Lip Service: Why it’s not a big deal when NHL players don’t speak

Nazem Kadri, Auston Matthews and Coach Babcock discuss how important it will be to toe the line between aggressiveness and discipline, as staying out of the box is the biggest key for the Maple Leafs to have success.

Outrage over a player not talking to the media after a game is more dependable than the weather.

It’s popped up a few times recently: Auston Matthews not talking after the Toronto Maple Leafs lost Game 4 to the Boston Bruins and Radko Gudas didn’t speak after the Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

There are two main schools of thought:

1. Not talking after a loss shows a lack of accountability.

2. Who cares?

I’m curious to know which you subscribe to but first, allow me to explain why I’m on Team “Who Cares?”.

In the case of Matthews, he has already been criticized for something he said and criticized for not talking in the same playoff series. They’ve only played five games so far so that’s pretty impressive.

Matthews said “s–t happens” after the Bruins beat the Leafs soundly and not everybody was a fan of that. You could interpret that answer as a bit too casual, or you could interpret that as an answer from a great leader who is unfazed by the daunting task ahead.

You could also interpret it as Matthews saying as close to nothing as humanly possible without actually not saying anything. I tend to believe it’s option three.

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Did Matthews not care about losing? Well, we’ll let his reaction to scoring the eventual game-winner in Game 3 answer that one. He did his talking on the ice.

The next game, the Leafs lost on home ice and Matthews didn’t speak to the media. The “lack of accountability” storyline came back into play. In fairness, he underperformed in Game 4 and his own coach, Mike Babcock, said as much during his post-game press conference.

The next game rolled around, and Matthews assisted on the game’s first goal about six minutes in en route to a Leafs win. Yet again, he did his talking on the ice.

For Matthews, he got his shot at redemption. Gudas wasn’t so lucky.

Gudas got eaten alive by the opposition as his team saw its season slip away.

My question is this: What could Gudas have done to make things better? Lip service like “I let me teammates down” or “I take full responsibility”? Neither of those sentences would put the Flyers back in the playoffs.

Not to mention, he might not have wanted to say anything in the heat of the moment. All it takes is “s–t happens” and you’re in trouble, apparently.

As for telling the story of the game, do you need a Gudas quote for that? Sure, if he comes out, faces the music, and says a couple things, you probably use those quotes in your story. But who does it serve? Mostly him, if it softens the blow.

To me, the story in that moment is that the Flyers’ season is over. Want to talk to Gudas personally? That can wait for locker cleanup day. If he doesn’t talk then, it’s another story. At least by then, you’ve had a couple days to collect your thoughts and you’re a four-minute press scrum away from being rid of the media for about five months.

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Matthews was called out for a lack of accountability twice and followed both incidents up with impactful games. In university terms, he’s not much for theory but always seems to nail the practical.

In the case of Gudas, I just don’t see how talking would help anybody but himself. He could also say something to hurt his case even worse. In fact, he could say all the right things and get roasted anyway, so why talk at all?

I’m not a seasoned beat reporter, however I have had the privilege of being in locker rooms before and after games, including championship victories and season-ending defeats. Any time I’ve ever had the pleasure of covering a game, I’ve rarely ever felt like a good quote would help much. More often than not, the story of the game is the game itself, not what was said before or afterward. If I can get one quote, even if it’s not from the person I wanted, I’ll live.

In the case of Matthews, he didn’t say anything but his coach called him out in the media. Isn’t that enough?

The stereotype is that hockey players are boring. That’s rarely ever actually true but when they get a microphone stuck in their face they sound like Steven Wright reading instructions for IKEA furniture. If that’s ever going to change, we need to stop getting outraged every time they decide not to speak. If we expect less quantity, we might get better quality.

What do you think?

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