For myself, there’s areas where I have to be better. And it’s not all on the ice. So for myself, I think I can mature more in the locker room, and there’s different sort of hats you can put on inside the locker room.
– Brooks Laich, April 2010
One surprising statement at the end of last season was Brooks Laich telling the media he needed to mature as a leader. His reputation as such is already well-established in Washington Capitals circles (for example, when Caps prospect Braden Holtby was asked this summer who he looks up to in the locker room, Laich was the player he mentioned by name).
Five months after Laich alluded to developing his locker room presence, he explained further this week what that role would look like.
“I’m not a super vocal guy, but as far as wearing different hats, I think as a veteran guy, you want to hold players accountable, and you also want to set an example,” Laich said. “So those are two things that I think I’ll be doing this year.”
Laich said his approach to leadership in the locker room has been shaped by a number of Capitals over his six years with the franchise — Chris Clark, Olaf Kolzig, Jeff Halpern, and current teammate Mike Knuble.
“I think as a leader, you can never be never too high, never too low,” Laich said. “I think you have to be stable and always confident and kind of be a balancing act for some of your other players that maybe go on a bit of a roller coaster.”
Laich foresees another young Capitals roster this year (even nineteen year old Cody Eakin is playing in rookie camp like an NHL spot is his to lose) as an opportunity to grow into a veteran presence currently shared by players like Jason Chimera, Matt Bradley, and Mike Knuble.
“To have the respect of the players is fantastic, but it’s something you’ve got to continually earn – otherwise, your opinion doesn’t carry much weight,” Laich said.
Another area where Laich has a history of directing his focus is conditioning. He said the most well-conditioned team he played last year was the Chicago Blackhawks, even though the teams only faced each other once and the Capitals pulled out the win in overtime.
“When you think of conditioning, you think of players that in the third period seem to be faster than they are in the first,” Laich said. “We only played against them [Chicago] once, but they started the first period fast and ended the game fast…everybody on their team is always moving.”
But Laich thinks the Caps are a match for anyone in the league on the conditioning front and pointed out the Caps led the league in third period goals last year.
“I think our team can skate with anybody,” Laich said. “I think Bruce puts us through the paces in practice. Our practices during the year are an hour and a half long.”