Trouble With The Captain

With the playoffs looming, Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner shut down and didn’t speak to the media until yesterday afternoon. The media showed the Devils seemed to have an unhappy captain.

Langenbrunner, who created a self-imposed silence for the past two days, finally gave reporters more than a “no comment” today. He admitted his displeasure with being a healthy scratch Saturday in Carolina, a move he did not ask for. He also admitted frustration with having to travel to Raleigh even though he wasn’t playing that night. Langenbrunner, who has only once played all 82 games, wanted the chance to hit that mark again.

When speaking to Tom Gulliti of the Bergen Record, he expressed his frustration with the decision to be scratched.

“It was definitely something I wanted to do or at least attempt it,” he said to Gulliti. “I’m not sure if I’ve ever done it. I missed one last year and it would have been nice to at least try it.”

Jamie Langenbrunner 2Langenbrunner, however, should have seen this move coming. Devils coach Jacques Lemaire planned to give all of his starters a rest before the playoffs. He believed, based on Langenbrunner’s play, that the captain needed a night off.

“I felt (Langenbrunner), needed a rest. I gave him a rest,” Lemaire said to Gulliti. “I felt Motts (Mike Mottau) needed a rest. I gave him a rest (last night against Atlanta).”

This issue may have been the boiling point for the captain. According to Gulliti, Langenbrunner wasn’t in the greatest of mood during last Thursday’s practice. The captain got into an extensive battle with defenseman Colin White. At the end of the drill, White ended up on top of Langenbrunner. White gave Langenbrunner an extra shot with the stick as they seperated.

Later in practice, something similar happened with Rob Niedermayer.

Langenbrunner hasn’t spoke to the media since before Friday’s game against the Blackhawks. He also spent considerable time in the training room after practice. The captain, who already played in all 79 games and six Olympic matches, has accumulated an already considerable workload this season.

This late in the season, with a potential second seed up for grabs, Langenbrunner needs to focus on hockey. If he took an issue with Lemaire’s decision, he needs to bring it up with the coach in private. There’s no reason to air dirty laundry to the media. According to Gulliti, the captain and coach haven’t spoken about the decision yet. This should be a minor speed bump this late in the season. I know Langenbrunner was upset by the decision. But look at the facts. Langenbrunner was spending more time in the training room. The wear and tear of this elongated season has probably taken a toll on his body. To march him out against a team brimming with young players ready to “prove themselves” could have led to injury. Why risk it, especially this close to the playoffs?

Langenbrunner isn’t a rah-rah type of leader. But the players still look to him as the captain. Handling this situation in this manner wasn’t the greatest. But the captain needs to reign himself in. There are more important things than individual records on the line. With the Devils one of the better teams challenging coming into the playoffs, Langenbrunner needs to settle this issue and refocus on hockey.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

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