Could it have been a fight on December 12, 2010 at Madison Square Garden, and not another short playoff run, that finally proved some major roster adjustments were needed for the Washington Capitals?
In a 7-0 slaughter at the hands of the New York Rangers, Captain Alex Ovechkin not only dropped the gloves to dance with Brandon Dubinsky, but then pleaded for his teammates on the bench to act like they have some pride and a fighting spirit.
Did general manager George McPhee sit down and re-watch HBO’s 24/7 after the early playoff exit and see the ferocity and frustration of his superstar, captured so well by the documentary-style cameras, towards his own bench?
Adding Matt Hendricks last offseason helped, but it was a small step towards what is happening currently. DJ King was probably expected to add a little more than he did, but as an enforcer, he was a one-off tough guy and not part of an overall rugged culture change.
That change is upon the team and fan base at Kettler and Verizon Center with the addition of veteran forwards Troy Brouwer and Jeff Halpern as well as defenseman Roman Hamrlik.
Could this forward duo help take the “energy guy” burden off of Ovechkin and allow him to focus more on playmaking? Can Hamrlik do the same thing for Mike Green? Is there anyone that can create more space for Alexander Semin, or could that possibly happen as a byproduct of a culture change for the team?
I’m confident we won’t have to wait until next year’s playoffs to see if this new bloodstream encased in sandpaper has made an impact. It will show in the body language and success of both Ovechkin and hardworking forward Brooks Laich, who I also think played a big role in convincing the Capitals front office to shake things up, right from the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.
7:00 PM on Saturday, October 8th can’t get here fast enough.