- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- We are not amused: Queen’s protection officers warned to keep ‘sticky fingers’ off the royal cashews
- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
- Bubonic plague kills 20 in Madagascar
- G-20 diplomats fell for hacker attack promising nude photos of former French first lady Carla Bruni
- Minnesota guardsman charged with stealing private soldier data for fake IDs
- Florida appeals court rules universities can’t regulate guns
- Vladimir Putin defends Russian conservative values
Merit matters for Capitals as Adam Oates keeps shuffling
The beneficiary of perfect, tic-tac-toe passing from Alex Ovechkin to Nicklas Backstrom to him, Matt Hendricks just had to make sure he didn't miss the net.
But it wasn't because of a long shift and it wasn't by accident that Hendricks found himself on the ice with the cornerstones of the Washington Capitals' franchise.
"That was called," Hendricks said. "Adam called for that."
Call that a smart hunch by coach Adam Oates that resulted in a Hendricks goal, but it's not an isolated incident. Oates made it well-known to his players when he arrived that the Caps were a team of opportunity.
"He's an honest coach. He said that from Day One that hard work's going to pay off around here," Hendricks said. "Do the systems correctly, work hard at what you do and you'll be rewarded."
Spots in the lineup aren't etched in stone. Far from it.
That's how Hendricks was able to earn a spot on the second line for Thursday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens. That's how Wojtek Wolski replaced Marcus Johansson on the top line. And that's how Mathieu Perreault has a chance to thrive even after he expressed unhappiness over a lack of ice time.
Oates knows Ovechkin is a first-line talent and that Backstrom and Mike Ribeiro will be his top two centers when they're both healthy. So he's not going to shake up the lineup just for the sake of it.
But the first-year NHL head coach has shown early on that he fosters competition by the way he rewards players based on performance.
"Every player should want that," he said. "Every player should want to improve and want more minutes. That's your job."
Oates said any professional athlete should want that, "always want a little more."
Hendricks is the best example. In Tuesday night's loss to the Winnipeg Jets, not only did Hendricks score a goal, he fought twice to try to fire up the Verizon Center crowd and his teammates.
Getting bumped up to the second line shortly after that will likely only fire Hendricks up more. The 30-year-old grinder can't help but love the competition.
"I think it's important. I think it's important because that's what we work for, that's what players want," he said. "You're competitive against your opponents every day, but you're competitive in your own right as well where you want to perform, you want to get more ice time, more opportunity."
Wolski, who earned a shot playing on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom, signed in Washington because of opportunity. The left wing made $4 million last season; his pro-rated salary for 2013 is $600,000.
It didn't take long for Wolski to make an impact; he scored in his Caps debut Saturday and impressed coaches and teammates.
"He's a skilled guy and he's kind of sneaky out there," Backstrom said. "He's a good player to hold the puck."
Perreault showed he could play well when given the opportunity during part of Backstrom's 40-game concussion absence last season. He finished with 16 goals, tied for fifth on the team with Brooks Laich.
"I thought I had a decent year last year with numbers and stuff," Perreault said. "I want to show [Oates] what I can do but I've got to get a little bit more minutes to show what I can do."
Oates said he'll try to find more minutes for Perreault, and, really anyone who earns it. Hendricks began the season on the fourth line alongside Perreault, so his promotion was further evidence that upward mobility is available.
Some players don't care about that.
"To be honest with you, I'm not really worried about that. I want to start winning hockey games," center Jay Beagle said. "If you could you would want to play the whole game just because I love to play. I'm never thinking about, 'Oh, I want to move up in the lines' or something like that. I just go out there and I play my game and if I get more ice I'll work my butt off to try to win the hockey game."
But the idea is that success will come from guys earning their spots.
"That's the best thing about hockey, is that you play for each other, but you push each other every day as well," Hendricks said.
And the added benefit of lineup fluidity is that, over the course of the regular season and playoffs, guys will get used to playing with each other.
"It doesn't really matter who I play with," Ribeiro said. "I don't really care about that. It's the way they play. If they play the right way, then it should be easy to play with anyone if everyone does the right thing."
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- WHYNO: Tomas Vokoun gets unexpected Stanley Cup shot with Penguins
- Brandon Meriweather, Redskins' secondary ready for bounceback year
- Kirk Cousins embraces role as Redskins' offseason starter as RG3 rehabs from injury
- Capitals notes: Realignment won't prompt roster remake
- Despite Caps' first-round playoff exit, Adam Oates' first season as coach left a positive taste
Latest Blog Entries
- Redskins injury updates (5/23): WR Pierre Garcon, CB Josh Wilson each had labrum surgery
- Capitals 'love' Matt Hendricks, but how much?
- Wojtek Wolski signs in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League
- Tom Poti won't return to Capitals, plans to continue his NHL career
- Is Tom Wilson ready to be a regular for Capitals?
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- House pushes through two-year Ryan-Murray budget deal
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage'
- Jane Fonda Foundation fails to make single contribution in 5 years: report
- All-out war breaks out in GOP over budget pact
- White House improvises again on patchy Obamacare rollout
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Chef Mary Moran discusses the food we eat, where it comes from and what it does for us.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow