The leadership structure the Capitals have isn’t based on just captain Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble. When the team held a players-only meeting recently, 10 or 11 guys spoke, according to one person.
Brooks Laich is one of those leaders, even though he doesn’t wear a letter on his chest.
“When it’s closed doors and guys are in the room – there’s a lot of guys. Brooksie says stuff, [Matt Hendricks is] real vocal in the room. A lot of guys around here do a lot more than just be a player,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “They’re leaders in their own aspect. You need all sorts of that, whether guys are just leading by example in their roles or being vocal. You need a good mix of that, and I think we have that here.”
Laich knows he doesn’t need to be a captain or alternate to be a leader. His coaches recognize that, too.
But the 28-year-old is more than just a leader of men, according to assistant coach Dean Evason.
“As a coaching staff, you always want to have players on your team that are an extension of the coaching staff,” Evason said. “There’s only so many times we can talk to the group and whatever, and if the messages that the coaches are trying to deliver is reinforced by some players who are leaders in the dressing room, then obviously things are going to work a lot smoother. And he’s a guy you tell him once how we want to play the game and he’ll go do it.”
Versatility – the ability to play any position on the ice except goaltender – is perhaps the most valuable aspect of Laich being on this team.
“To be able to play both [forward and defense] positions and play well at both positions is incredibly tough to do,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s nice to have that option to go to if we need him.”
That’s all well and good, but the intangibles he brings go beyond that.
“He’s very versatile but certainly a guy that coaches love to have on their team,” Evason said. “Brooks Laich just leads by example. He just goes out, plays hard every night, practices hard every day, he trains hard. He does all the right things, says all the right things. He doesn’t need something on his jersey to tell his peers that he’s a leader. He’s just going to go do it and lead by example, and he does that every day.”