Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bruce II

No sense in fence-sitting or calling for (more) patience any more. Glen is gone. The chants of the Verizon Center mob have been answered. Being limited (perhaps mercifully so) to choosing between the Devils, Rangers, and Islanders on TV last night, I could only follow the (in)action on the web, but I could imagine the atmosphere in the arena equaling something like Monday night x 10 (ditto the somber locker room). Maybe this move can ultimately turn those poisonous environments back into the one we saw during the home opener, with an optimistic red-clad crowd watching a smooth dispatching of the Carolina Hurricanes and a chipper locker room thinking (if not talking) about playoffs. Of course, only a string of similar performances from the Caps will bring those back.

So we’ll see if Bruce #2, Bruce Boudreau, can right this listing (but far from sunk or even sinking) ship, and hoping to avoid the disaster of Bruce #1: the ultimately forgettable napkin-doodling Bruce Cassidy. If the news coming from the first practice via Tarik’s blog is any indication of Boudreau’s style, it would seem the Caps are getting the kick in backside they need. Slackers skating laps! A coach getting (truly) angry (or at least consistently yelling)! His initial line setups may seem a little puzzling at first (Backstrom on the 4th?), though considering how often they were shaken up before, the team shouldn’t be totally shocked by potentially strange combinations. I do hope the Fleischmann-Nylander-Semin combo can stay together for a significant period of time. Flash may not be the defensive-conscience-with-an-offensive-upside that Chris Clark is, but he did block a shot Monday night, and can score, so there is promise.

Boudreaus’s “interim” label is a nice touch. It leaves the possibility he could stick around if all goes well (ie, a miraculous playoff-making resurgence), or be replaced by someone else (NHL veteran coach anyone?) if the season goes further into the tank. Not all interim coaches quite work out (see Robiske, Terry), but as Atlanta’s GM-behind-the-bench situation shows, they can in a big way (now I’m looking to the Thrashers for hope? I thought being inspired by the Lions was bad. Optimism will do that to you).

There you go. Despite the chanting-and-message-board-posting masses’ call for Hanlon’s head, overall it didn’t seem like there was the level of animosity towards him as there was towards Cassidy as his imminent end came about. Fans likely recognize Hanlon is a decent guy handed a rebuilding team. He performed admirably though ultimately seemed destined to be a caretaker, a bridge between rebuilding and relevancy. He may only have lacked the true curmudgeonly attribute that is sometimes necessary in a coach. Just looking at Boudreau suggests he is capable of such a streak (ask the lap-skating John Erskine).

It’s Still Possible Standings Update: there are nine points and nine teams between the Caps and 6th place in the East. The number of teams is more daunting than the points, but a rejuvenated, angry, and properly motivated team can make up the difference.

Now, seriously, the resurgence can begin tomorrow night in Philly. Give the new guy a shot. Commentator mauree from Capitals Insider put it best: “Let's just be optimistic and see what he'll do. Honestly... I'm tired of bellyaching.”

Right now, this moment, the eating (then sleeping) can begin. Happy Thanksgiving.

Oh yeah, and the Wizards: well on their way to 77-5. Can’t stop ‘em.

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