Saturday, November 01, 2008

2 Minutes for Wandering?

Although technically he's not our coach anymore, he spends enough time in the ol' barn that everyone in Chocolatetown still thinks he's part of the family.  And because our Caps bloggers have fallen off the face of the planet, I'm gonna take it on myself to say: Hey Bruce. How's it going? 

For those of you who were under a rock last year for US Thanksgiving, Bruce Boudreau was pulled up from the Bears to coach for the Caps, and for those of you under a rock near the end of the season, he also won the Jack Adams award for coach of the year. 

Beyond just the shiny blingy coaching stuff, however, Bruce, or "Gabby" as he's known to the media, is a stellar person, and you can see it in quite a few of his players. In Hershey, Dean Arsene picked up his knack for giving the media killer one liners, and in D.C, the Caps have only gotten goofier since he arrived. (Segway trip, anybody?)

Not that it's all fun and games under Bruce, though. One of the advantages of bringing him up from the baby team is that a lot of the big names on the Caps (Brooks Laich, Mike Green, etc etc) played under him, and already know his system. In addition, because Boudreau trained the current Hershey coach, Bob Woods,  the system is also more or less consistant throughout- never is a player going to get to DC and be completely blindsided by how everything works. 

Of course, Boudreau does have two Achilles heels... he has an inexplicable soft spot for Chris Bourque, and, straight from the horses' mouth,  he takes coaching advice from unqualified sources... "My 9 years old son texts me from Hershey what should I tell Ovechkin to do..."

Back down on the farm, the assistant coach who stepped up when Brucey left, Bob Woods, has managed to assemble a juggernaut of AHL talent. Working with GM Doug Yingst, he picked up Graham Mink, Keith Aucoin, Brian Helmer and Darren Reid to be the veteran leadership lacking last year. They're looking at a two-goalie rotation once Varlamov gets his groin back in line and honestly, even without Wood's leadership, this team could probably kill things (that aren't the Hamilton Bulldogs, but let's not go there.) 

Not to discount Woodsy though. By all reports, he's put together a team that gells on every level they need to. With Mink, Giroux and Arsene all back and playing, a core from the Calder Cup year is around to show the n00bs the ropes and bring back stupid traditions from prior years. From John Walton, the Voice of the Bears...

 On opening night after the win at Wilkes-Barre, we started to pull out of the Wachovia Arena parking lot when Graham Mink yelled up as loud as he could “WAIT A MINUTE, WAIT A MINUTE!” Our bus driver that night stopped suddenly, as if we forgot something or somebody (it happens sometimes…) The staff and rookies in the front all looked back, and Minker yelled “DID WE PACK THE TWO POINTS?” Laughter and cheering followed, we started on our way home and an old tradition was brought back in an instant. It may not sound like much, but that was something that guys used to do back in 2005-06 after a big road win, and it was good to hear it again. I thought of that again tonight, because it was Bryan Helmer’s turn to yell up front and ask Beaker if we packed the two points tonight. I think that’s what you get when you have a team that has great veterans that lead by example, but have fun doing it at the same time. That’s this team. They watch movies on the bus together, they go to the mall on off days on the road together, they laugh together and they shrug off disappointment and turn the page (see Bulldogs, Hamilton on Wednesday night).

While Woodsy may not be to blame for such antics, the fact that everybody works together decently has to make his job easier.  Instead of having a singular top line, he's got three or four to choose from. Heck, his beginning of season fourth line fielded rookies Mattheiu Perrault, Francois Bouchard and Oskar Osala, and right now Osala is tied with Andrew Gordon for number of goals scored, (6) and Keith Aucoin on the top line is in the top 3 all-AHL and was AHL Player of the Week for the first week in the season. 

If you hate your coach, that kind of chemistry isn't gonna happen, so as far as I'm concerned, the Caps organazation has the best of the best coaching their top players.

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