Early Monday morning , DC101’s Elliot in the Morning interviewed Brooks Laich. Before practice, Laich talked extensively about Dale Hunter, the system he’s bringing to Washington, the firing of Bruce Boudreau, and the awkwardness surrounding Dennis Wideman’s almost-hat trick.
Below the jump, I’ve transcribed a good chunk of the two’s talk.
On Wideman’s hat trick goal
When Dennis shot the puck, I knew it hit my shin pad and went in. Obviously, you can feel it. I knew it would have been his third goal so when we went to the huddle — you know, when we’re celebrating — I wasn’t going to say anything. But right when I got there, [Dennis] goes, ‘Nice goal, Brooksy!’ I went ‘Ahhhh,’ because it would have been his hat trick. You know, there’s 18,000 fans gunning down hats and everybody’s celebrating or whatever. I wouldn’t of said anything. Then I got back to the bench and some of the guys went, ‘That hit you didn’t it?’ I didn’t really know what to say.
They gave it to Dennis and he had a fantastic game. Kudos to him. He was the one who insisted that it get changed. I have a lot of respect for a guy who does that. He could have just taken the hat trick and moved on. I have a lot of respect for him for asking them to change it.
Did Wideman really petition the league to change the goal?
Yeah. That’s why I have a lot of respect for a guy who would do that. After the fact he knew it wasn’t his goal, so he contacted our PR guy to ask the league to look at this. And that’s a very unselfish thing for Dennis to do. I owe that guy lunch or supper or something for doing that.
But that happens quite often on deflection goals or little subtle changes of direction of the puck sometimes they’ll give it… Actually, his second goal, he blasted it from the point and they gave it to Nicky Backstrom originally. So sometimes they mess it up, but they get it right in the end.
Is it nice to have a few off days before your next game to more fully institute Dale Hunter’s system?
Yeah, but I think we’re pretty much adjusted anyways. Practice is so key. I don’t think people talk enough about how key and important practice is and preparation is. You know we’ve had [the system in place], actually now for six games, and everyone here is a professional hockey player. They should be able to adapt or change or tweak this or that. Learn very quickly and pick it up very quickly. You’re still getting used to it a little bit, but that’s not a crutch or an excuse or any reason why you should not be doing this or that or not winning hockey games.
Does Brooks personally like the changes Hunter has instituted?
I do actually. People are always asking me, ‘What’s the new guy like? What’s the new guy like?’ He’s a very smart man. Hockey wise, [he's] very smart. He has us going north/south for pucks, hitting everything that moves. He wants us to be hard to play against. He coaches — you know I didn’t get to see him play too much as a player — but he coaches like his reputation as a player. Which is great for us, because if you talk to people who played against him, he was feared and guys hated playing against him. So I definitely think his attitude as a former player is definitely going to rub off on us.
On Hunter wanting the team to play more physical.
He says, ‘hit everything that moves. Dump it, get on the forecheck, and be tough to play against.’ The one thing that he’s said since he’s come here is, ‘we’re not going to score a lot of rush goals. Against good teams in the playoffs, you don’t score those easy, rush goals. You have to work for your goals, you have to be physical. You have to forecheck. Score your goals off the cycle. If you watch playoff hockey, that’s how the goals are scored.’ And I think he’s trying to mold our team that way.
So you’ll see a lot more chipping and chasing. Getting in races. Strength along the boards. Battles along the boards. That sorta stuff. And not as much tic-tac-toe passing through the center of the ice. Huntsy’s been great. He’s a tireless worker. He’s cutting video. He’s talking to guys. And everyone just absorbs everything he says. He’s a very respected man. And like I said, I think he’s going to be great for us.
Did the players have a talk inside the locker room after Boudreau was fired?
Well that was before the change was made. There’s great expectations around Washington. Stanley Cup expectations. If you’re not winning hockey games, something is going to be changed. Whether that’s a coach, whether’s that a player… They could get up and trade me. I don’t want to be gone. They could trade a good friend of mine and a teammate of mine that I don’t want to leave. Something’s going to happen if things aren’t going well. You’re obviously aware of that when you’re losing hockey games or in a bit of a funk or whatever. We’re not dumb guys. We’re aware of what the situation is and what the possible fixes are. I certainly think it wakes guys up a little bit more when you make a coaching change. But after that, there’s only one place you can go, and that’s the players. I feel bad for coaches because they don’t play the game. The players that should be blamed or are responsible for it should be, but that’s not the way it goes.
On Boudreau’s quick hiring in Anaheim.
Good for him. And you know what, I was talking to my mom last night. She was wondering how things were going and I said, ‘Ten years from now — Bruce might not have won a Stanley Cup in Washington — but ten years from now, we’ll look back, and that man might be a hero.’ The first couple of years here, there were 7,000 – 8,000 fans in the stands. Then Bruce came on board and hockey’s now the coolest thing in Washington [Ed. note- emphasis ours]. He was a huge part of that. You know, the young guns and the offensive style, growing the game in Washington. I think he’ll forever be remembered as a huge part of that.