How bad teammates can disrupt dressing rooms, team chemistry
Fools don’t know they’re fools because they aren’t constantly jerky. It would be a lot easier if they knew it, but alas, they don’t. Think about the ones you’ve let into your life – there must be times when they’re decent, or you never would have let them in. But over time, a pattern of jerk-like moments emerges, and all the rules of decency begin to exist in their shadow.
These people choose to see the other, more decent times as what defines them rather than the bad times, which they see as outliers. Everyone deserves a chance and has their flawed moments, sure, but sometimes the scales tip too strongly in the wrong direction for them to be right.
It’s a winding path in the conversation about Anthony DeAngelo and Evander Kane, two players who have built solid reputations in the NHL. If it reads like I’m calling them morons, well, I don’t know them personally, so it’s more like I’m telling them that the guys they play with think they deserve the label.
Here’s an update from San Jose Sharks beat writer Kevin Kurz titled “Several Sharks teammates don’t want Evander Kane back on the squad.” The NHL is investigating Kane after his wife claimed he was “a compulsive gambling addict” who started gambling for money. Kane categorically denied the allegations. Here is an earlier this year article titled “Tony DeAngelo Should Be Out of luck” by Shayna Goldman listing his transgressions, including an altercation with former New York Rangers teammate Alexandar Georgiev, brutalizing officials. and using an insult against a teammate while with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. He was not redeemed from his lucrative contract because he has no talent – that’s the jerk’s thing.
And so here we are, with a 25-year-old right-handed D-man who can deftly lead an NHL power play for a one-year contract just above the league low, and the Sharks trying to trade a Bruised forward who has scored 22 times in two thirds of a season with no left winger depth behind him. Being a good teammate: apparently important for NHL teams.
So how important is this really? How well can a hockey locker room survive jerks and bad teammates, because let’s face it, there’s a sliding ladder here. We’re seeing teams put up with greater amounts of choppy behavior from better players. Meanwhile, the NHL’s fourth lines are almost devoid of personality issues, as no one can put up with a marginal player making the league minimum which is also a problem. These players are easier to replace given the smaller downgrade of talent from one replacement level guy to the next.
Hockey teams play in systems, links in a chain that depend on each other to stay together. If one person doesn’t do their job, others have to give up their posts to cover, and the bonds break. Often times, in order to run a system, players have to leave areas of the ice rink open and trust that someone else is passing that spot, which can feel like a loss of trust. Only in hockey, if you hesitate – which can happen if you’ve already been burned – you can be too late to get to where you need to be, and the metaphorical drop can go all the way to the ground. Bam, goal against.
Trust between teammates is essential, and players who take risks to may be getting an offensive rebound can turn that around sometimes.
San Jose Sharks left winger Evander Kane. (Rick Scuteri / AP)
On the ice, it’s easy to show that the needs of the team come first. You can block shots, take shots to move the puck to a better spot, and change as your line goes into the offensive zone rather than the other way around. The list is long.
These things bleed from the rink. Today, most pros spend extra time in the gym to get stronger. Most players are on time so everyone can keep their schedules moving and have time to do the things they need to prepare for practice and games. Most players take care of themselves off the ice to be their best, which is beneficial to everyone.
Just like in any place of business, it can offend people when coworkers clearly prioritize their interests over teams, whether on the ice or off – in or out of the cabins. .
To those fools, they’d say they still play in the upper echelon of the league in their own way, so “watch your own bobber”. (I love that expression – basically, control what you can control and don’t look here and worry about what’s going on.)
Overall, teams and players are doing their best to achieve this, as long as this performance is up to par. It’s always very frustrating to see someone play well who could play better, but it is difficult to argue with a good game. And so, jerks exist in teams and in the league and are not entirely eliminated.
There is a threshold, however, where teams don’t care how you play if you make the rink miserable for everyone. It likely involves verbal and physical abuse, regularly being late so others can’t do their jobs, and generally being a cranky guy who doesn’t want to buy and pull the rope in the same direction as everyone else.
The common refrain I’ve heard is that a team with a good culture can take on a self-centered player and survive really well, but you never want two. Locker room wisdom says that players like this gravitate towards each other and form a coalition of negativity, which is a bigger issue if they’re a pair who enjoys drinking, gambling, and generally partying. They can help each other, try to bait others and legitimately oppose the common cause.
I don’t know how many guys you would call “jerks” in the NHL, but it’s not a lot, at least not the full-fledged kind who are genuinely motivated and disrespectful of others. Maybe there are a dozen? Two dozen, depending on how you set your arbitrary cutoff of acceptable? But that’s part of the reason why these guys are hard to find in the league – if no one wants two in any given team, and there are already quite a few of them, then there aren’t many left. teams to choose from. And in Kane’s case, with the big paycheck in a tight salary world, and his biggest off-ice issues always happening in real time, it’s nearly impossible to see a team think it’s worth hiring. .
Hockey players are rightly mocked for their comedic homogeneity, with mundane responses coming from a line of guys with cookie-cutter appearances. This is at the root of the sport’s problem with a complete lack of diversity, from appearances to voices to opinions and more (it’s a much bigger problem than just “how do fools disrupt what professional hockey teams are trying to do ‘). Much of this general vanilla stems from a desire to present themselves as players who can fit in and can help any team trying to pull that rope in a very specific direction. I think they are subconsciously signaling their willingness to play the system, be part of the bigger machine, and not spend anyone’s energy cleaning up additional issues.
Teams eliminate shakes in the same way the body eliminates viruses, as they require energy to eliminate them, but will allow the larger system to function better when eliminated. Fevers are your body raising its own temperature for this to happen. Fevers in hockey teams are “A lot of Sharks teammates don’t want Evander Kane back on the team.”
As I mentioned, there is a sliding scale of how tall a jerk you’re allowed to be in hockey (and many fields of work), and that correlates directly to your talent. Morally, that’s not how it should work. But with job preservation a priority for most front offices and elite talent hard to find, this is the reality.
It’s possible DeAngelo has learned his lesson and matures. It’s possible that playing for Rod Brind’Amour and the Carolina Hurricanes organization will keep him in check. It’s possible Kane will find a new home, score goals, and stay out of trouble for a while.
Shakes aren’t always shakes, and while under closer examination how these two are, I’m guessing things are going well with both for a while, at least in terms of not adding additional problems to their respective stacks. But these bad behavior patterns rarely go away forever. I bet the problem won’t be for their teams in the coming season, but for the next ones who bet they’ve changed for good.