If there's something interesting for a hockey player to say, he will almost certainly choose instead to say something that is the exact opposite. It's just the way of the sport. Don't call attention to yourself. Don't rock the boat.
You know how it is.
So it's pretty unusual when a player offers up something truly honest and insightful. Katie Carerra of The Washington Post nabbed one of those rare gems on Monday from Capitals winger Troy Brouwer, whose team has lost three straight, hobbling its playoff chances.
“I feel like we’re trying to change our identity every night. Some nights we want to score off the rush, other nights we want to try and grind it out and there’s just not that consistency in not just our game but in the style of our game,” Brouwer said. “We’re kind of losing our way in between games and playing towards other teams’ [styles] and how they’re dictating the game, and as a result we’re not getting results.”
It's one thing for a veteran to call out a room for indifference or inattention to detail or for forgetting to RSVP, or whatever. But when you talk about identity and inconsistency 24 weeks into a 26-week season, you're throwing shade directly at the coach.
Brouwer, a veteran of six NHL seasons, is far too savvy to put something like this out there without knowing that it will be read as anything but a shot at coach Adam Oates. And, frustrated or not, Brouwer wouldn't say it without knowing that others in the room shared his opinion.
Oates, of course, disagrees. “We’re trying to do the same thing every night,” he told Carerra. But the eye test tells a different story. Washington isn't just stumbling down the home stretch. The Caps are a Jekyll and Hyde club with an intensity that varies widely. Their priorities seem completely inverted: focusing on special teams -- where stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom thrive -- instead of on five-on-five, which demands more two-way accountability.
But accountable hockey is not as much fun as the other kind, and if you don't have a complete buy-in, it sets up the exact inconsistencies that plague this team. Oates isn't a bad coach. It was just last year that he was being hailed as a genius for pushing all the right buttons with Ovechkin, remember? But when you hear Brouwer's words and see Washington's disjointed efforts on the ice, it's fair to ask if Oates is the right coach for this team moving forward.