A year ago, half the Washington Capitals did their preseason calisthenics in a Scandinavian hockey tournament, while the rest toiled here in chocolateland. Now the entire crew is training together, a situation much more to Coach Bryan Murray's liking.
"When I took over (after Gary Green's firing last November), I made it very clear that we wouldn't do that again," he said. "No one can run a training camp like that. And I don't think the guys who went to Sweden came back in very good condition. Yes, there was some resentment among the ones who were left behind.
"This way, I'm seeing everyone in a competition situation, and they're working as a team."
That difference in the look of his team's training camp is the only significant change Murray intends to make from his 1981-82 coaching strategy.
"The real changes are in the talent," he said. "We've tried to upgrade our defense, and what we want is to be good every night, not just on occasion."
Murray, whose credo is the work ethic, believes if the Capitals are a disciplined club that "expects things to happen," it will be able to play what he calls old-fashioned hockey--defensive as well as aggressive.
"We'd been a little short of talent," he admitted, watching two of the Capitals' four squads scrimmage. "We blew a few games or at least gave up a point or two late in the game last year. Now we've got the type of people who blend with the kind of game I want to play.
"You come into camp thinking about intangibles, as well as on-ice stuff," he said. "But to be honest, here the attitude is so positive, I don't think we need change in that area."
Murray takes delight in the fact that all of his would-be Capitals are in the fold. "We may be the luckiest team in the league, everybody's here," he said. "The fact that all the guys are here, and some of the older ones are looking around at the young kids and saying, 'Hey, I've got competition,' shows how much depth we've got. And things should go well."
Part of why things should go in the Capitals' direction came in from the north last week. Adding Montreal's all-star defensemen Rod Langway and Brian Engblom, defensive center Doug Jarvis and left wing Craig Laughlin bolstered the Capitals' image. "They're so positive. They'll all go out and give it all, and then after practice, do a little extra," Murray said. "People (players) see that and it has to impress them."
"Even (Mike) Gartner and Dennis (Maruk), who have been here the longest, realize how good that (deal) is for us," he said, referring to the swap that brought Canadiens' pride into the Capitals camp. "Ryan Walter and Mike were great buddies, and maybe to a degree it was a sacrifice, giving him up." He shook his head. "But these are the people we had to get, the Montreal guys."
One change that Murray will have this year is an assistant with the same surname. Brother Terry, who played defense for Washington last season, will carry a clipboard instead of a stick this season.
"I just hope Bryan doesn't do too much different this time," he said. "Bryan came in at a tough time (after Washington opened 1-11) and turned this club around. To finish a touch under .500 with the talent we had then was very good. This year, with this talent . . ." He left the sentence in midair, then added, "Bryan will be tough. He'll keep the hammer over their heads at all times. That doesn't mean he'll have to use it."