Alex Ovechkin was not in the lineup Tuesday night when the Washington Capitals got thrashed by the San Jose Sharks 5-0. The team said that he missed the morning skate for “personal reasons” and therefore did not play. It was all somewhat mysterious, but Ovechkin himself fessed up to the cause of his absence.
Ovechkin said he missed the morning skate yesterday because he set his alarm for 8:30pm, not AM. Told he wouldn’t play when he arrived late.— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) October 14, 2015
The team never elaborated on that fact Tuesday, but when Barry Trotz was asked about it Wednesday, here was his answer:
Trotz on scratching Ovechkin after he overslept: "It was an honest mistake. We have certain accountability rules."— Chris Gordon (@Chris_Gordon) October 14, 2015
It is an honest mistake and one most of us have probably made once or twice in our lives (or more). However, as the captain of the team, it’s a little more embarrassing for Ovechkin when it happens.
However, this incident also calls into question the real value of a morning skate on the day of games at all. Some teams are already scrapping them, or at least limiting them.
The New York Rangers have all but done away with the morning practices for this season. Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy won’t have them unless the team didn’t practice the day before.
It’s just one of those things that’s always been there, so they keep doing it. Some players love it, some don’t. Hockey players, by nature are into routines. Some just do it because they always have.
However, the question remains, why? Is there value in waking up players on game days just for the sake of a 20-30 minute twirl around the ice?
But here’s the thing. For right now, they exist for most teams. Some are optional, some are not. This one wasn’t optional and it ended up getting the Capitals’ most important player benched. You have to give Barry Trotz credit for making sure the rules apply to everyone. It’s a tough mistake to make two games into the season for Ovechkin.
With Nicklas Backstrom still recovering from offseason surgery, the team couldn’t afford to lose another key player in any manner, much less for avoidable reasons. The team ended up getting trucked in the game.
It’s a disappointing moment for the Caps and Ovechkin early in a season of such high expectations. That said, it's probably not worth dwelling on for longer than it needs to be. A few hours should suffice.