LA Kings coach on leadership of Brown, Richards, Gagne

Simon Gagne (photo: LAKings.com)

The Kings may be one of the youngest teams in the league, yet leadership shouldn’t be an issue in Los Angeles.

For the past three seasons, Dustin Brown has been the captain, with Matt Greene and Anze Kopitar serving as alternates over the same time period.

Additionally, numerous other players in the locker room have worn a letter prior, either in the NHL, internationally, or while developing as top prospects.

Plus, this summer, the team added two major components – Mike Richards, the former Philadelphia captain, and Simon Gagne – who, according to coach Terry Murray, was ‘almost’ the Flyers captain.

So, just how does Murray expect Richards to fit into the Kings’ leadership group?

“In Philadelphia, he had those instinctive leadership skills that some players have and some players don’t,” Murray began by explaining. “He steps up – a big part of his leadership is doing it on the ice. He’s a guy who wants to take over whenever it’s needed. He sees and watches the game very closely. He jumps in, he’ll fight, he battles, he’s gritty. He can make plays, he can crank it up to the next level whenever necessary. We saw it in the Olympics last year with Team Canada. At the end of the day, when Canada needed to get their game going, it ended up being (Jonathan) Toews and Richards, and they moved a few guys around on the other wing. But, to me, those were the guys who stepped it up and showed the way for the rest of the team.”

Late last season, Murray said Brown was perhaps the team’s most impressive player when Kopitar went down with an injury (link here).

Does he see the two as having a complimentary leadership style?

“I think they have some similarities in their vocal approach. Mike’s not a real loud and demanding guy. Brownie, to me, is similar. They’re more ‘on the ice, action players’ – they lead by example. They’re hard, they play a physical game and they play the game the right way. Then, they come to practice and do the same thing all over again the next day. That sets the tempo and sets the tone for the rest of the team. So, that’s tremendous leadership in a quieter way.  We also have other guys who are vocal, demanding, yelling and screaming – that’s sometimes me.”

What did the team get in Gagne – is he another lead by example player?

“He is. And you know what, he was under consideration for captaincy of the Flyers too.” Murray went on to explain, “I was there at the time, when Richards came in and (Keith) Primeau was injured. We were looking at what we’re going to do with the captaincy and the conversation in the coaches office included Gagne as one of those guys. So, he has those qualities. But, he’s a quieter guy too. He’s a player. He wants to get on the ice and play the game and set the example, do the right things to lead by performance.”

As for the overall culture, “things are coming to fruition,” says Murray.

“When you put a culture in place, you’re putting demands on players. You put some rules and regulations in place and (they) have to live up to that standard. There has to be accountability if a player’s not towing his part of the bargain. I think I see that here, big time, in the last couple of years. We’re seeing it in our meetings, whenever we’re just sitting in the locker room talking or we have a video session the morning after a game. Players are involved in saying things if I ask their opinion or if they see something on the screen they want to talk about, they have the freedom to step up and talk. It doesn’t always have to be positive stuff either.”

Murray says that approach also extends on to the ice, “If there’s a practice and guys are not focused, or passing and execution is not as clear or as hard as it should be, then we have a leadership group that steps up and demands it. That’s culture – and that goes a long way towards a winning program. Again, we’re a good hockey club right now. We have a lot of really good things in place and we’re pushing forward and moving up. The culture is a big part of helping us get there.”

What does Richards make of all this – specifically, the idea of moving from a captain’s role to potentially not wearing a letter at all next season? Stay tuned – later today I’ll post some comments from the Kings new number 10. [update: article up now, linked here]

The Mayor
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