When Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin called fifth-year coach Bruce Boudreau whatever it was the cameras caught during Washington’s 5-4 overtime win Tuesday against Anaheim, there was the perception that one had disrespected the other – in both directions.
Boudreau believed Ovechkin wasn’t capable of producing in a key moment of the game and benched the captain, with the Capitals down 4-3 late in regulation.
Boudreau didn’t think Ovechkin would be the guy to score THE goal. Instead, it was Nicklas Backstrom, who tied the game then scored the subsequent game-winning goal in overtime.
“I’m gonna put out the guys I think are gonna score the goals,” Boudreau said during the post-game press conference, which has been shown repeatedly on NHL Network.
In the media scrum after practice the next day, Ovechkin was frank in discussing his feelings about being benched:
“I was pissed off. Of course I want to be in that situation on the ice and you know it doesn’t matter who I said and what I said.” (via the Washington Post’s Capitals Insider)
Ovechkin later had a sense of humor about the whole situation, saying he hadn’t been benched since he was a teenager. But the Caps are going to win from here on out by any means necessary. Even if it means holding their captain to a higher standard, when he wasn’t playing his best game of the season.
But this raises a question. Was Ovechkin’s on-camera something simply said in the heat of the moment? Is it Exhibit A of a lack of respect between one of the NHL’s stars and his coach? Or was Ovechkin simply caught on camera – framed, in a sense?
Here’s some food for thought.
In 1989 a superstar called out his coach – and was rumored to have given management an ultimatum at a time when his team was a mess.
Unlike the Caps right now, who are third in the Eastern Conference with a bullet. So this isn’t a parallel. Again, food for thought.
From the L.A. Times, Dec. 20, 1989:
Eddie Johnston, former general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, has defended Mario Lemieux in his war of words with Gene Ubriaco.
Ubriaco, fired Dec. 5 as coach of the Penguins, told the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News that trying to coach Lemieux was “like trying to teach a shark table manners” and “in the end, guys like Mario and Paul (Coffey) were awfully greedy.”
Johnston, now general manager of the Hartford Whalers, said: “I don’t like to hear Ubriaco put the blame on Mario. I’ve been with Mario for seven years, and he’s never been a problem. I don’t understand Ubriaco claiming that Mario and Coffey were the ones responsible for getting him out of there.”
Add Penguins: Lemieux on Ubriaco: “He spent 15 years in the minors when he was playing and coaching. That’s where he belongs.”