If you think new Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette is just a tough coach and a disciplinarian, think again. He may want the most out of his players, and he may be demanding, but he also knows how to loosen the mood when the situation is right.
Any coach that's willing to wear a bull mask for a postgame interview knows how to switch things up over a long draining NHL season:
That right there was your new Capitals' head coach after a 3-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers in 2018. I asked him on the latest Capitals Talk podcast if he'd be willing to do it again this year in Washington...and well, there's hope.
"I don't know what's gonna happen in the future here," Laviolette said, "but that one was pretty cool."
I mean, he didn't say "no" right? I also promised to wear one on TV if he did, so he always has my support. Then again I've worn a poop emoji mask and a fake Gucci sweatshirt I made myself, so my standards aren't always the highest.
Okay, you're probably wondering why he was wearing this bull mask, and what it has to do with coaching. Here's what happened according to Laviolette:
"Players want to come to the rink and they don't want it to just be another day," Laviolette continued. "And so part of my job is to create an atmosphere of fun and just wanting to do something, and I'll never forget my wife came home with that bull's head and I'm looking at it and she goes 'I don't know why I bought this, I just know that I couldn't leave it on the shelf.' I'm looking at it for days and I'm going 'what am I supposed to do with this?'"
Turns out it was a Professional Bull Riding event he went to that inspired him to wear it for the Predators if they played well during a tough stretch in the schedule.
"I ended up challenging the players and I challenged them to win two games in a tough western Canadian road trip," said Laviolette. "And they responded and they wanted something back in return, and so they told me that morning. I came back the night before the game and said 'listen, if you guys take both these wins I'll live up to my end of the bargain'."
That's the gist of it. There's more details but there's only so much I can transcribe. Listen to the podcast to hear the full story. It's great.
Laviolette gets the best out of his players, but also finds ways to keep the mood loose when they're in the middle of a grinding season. That's balance, which is exactly why I said he's the perfect coach for the job.
There's plenty of work left to be done to get this Caps team back to the Stanley Cup Final, but the first step was hiring the right coach, and it sure seems like they can check that off their to-do list.