Professional sports players usually don't give great quotes. Cliches are spouted more often than not, if only to avoid saying something outrageous to the press. I can understand this. These aren't pro wrestlers or public speakers, their main job isn't to be articulate or get people talking on the microphone. Still, their quotes are important because they're the ones playing the game, they can legitimately answer questions about what went on in the game, and especially after a game, their emotions can at least be communicated.
The New Jersey Devils are 4-10-1 and with only 25 goals scored. Frustration has been building up among all parties involved: the fans, the coaches, the players and presumably management and ownership. More and more post-game quotes from the players indicate this frustration. An recent example of this phenomenon came after last night's 3-0 loss to Our Hated Rivals. Reported here by Tom Gulitti, Patrik Elias gave this rather notable statement about the team's third period performance:
"You’re within two goals. You’re still right there," left wing Patrik Elias said. "And the PK and the penalties. I understand everybody wants to try hard, but I don’t give a (expletive) if you want to fight someone. We’ve got to win to win hockey games."
Out of this frustrating, one of the larger issues with this team is leadership. This is largely based on how the Devils keep dropping games and don't seem to build on the precious few positive moments they had in this season. While part of that falls on the coaches, it's definitely a player's responsibility as well. I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to wonder if anyone on the team is inspiring their teammates, communicating with them to maintain focus, do some smaller things different on the ice. Given that he wears the "C," one would expect Jamie Langenbrunner to be that guy. Yet, his on-ice performance definitely doesn't indicate he's leading by example (note: 3 points came in 1 game, and 1 out of those 2 goals was an empty-net goal).
|2010 - Jamie Langenbrunner||15||2||6||8||-6||8||0||1||-17||-7||29||6.9|
What's more is that I suspect he's not leading by words either. I'm not in the locker room, but his post-game quotes to the media throughout this 2010-11 season, to me, are very telling over whether he's being heard or not. Since he is the captain, he is targeted regularly for statements. In looking at several of them, I get the impression thay while he's saying something to the media, it ultimately means very little. Follow along after the jump to review what Langenbrunner has been saying and why I think it adds another dimension to how poor he's been as a leader, much less a player.
In collecting these post-game quotes, I've used what Tom Gulitti reported at Fire & Ice. All quotes except for a few were reported by Gulitti. He wasn't with the Devils for most of their west coast road trip, so I got quotes from Rich Chere from NJ.com for those games and specifically noted them where applicable.
I've added my own thoughts after each quote. While I understand that Langenbrunner may not be a great media guy, what he does and doesn't say are of interest. After all, he's got the "C" for the team, he's targeted for quotes regularly and if anyone should know what's going on with the team internally, it's him.
The Quotable Jamie Langenbrunner
Jamie Langenbrunner: "I don’t know (if it was shocking). Those nights are going to happen. It’s a little shocking to happen tonight. We came out really ready to play. We jumped out early like we wanted to. And then they come back and answer right away. We played a really solid first period and a solid start to the second and then we just got away from it a little bit."
Commentary: The appropriate follow-up question of "Why did you 'get away' from it" wasn't asked. However, notice the diction: "we just got away from it." What does that even mean? He's right elsewhere, but saying "we just got away from it" about the game tells me that he felt the Devils lost focus. Given the score, they didn't seem to try to get back into it. Given that it was the second game of the season, there was no real reason to be concerned about it at the time. Looking back,
"The third period was our best, so we’re not going to use that as an excuse," Langenbrunner said. "For the most part, we did a lot of good things tonight. We played a little tentative early on, but we finished well. At the end, we played hard, but we have to find a way to play 60 minutes. We have a stretch in one period where we’re off and they took advantage."
Commentary: Funny how Langenbrunner says the team "did a lot of good things tonight" that "we played hard" and then goes on to say that "we have to find a way to play 60 minutes." Doesn't the latter outweigh the former? Also, if Langenbrunner says the Devils were "off" in the second period, then does that not compel he and his teammates to not be "off" in future periods? Especially since they "just got away from it" in their prior game? Again, I say this in retrospect, but the Devils were very much "off" in future second periods for, oh, about a month now.
"We won one game out of six. That’s not good," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "You can use it one of two ways: You can feel sorry for yourself and start pointing fingers and look for excuses or you can take a look in the mirror and make yourself better and get ready to play. It’s a long year and we need to get out of this soon, but we have that opportunity. For us, this break couldn’t come at a better time as far as having a few days without a game. We have a chance to get ourselves going in the right direction and playing on the same page. We’re just all over map as far as playing for each other and it’s tough to play that way."
"It depends on how you respond," Langenbrunner said. "We all know as you go through the year that there’s going to be some peaks and valleys. We haven’t seen the valley at the beginning of the season for a long time. We’ve gotten off to some good starts. But it’s what you make of it. Like I said, if you feel sorry for yourself and you’re not willing to look at yourself and fix it, then it is a problem. But if you’re willing to do that and you fix it, it can be something that can build the character of the team and really bring a team together."
Commentary: This is an appropriate way of looking at the early struggles and figuring out what to do going forward. I'd go as far as to say it's exactly what the Devils needed to do. While the Devils won their next game, 3-0 in Montreal, the poor performances returned afterward. It leads me to think that the team as a whole didn't do what Langenbrunner said here. At most, they looked at themselves and, well, did nothing really tangible about it.
"We have a lot of guys out of the lineup right now and that’s never an excuse here and never will be. The guys on the ice are out there to do a job and we didn’t do it. We made mistakes and didn’t generate enough and play the way we needed to play."
Langenbrunner on the team not playing better in front of Johan Hedberg, who was pulled 8:17 into the second period after giving up four goals on 15 shots: "We all feel horrible about that and horrible about the way he was treated (by the fans). He was out there battling as hard as he can and he was put in a tough situation. He hadn’t played in nearly a month and you want to go out there and give your best effort for him and we didn’t do that. That was tough to see him treated that way. We know how much he wants to be a part of this and help get us going in the right direction and I’m sure he’s as frustrated as all of us."
Commentary: This was the game after the 3-0 win in Montreal. The captain of the team comes right out and says that the team didn't do their job. So much for looking in the mirror and fixing the problems! While I understand Langenbrunner's defense of Hedberg, his initial quote undercuts that. (And I wouldn't recommend faulting the fans' reaction in a 6-1 loss on home ice - where the Devils have yet to win this season) Hedberg definitely didn't do his job that night along with the guys in front of him - Langenbrunner included.
Anyway, a statement like this would lead one to think the Devils would do better in their next game, right?
"We played hard," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We did a lot of things that we’re trying to get back in our game. We battled hard. We created some opportunities. We just didn’t finish. It’s frustrating, but when you dig yourself in a hole the way we’ve been playing, it’s not just going to happen. You have to claw your way out. An effort like this is a good start, but we’ve got to start getting results. As far as playing with that effort consistently, the results will start to come."
Langenbrunner acknowledged, however, that looking for silver linings in losses is not usually the Devils’ way.
"We said that. We don’t (do that)," Langenbrunner said. "But it can’t always all be negative. Obviously the bottom line for us is to win hockey games and when we don’t do that we’re disappointed. There’s nobody in here with a smile on our faces because we put in a good effort tonight. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying the important thing is playing good hockey and the result will take care of itself. That is our focus. If we were on a four or five-game winning streak, maybe this wouldn’t (be a big deal), But you’ve got to start building from somewhere and I think we can take some good out of this game.
Commentary: Well, the Devils were better in the sense they didn't lay an egg in MSG. I question the "good effort" part of Jamie's spiel, given that the Devils really only played well in the third period - when the Rangers sat back with a two goal lead. Yes, the Devils didn't finish, but they also were the inferior team for the first two periods. Jamie played in this game, so I'm not sure what he saw that the fans didn't? It wasn't what I would call "playing hard," at least. Maybe he's trying to find something, anything, positive about the loss?
Suppose we take him at his word that the Devils played "good hockey" and "played hard." Logically, I would think the Devils would want to build on this in their next game and hopefully the results would come.
"I think all of us are frustrated. None of us is doing what we’re paid to do," the captain said. "(The coach) is not where the issue is. We have to find it in our locker room. The coach can only do so much."
Commentary: No, the Devils didn't build on whatever positive things Langenbrunner was referring to after the Rangers game. This was the game where MacLean was asked straight up about his own future after the defeat, which is the context of this quote. The most disturbing thing about this is how direct Langenbrunner is about saying MacLean isn't the problem, but yet vague about what the problem is. He indicates it's in the locker room, but offers no details, which I would think reflects rather poorly on him since he's the captain. It's not that I'm expecting Langenbrunner to call out his teammates publicly, but he's got to do more than that dodge.
The Devils go on to beat Anaheim followed by losing to LA. So in the short-term, whatever it is in the locker room that's the problem either hasn't been found or hasn't been solved. But at least we know Langenbrunner has MacLean's back.
"I don’t think we were taken back by the injury [to Martin Brodeur, who left the game] so much as we started taking penalties," Langenbrunner said. "You have to kill for eight out of 12 minutes or whatever it was, you’re going to take some guys out of the game and overuse others. I think it was more that. They also turned up their game a little bit and then we finally showed a little bit of resiliency and battled back."
Commentary: Langenbrunner was correct that taking penalties hurt the Devils, 4 minors came after the injury. I'm disheartened by the last sentence, though. Chicago didn't just turn their game up a little bit, Jamie, they straight up steamrolled through the Devils after the injury. And not just for the second period, but the first half of the third period. The Devils did battle back - in the third period after it became 2-2. The Devils didn't even get a shot on goal at even strength until 10:29 into said period. Again, someone should have asked a follow-up "Why did it take so long to show some resiliency," but I get the impression Langenbrunner didn't quite grasp the situation. That's troubling since he played in the game (and had a productive night).
"It’s getting frustrating," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner admitted. "We all can read the standings and see where we are and the games we’ve played and the games in hand teams have on us and where we could be when it’s all sorted out. But we can’t concern ourselves with that so much. We need to find a way to get some wins ourselves, keep the effort where it’s been, but learn to play a little bit smarter."
Commentary: No, Jamie, it's not getting frustrating. Frustrating was way back in mid-October, dropping two straight games at home to Colorado and Boston. Frustrating was following up a 3-0 win in Montreal with a 6-1 embarrassment at home to Buffalo. Frustrating was most of the road trip you were on. It's beyond frustrating now, and you're still talking like it's October .
You need to find a way to get some wins? What, you haven't found the problems to solve them? Wasn't it in the locker room? Wasn't it in the mirror? Is it still not John MacLean? Were the Devils just "off" tonight too, or have the game get away from them? It's not just that the Devils lost to Our Hated Rivals and put up a donut on the scoreboard, but Langenbrunner's peeing on the media's and the fans' legs and telling us it's raining.
My beef isn't that Jamie Langenbrunner is starting to repeat some of what he's said after games. I don't care if he's just a boring person, media charisma isn't in his job description. I know full well he's trying to defend his teammates (and John MacLean) at times; if only to avoid one more problem that the team doesn't need right now. I don't expect him to call out particular players through the media or go into excruciating detail into why they've been so poor.
My main problem is that no matter what Jamie Langenbrunner says, it's not leading to anything on the ice.
Review the quotes above. Jamie says the team has to work harder, but then the team doesn't in their next game. Jamie says the team was just "off" or the team got away from the game, and the team continues to be "off" or "get away from it" in later games. Jamie says the team has to look in the mirror to fix the problems, they win one game and then promptly play one of their worst of the early season shortly thereafter. Jamie says they got to find what's wrong in the locker room, and there's no evidence on the ice that they've done that. On top of that, some his quotes to the media after games don't quite fit to what we've seen in them. The team's 4-10-1, scored only 25 goals total, and he's still saying "it's frustrating" weeks after it's already been frustrating.
Essentially, Jamie's saying one thing to the media and no matter how right it may be, the message isn't getting through to the rest of the team and not on the ice. Is Jamie talking to these guys? What is he saying; is it the same as what he's telling the press? How is he saying it?
Most importantly, is anyone actually listening to Jamie Langenbrunner when he does speak?
If not, who would they be willing to listen to?