When any team struggles, the media and fans alike turn their blame towards the head coach. Regardless of whether or not the coach has done a good job, if results are lacking, you can be sure the axe is coming. The old saying is given anew yearly,”Coaches get hired to be fired.”
However, that isn’t always the case.
For instance, the Philadelphia Flyers case.
The Flyers struggles lately can be described in an 1000 plus word term paper by the most articulate, sharpest, statistical analyst and hockey purist in the known world. And still, we probably wouldn’t have the answers that will solve what ails the orange and black.
If it can’t be whisked away by firing the head coach, who will be held responsible?
A lot of talk lately has put some of the blame squarely on the shoulders of captain Mike Richards. A lot of that talk comes from the harsh Philadelphia media, whom Richards has seemed to never get a long with in the first place. Even when things are going well, Richards is often criticized for a variety of reasons. Now that the flames of a once promising year, with such high expectations, seem to be rising in an explosion of failure, Richards is public enemy number one on the Philly media hit-list.
Laviolette is the darling, hard-nosed head coach who took this team from the unorganized failure they were with John Stevens, to nearly Stanley Cup champions last season. Richards on the other hand, is distant, short-stated, and flat out boring when it comes to Philly media standards. Not helping Richards’ standing with the media, when things aren’t going particularly well, like now, Richards is not only short with his answers, but obviously annoyed.
So, the questions and whispers persist, is Mike Richards the right man to wear the “C” in Philadelphia?
Before we get into the discussion of whether or not Richards should wear the C, lets make it clear, the C will be on his sweater the rest of this season, however long the Flyers run lasts. However, how the season concludes will go a long way in determining whether or not Richards will keep his captaincy come next year.
This isn’t about who would replace Richards as captain. This is about whether or not Richards is the right person to be captain, right now. In the roughest of times, especially in the NHL, a team captain has to be the glue that holds things together. The public perception, which is widely spread by the media, doesn’t paint Richards as a great captain.
Richards is quiet and doesn’t vocalize himself through the media often. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a good captain, or isn’t respected within the locker room. How he handles himself within the confines of the locker room are kept quiet usually, and for a guy like Richards that’s probably for the best.
Some of the rumors state that there is a bit separation within the locker room. There are the younger players, who side with Richards’ way of dealing with things. Then, there are the veteran players who are said to side with Chris Pronger and the other veteran type leaders. Whether any of this is true, we may never know. However, if it’s true, something has to be done. The issue has to be resolved. Unfortunately, there may be no easy resolution to this kind of separation. Which is where the danger therein lies when discussing whether or not a change of captain is necessary.
Just the discussion can lead to the unraveling of a locker room.
Like the Flyers struggles, we can discuss whether or not Richards is the right man to wear the C, until we’re blue in the face. Bottom line, he is the teams captain. If the Flyers are able to break out of these struggles, and make a run at the Cup, all will probably be forgotten.
This could all boil down to differences of opinion, and how things should be handled. If the Flyers hope to be successful, they’d be wise not to step on the toes of Richards or the rest of the leadership core. That goes for the alternate captains as well, and a guy like Chris Pronger should know this better than anyone. Which makes claims that Pronger is the “real” captain, plain nonsense.
In my humble opinion, taking the C away from Richards would be a huge mistake. I don’t know what goes on in the locker room, I don’t know exactly how Richards handles things. For me to make generalizations about his ability to lead, would be unprofessional and foolish. Also, rarely do you see a captain be stripped and things work out. And the Flyers certainly don’t seem to willing to part with Richards. I can’t argue that Richards may have been given the captaincy a bit early. However, this is where the Flyers are, Richards was chosen as captain and when he was chosen, it was with the idea that he’d be the captain for a long time to come. I can’t imagine those ideas or plans have changed, and they probably shouldn’t.
Mike Richards doesn’t have to prove anything to me, the media or the fans. He must prove it to his teammates in the locker room. At the end of the year, if they believe he’s the right man to be captain, he will be.