He may have had the quietest boxscore debut of the three newest Capitals, but before two weeks had passed, veteran Marco Sturm had already received an on-air compliment from one team leader: Brooks Laich.
“Marco was the first one here, and it seemed the first day, I told Brads [Matt Bradley] – Brads had played with him — and I said, “Geez, it seems like he’s been here for two years already,’” Laich said during an interview with the Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. “And he says, ‘Yeah, Marco’s a great guy, you’ll love him.’”
Bradley and Sturm were, of course, teammates for three years back on the West Coast for the San Jose Sharks. Sturm played there for almost 8 seasons before going to the Boston Bruins, where he stayed until moving to the Kings during the middle of the current season.
Sturm’s history with Bradley begs the question: has Matt Bradley gotten more or less funny as he’s grown older?
“Probably the same,” Sturm said. “The only thing that changed: when he was younger, he took a lot more heat. Not anymore, he’s one of the older guys.”
The ability to meld with a new team is a valuable asset for any trade acquisition, especially when that trade happens so late in the season. Sturm didn’t focus on himself when asked the do’s and don’ts of blending in with team chemistry. He said that the Caps guys already in the locker room made fitting in easy, and it also helped to have Jason Arnott and Dennis Wideman come in at the same time.
“It makes it a lot easier than just coming in by yourself,” Sturm said.
Sturm’s long tenure in the NHL has made him a journeyman through the Verizon Center several times, and as a guest he’s watched the D.C. hockey experience transform. He said he began noticing a difference two or three years ago.
“I think that was really the time when things were starting to turn around here,” Sturm said. “The team was playing obviously better, the crowd was more into it. I remember, I think, the first playoffs – they got into the playoffs, you know, you see everyone in red, and it was pretty amazing to watch. And now I can see it too. Very passionate fans.”
So far, Sturm has skated in every game since becoming a Capital (excluding the Caps’ game against the Islanders on Feb. 26, the day of the trade), a promising sign since he played in 17 games in 2010-2011season prior to that. Sturm had been battling a lower body injury earlier this year, which means he’ll end the season far below the 20 plus goal season totals that look so familiar now on his stats sheet.
“When I came to the league, I just wanted to play hard, play [well], do all the things the coaches wanted me to and I probably played a little too much defense,” he said of learning how to break that goal plateau of 20, which happened first for him in 2001-2002 into his 5th season playing in the NHL. “Probably the most important thing: how to use my speed, too.”