Photo: Bruce Bennett
It’s been said that Barry Trotz has changed the culture of the Washington Capitals. What does that mean exactly?
In his latest 30 Thoughts column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman got specific on accountability and Trotz’s role in the Capitals’ turnaround.
“There was a learning curve,” veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik said to Friedman when asked about the team’s slow start last season. “We should have been five games over .500 [then]. This year, we’re comfortable with how our practices and systems work. During games, we’re not thinking, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ It’s more instinctive. Last year was a big adjustment. Of all my training camps, it was the hardest I’ve been through. I’m guessing it was harder than (coach Barry Trotz’s) normal camps, too.”
“The first day [of training camp], we had our first practice, and the conditioning test right after,” he said. “There were longer meetings, the systems were complicated, a lot info to take in and digest. The pace of practice was an eye-opener, too. It’s easy to make a 10-15 foot pass when you’re 100 percent focused, but there are a lot of times in a season where you aren’t. He went after that sloppiness in practices. Now, as soon as practice starts slipping, one of the players tries to get it going, because it’s not too long before (Trotz) does.”
Orpik added this year’s training camp “wasn’t enjoyable,” but the team understood that it was necessary.
Friedman asked Brooks to explain the differences between the 2009 Caps, who lost to Orpik’s Penguins in a playoff collapse, and the current team. Orpik said teams did not fear the Capitals back then.
Now the team is different. There’s “an understanding you don’t have success on talent alone,” Orpik said. “More accountability and more discipline.”
And then there’s this anecdote.
He wouldn’t go into it too much, but the 2009 Stanley Cup champion said last year’s [Caps] video sessions could cut deep. “Guys were a little sensitive, took it a little too personally. In November, one player was highlighted for a couple of bad penalties. Initially, I know he took it personally, couldn’t believe it was actually happening. It got everyone’s attention. If you do it to a young guy, it’s not the same effect. You need to do it to a more established guy. Slowly they understood. It’s never a personal attack, but they raised eyebrows. Then, as we started to win, everyone understood there is a reason for this.”
Friedman doesn’t name names, but that player may have been Jason Chimera, who recorded minor penalties in three consecutive games between November 8 to 14. Chimera was scratched on December 13 after a bad overtime penalty in the game before. Chimera called the episode “embarrassing.” Chimera has talked about being on the same page as Barry this season.
The Capitals have begun the 2015-16 season strong, winning six of their first seven games. Before the season began, some analysts picked the team to win the Stanley Cup.
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