PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 15: Matt Carkner #39 of the Ottawa Senators talks with Andrej Meszaros #41 of the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 15 2010 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
T is for teammates, as in guys like Matt Carkner. No matter what you think of his actions to start Game 2 (I for one, didn't like what he did), you have to appreciate the sentiment behind his actions. I have played on close to 50 teams during my sporting career and while I have never played near the professional level, I have played on many competitive teams. I have played on teams that stayed intact for several years; I have played on teams that have annual turnover. They all had one thing in common and I don't think basic team dynamics get more sophisticated at higher levels. Simply put, you have to be able to trust the other members of your team.
If your pitcher doesn't trust the player at third base, she might think that ball was booted on purpose. If your centre gets hit from behind into the boards and no one comes to his defense, is he willing to get back and sacrifice his body with a shot block? Is he willing to give his team his full effort? No. Does a player give his full effort in practice? Does he go missing for long stretches, disappearing entirely from the score sheet? These things disrupt teams.
Players are often described as being "good team guys". Many of us assume this means in the dressing room, on team flights, on the road, or going out at night. And those things are important. But being a good team guy also means bringing a team-first mentality on ice. Ottawa has always had good team guys away from the ice, but has often been criticized for not having enough guys who will stand-up for each other on ice. There have been many questionable hits against Ottawa players over the years. Think of your most memorable one. What was the response from the Sens?
In Game 2, Matt Carkner stood up for Erik Karlsson. Not for a questionable hit, but because Brian Boyle roughed up a star player a little too much. The Marchand-Sedin face-punch was replayed frequently over the past season, but Carkner ensured it would be different for Ottawa this time. Do I like what he did? No. Do I like why he did it? Yes. Sens players like it too. Erin Nicks has tweeted that Carkner has had the honour of leading the team in stretches the past two morning skates. That doesn't sound like much, but it's a way for his teammates to show their appreciation.
It's easier to see when team dynamics fail. Ray Emery's departure and Dany Heatley's trade demand both had many contributing factors, but they had something in common: a broken trust between the players and coaches on those Sens teams.
It's harder to see when team dynamics succeed. Many wondered why Alex Auld wasn't simply waived after Ottawa acquired Ben Bishop. There are a few reasons, but one of them is he's a team player. He stays late after practices so players who need to put in a little extra work have a goalie to practice with. This keeps the guys who are going to start, Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop, off the ice. We're not in the dressing room, we don't see how much being a "good guy in room" matters. But we saw how this team reacted in Game 2 and how they've subsequently responded to Carkner. It suggests being a trusted, team guy matters a great deal to the other players in the room.