Showboats!

Dallas Eakins has been making waves since taking over as head coach – he’s a man of definite opinions and hasn’t shied away from expressing them. On Friday, he took a shotgun to a particularly puerile complaint: players showing off.

The Tampa Bay Incident

Listen to the reaction of the commentators. Look at the reaction of the fans. Look at the reaction of his teammates. Linus Omark scored the game-winning goal in fantastic fashion, not only achieving the desired result but doing it in style. And the home side loved it.

Here’s what the Lightning had to say about it:

  • Ryan Malone: “A (expletive) joke.”
  • Dan Ellis: “It’s embarrassing for him. You come into a league, a respectful league like this, and you try a little move like that. It’s not a very classy thing. That’s just the kind of person he is.”
  • Steven Stamkos: “I didn’t think it showed a lot of respect in this game. I mean, you don’t see Crosby or Ovechkin doing that and they’re the two best players in the game. [Omark’s] a creative player, he’s got good skill. I’m not taking that away from him, but it didn’t really have any implication on his moves, so I don’t know why he did that.”

Eakins’ Take

That shootout goal has been dogging Omark since it happened, for reasons that continue to baffle me, and Eakins was asked about it on Friday. The exchange went like this:

  • Reporter: “Back to Omark, in his first stint here he gained a reputation for being a bit of a showboat… do you have any concerns or problems about that element in his game?”
  • Eakins: “No. I don’t. I’m not sure what he did that would be a showboating thing…”
  • Reporter: (Only partially audible, referenced the Tampa Bay incident)
  • Eakins: “Did he score on it?”
  • Reporter: “Yeah.”
  • Eakins: “Well, he backed it up then. If he didn’t score there’d probably be a far bigger problem.”

Flash vs. Substance

An abundance of flash is no substitute for a lack of substance. However, in cases where a player has both a little showmanship shouldn’t be enough to condemn him, either. As the NHL is in the entertainment business, one might even reason that a little showmanship is a good thing.

Eakins was asked how he felt about a young player showing up a veteran defenceman on a play during camp. He replied, “How about the defenceman stop the play? Then you won’t be shown up.”

Fans and media talk all the time about the concept of entitlement, the idea that a player feels he deserves some special treatment by virtue of something other than merit. It’s generally seen to be a bad thing, yet somehow questions like the one above continue to be asked. If a defenceman doesn’t want to be embarrassed on the ice, that’s up to him, not the forwards competing for ice-time. For a player like Omark – or Mark Arcobello, or Jesse Joensuu or Ryan Hamilton or anyone else trying to make the team – the important thing is getting results, and if they can get those results by showing up their competition, power to them. As for those veteran defencemen, once the games start they won’t be able to ask the coach to please keep the other team from making them look like pylons.

Whether the sum total of Omark’s game is enough to get him on the team is very much an open question – Eakins gave a great answer there stressing that Omark needed to play his game to the best of his ability and see what happens – but as much as his flashy moves shouldn’t impact whether he makes the Oilers, neither should they keep him off the team. It’s all about results, and if a player can deliver them while swaggering there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.