- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

DALLAS Washington Capitals defensive coach Randy Carlyle stopped practice with a calm voice and started motioning to the 12 players on the ice with him and the other 15 nearby.

"Listen, this is exactly what Pittsburgh did to us," he said, and started explaining his point. He skated position to position, talking constantly and pointing to where people should have been.

It was the second half of a two-hour practice session, and fundamentals were necessary. The Caps are 0-3 in preseason play, and only one of those games has been close.

"We have to re-establish a few things in terms of expectations around here," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We just can't afford to blow off preseason or training camp, and that starts with the coaching staff being more demanding in practice. That's something we decided we have to do, and that's the way it's going to be."

Washington has shown little spirit or intensity in its three games so far, especially in a 6-3 blowout by Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

"Complacency in games? Yeah, we were this weekend," Cassidy admitted. "Hopefully we can change that attitude, but it doesn't happen overnight."

Cassidy said he sent the Caps a message about getting off to a fast start for a change this season but wondered if everybody heard it.

"It's a message we've sent," he said. "I'm going to try not to judge the whole thing by just looking at the score (the Caps have been outscored 16-8) and say we just didn't play well. I think some things happened this weekend there were some funny [Pittsburgh] goals. [Those are] not going to happen every night, and if they do we're in trouble."

Some of the veterans thought they may have been holding back a bit; it was, after all, only preseason, they said. And Cassidy didn't think anybody was trying to take advantage of a new coach; it was simply players responding to how hard they were being pushed. So he intends to push harder.

"We tried to emphasize that maybe our practice habits can pick up a little," he said after yesterday's practice, which was twice as long as usual. "It just comes back to urgency we just want to make sure that come Oct. 11 (season opener) we're doing as much as we can to get out of the gate."

And dwelling on the Pittsburgh mistakes was by design.

"If we're going to talk to guys about what we want to establish things, we're going to have to use examples, and unfortunately mistakes are the best way to learn," he said. "Most people remember in previous games when there were mistakes, so to cite those I think is good, just like it is when we cite positive things."

Carlyle, the former Norris Trophy winner as the league's best defenseman, taught on two levels yesterday: He preached fundamentals as he tried to show what the new coaching staff wants in its new system.

"We decided after watching the first weekend of games that there wasn't a lot of structure for what we wanted," Cassidy said. "And we've changed some things, so that's understandable. I've never been a big teacher, but you've got to get your point across. Teaching, especially on the penalty kill, you've got to make your point. Power play, we've got five pretty smart guys there; they'll pretty much do their thing. We also went over some neutral zone stuff, and we'll be doing that every day until we get it down pat, until the guys get tired of hearing us. They'll do it better because they don't want to hear us talk. Sometimes that's motivation enough."

Notes The Caps face Dallas in an exhibition game tonight at the American Airlines Center. General manager George McPhee said there was nothing new to report on the holdouts by forwards Andrei Nikolishin and Dainius Zubrus, nor anything new on attempts to trade them. Center Jeff Halpern missed another day with a groin pull, but he said he would try to skate today; Cassidy said there was no chance he would play tonight.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide