Is a Lack of Team Leadership Hurting the Washington Capitals?

Robert Wood@@bleachRWreachrCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17:  Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on February 17, 2013 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 2-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A lack of on-ice leadership is hurting the Washington Capitals.

But I'm not here to discuss how Alex Ovechkin was never captain material.

That horse has been beaten to death.

No, it's the other prominent players on the team whose lack of leadership is hurting the Washington Capitals.

Troy Brouwer and Mike Ribeiro are both veteran players who were added to this team over the past two offseasons to provide experience and leadership. But both brought a decidedly negative influence to the team this season.

Brouwer harshly criticized former Capitals teammate and current Carolina Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin before the two teams played on February 26. Afterwards, several Hurricanes players came to Sasha's defense, with former Capital Joe Corvo providing the most telling comments (via Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times):

I would feel betrayed if one of my former teammates said something like that about me. You’re supposed to be a family when you’re playing together, and if you got a problem with somebody, say it. Don’t say it later.

And then there's Mike Ribeiro.

The 13-year veteran has averaged better than a point per game this season, and leads the Capitals in points and assists. He has also been entrusted with a leadership position, often filling in as one of the alternate captains.

But it is Ribeiro's leadership—or lack thereof—that has hurt the Capitals. Ribeiro already has two 10-minute game misconduct penalties this season. The first came against the Winnipeg Jets on January 22, in the dying moments of a 4-2 loss in the second game of the season.

Ribeiro told Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times his thoughts about NHL referees, thoughts that very nearly drew disciplinary action from the league:

I just feel like you're not allowed to talk to them anymore about situations that happens in a game. They believe they're like above us or like more power, they feel power, I don't know.

Ribeiro's second misconduct penalty second came on February 27 against the Philadelphia Flyers, also in the third period of a game the Capitals would lose in convincing fashion, by a 4-1 score. The Capitals cannot afford to have Ribeiro creating these distractions when the team is trying to make a comeback—in a specific game or in the Eastern Conference standings.

But most glaring is the lack of true leadership from the Capitals' alternate captains.

Before the season began, Adam Oates named three to the position: Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Brooks Laich. Oates explained his choices to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post:

They are the core of this team. They’ve been together for a long time and a real good nucleus, obviously, and talented guys. It’s their job to be the pros of this team and let their habits rub off on the other guys. And it’s their team.

The most revealing aspect of Adam Oates' comments regarding his choices for captain and alternate captain comes not from what he did say, but rather from what he did not say. Nowhere in his comments did Oates utter the words teammate, example, positive, influence or leader. Those are the images of leadership a valued captain or alternate captain should invoke.

And right now, the Capitals players expected to provide that positive image are failing, to the detriment of the team.


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