Warning: Hockey content. Those of you who are regular readers can feel free to ignore this post or become rabid fans. Those of you who are visiting for the first time and are already hockey fans will surely be disappointed by the rest of the (dorky, dorky, dorky) contents of this blog. Thank you.
When investigators describe the cause of airline crashes, they frequently talk about the “Swiss cheese effect“. On any given flight that does not end in disaster, there are always several problems- the holes in the slice of cheese. You can have a surprising number of these holes without anything major going wrong. It is when these problems align- when the holes go straight to the bottom- that catastrophes happen. It’s never any one thing, but rather a combination of problems that leads to a crash. The pilots were delayed so they didn’t get their rest, so they were jet lagged, so they didn’t notice the autopilot had been turned off because they were focusing on the malfunctioning landing gear light so they didn’t hear the warning bell because the flight engineer was in the belly trying to verify the status of the gear and then straight into the ground because they figured the autopilot was flying the damn thing.
Any one of those things on its own wouldn’t cause a crash. Stack them together, and we’ve got a problem.
The tire fire that is the “new look” Washington Capitals hockey club is a prime example of the Swiss cheese effect, and the cascade of failure- despite being stocked to the gills with talent- seems to have its roots in the decision to sit Steve Oleksy.
Number 61 made his presence known the moment he was called up from Hershey last season, skating with urgency, keeping his head on a swivel, and protecting possession aggressively at the blue line. He seems to be a stop gap in the idiosyncrasies of the people around him. Maybe it’s his mental game: I’ve never seen him hang his head after the other team scores. Perhaps this prevents the contagion of hopelessness from spreading in this notoriously emotional and momentum-driven sport. Maybe it’s his stamina: he can take a long shift and his legs and stick look fresh. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s a reliable stay-at-home defenseman, which gives the forwards some room to work in and keeps the D from looking jittery. Maybe it’s because he’s a little bit scary and shoulders the load as a brawler despite being a borderline hemophiliac.
All of these things add up to something intangible. There is no shortage of ability on any NHL team. You can have a star player and still stink up a division. I’m sure Strachan and Urbom are excellent players, but personnel are not interchangeable. Making Stevie O a healthy scratch is the latest in a series of questionable moves: sitting Jay Beagle, sticking with veterans while their numbers go absolutely to hell, alienating Martin Erat (both in the locker room and in the media), the whole up and down Orlov debacle. I’m over Oatsey’s obsession with handedness. You can’t tell me that it’s better to have players with no zing who are neatly aligned according to which side they shoot on than it is to have players who feed each others strengths and complement each others weaknesses who may sometimes have to receive on their backhand. I think they may have worked on that. I totally saw Nicky shoot on his backhand once. I swear it. They’ll be okay, Coach!
In the meantime, I’m going to keep showing up to practice with my wee sign of protest and making a real hash(tag) of things on Twitter until Binky is set free. Because, you know, I want us to win the Cup. And from what I hear, you gotta win a bunch of games in order to have a shot at it. We do more winning with Steve Oleksy on the ice.
See you at the game tonight, kids.