As if sacking the head coach and general manager at the end of last season, signing high-profile free agents to bolster a weak defensive corps, nabbing Barry Trotz as a new head coach and bringing in fresh goaltending coaches and assistant coaches wasn’t enough to prove the Capitals are ready for and expecting change this season, the team also redesigned their locker room.
While the fact that the Caps upgraded to brand-new, navy carpeting and modern, dark wood and stainless steel benches may seem mundane, the roped-off Capitals logo on the carpet at the center of the revamped dressing room is not.
“I think there’s a pride that we should have in our organization,” Trotz said of his decision to rope off the logo. “It’s about what’s on the front of the jersey, not what’s on the back of the jersey. What’s on the front of the jersey is very important and should be a little bit sacred.”
The Capitals dressing room carpet didn’t even have a team logo last year, let alone one given VIP treatment. While every notepad-toting visitor to the locker room was explicitly told not to step on the logo in the pursuit of post-game quotes, it seems the ropes will stay up, at least when outsiders are in the dressing room.
“You can tell the mentality has changed,” Caps goaltender Braden Holtby said. “There’s a lot of things that contribute to that. Obviously it was a long summer, a lot of guys were anxious to get back, anxious to train hard all summer to make sure that we prove ourselves a lot better this year. (There is a) different attitude coming into camp. Guys are excited, guys are ready to learn, to play as a team.”
Carpet symbols are hollow, however, until the Caps back up their professed culture change on the ice. After missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons in 2014, a symbol could at least serve as a good rallying point.
According to Trotz, he liked what he saw from his team in their first exhibition game, a 1-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres. After two grueling days of training camp, he knew his team would be tired and was pleased that they made smart plays given their fatigue and a less-than-perfect sheet of ice.
“I was happy with our veterans,” he said. “Nicky Backstrom, you can see what kind of two-way player that he is…I thought Brooks Laich looked like he could skate all day today.”
So far, the players are also happy with the new coaching staff.
“They made it very clear,” Caps goaltender Braden Holtby said. “The system and stuff was very easy to understand and very well-prepared for (learning) throughout the summer. Obviously (the coaching staff) did a lot of work, but it’s a tribute to our guys for really caring about getting it right.”
“Caring about getting it right,” was something the Caps failed to do on a consistent basis last year. Perhaps a new coach, a new locker room and a new attitude will lead to new results come April.
Alex Ovechkin on readjusting to left wing:
“It’s not that strange because I played World Championship on the left,” he said.
Capitals forward prospect Andre Burakovsky on scoring a goal: “It was nice to score the first goal. I got a great pass from (Jason) Chimera and I just took a wrister and it went in. I was kind of shocked, but it feels really good to have the first goal. And after that goal, I think I could relax a little bit more in the game, feel more comfortable out there and just keep playing hard.”