replace the goalie not because he's to blame for the goals but because the team needs to be woken up - look at Atlanta. That's a team that is overachieving far beyond their abilities because the coach was removed. This Caps team is far more talented than the Thrashers, too...

(Oh, and I couldn't agree more about Brash on the PP - I love the big guy but holy...crap. He never should have been out there with Ovie and Nylander.)

Anonymous said...

Well said capschick. Hanlon is a good guy etc but it's time for a change. It's not the injuries and like you said we have a very talented group of hockey players. I always go back to the Joe Motzko experiment running the power play. What was Hanlon thinking about? Whatever Hanlonn is selling he players aren't buying.


chanuck said...

I am totally on the fire Hanlon Bandwagon. This is just painful. I am getting to the point I will Tivo the game and check the score before I watch it to see if it is worth my while. Something I should have done last night. What a waste of time!

And here is a stat. 0-6-0 before Waddell took over the Trashers, 9-4-0 after. The Caps need a kick in the Ass like that.

Gawferstud said...

Chanuck has it right. Nothing personal against Hanlon but we need some new ideas. I tend to focus on the specialty teams. Our power play is 100% predictable. It looks like the team is trying not to make a mistake instead of score.


Bernie Wolfe Fan said...

Guys and Gals,
It is beyond Hanlon's fault and always has been. McPhee has had a decade and he and his experiments need to go. Pat Quinn or Bob Hartley as HC and John Muckler as GM. They have more Rings than I could ever hope for in DC, and whatever baggage they bring can be dealt with by WINNING. We Caps fans are a forgiving bunch but I'm willing to bet my Bernie Wolfe jersey if McPhee does not go, we will always have high draft and the little real fan base we have will be lost.

This situation is disturbing because come spring, I assure you Ovie will want more than just another chance at a hole-in-one, and Olie will want another legitimate kick at the can.

Do you hear this Ted, or are you too busy with your new pay-on-line venture?

Falls Church

Gawferstud said...


Right on and Amen.


usually frustrated caps fan said...

Change would be good! I'm tired of being happy the Hershey Bears do well - oh but not this year...