Weekly Question: What Is Accountability?

With Bobby Ryan turning into a healthy scratch, what does that say about D.J. Smith’s coaching philosophy?

It’s been a quiet week in Sens Land, although one storyline has been hanging over the team’s head since their game against the Sharks: what’s up with Bobby Ryan?

After a dozen seasons in the NHL with over 500 points, Ryan was healthy scratched for the first time in his career for disciplinary reasons. D.J. Smith made his reasoning clear: he wasn’t working hard enough.

“You have to have enough respect for a guy who’s been in the game as long as he has, but I also have 22 other guys to coach that need that same amount of time. You feel for guys that have been around the league and you want to help them out, but at the same point you have to hold everyone accountable, and you’ve got to play the guys the most minutes that I think deserve them.”

“I think the big thing is that if you either produce or are working and playing hard, you get rewarded. That’s the way we’re going to go the rest of the way. If you play hard or you produce you get to play a lot. There’s no need to worry about it, just get back to work.”

— D.J. Smith, via Sportsnet

It’s an interesting quote, and I think there’s a few factors worth considering.

Ryan hasn’t necessarily been Ottawa’s worst player when looking at his on-ice results — he’s 8th on the team in scoring, with a relative CF% of +4.48%. Should a perceived lack of work be enough to scratch him, or does Smith owe it to the rest of the team to try and give them the best chance of winning every night with the most skilled players? If someone like Scott Sabourin or J.C. Beaudin are working hard but not producing, should that merit them being healthy scratched?

Even in the case where a player is going through a rough stretch, is sitting them for a game or two the appropriate action for holding them accountable, rather than trying to work with them or hold a private meeting? There’s also the question of context — with the Sens’ playoff hopes dashed before the season even began, does that allow them more flexibility to sit more skilled players?

I realize this feature is called Weekly Question (singular), and I just asked around a dozen questions. There’s a lot to unpack, and I’ll leave that to discuss in the comments. But my overarching question today revolves around accountability: what trait should coaches be considering most when deciding which players to hold accountable?

  1. Hard Work: If they’re not putting 110% into every practice, they haven’t earned a roster spot. Fostering a culture of hard work will eventually pay off.
  2. Skill & Smarts: Play the 20 most skilled players regardless of whether they’re going through a rough patch. They’ll get through it eventually.
  3. On-Ice Results: If they aren’t scoring or have weak on-ice metrics, they haven’t proven their value in the lineup.

What trait should coaches be considering most when deciding which players to hold accountable?

Hard Work88
Skill & Smarts26
On-Ice Results89

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