In this week's "Making of a Royal" blog, assistant coach Steve Webb offers his midseason review of the team and also discusses the importance of leadership and how he and head coach Pat LaFontaine help groom players into becoming effective leaders.
Well, we're about halfway through the season and when I look at the team, as a whole, I think that we're in a spot where we can definitely improve. There's work we have to do. When we're playing high-caliber teams, we must be more consistent on the back end. When you play against smarter players, it's interesting to see how some players handle that. The thing is, once we get going, we're fine, but sometimes we're just waiting for something to happen first. The start of the game is very important ... the preparation, mindset and how you go out on your first shift. We'll continue to work on breakouts and coming out of our own zone; we're looking forward to getting ready for the competition down the stretch and at the end of the season.
During the second half of the season, we'll have more time to prep for the year-end tournaments.
On the challenges of teaching leadership:
One of the hardest things to learn is leadership. A lot of times, you leave that up to the more vocal guys in the room or the more skilled players because, let's face it, everyone expects the good players to know how to lead. But for a 15-year-old, that's a tough thing, responsibility wise.
I think we need a lot of room to improve on that in that aspect. I don't want to say leadership is such an easy thing to come by. We try to give these guys a lot of rope, and lot of responsibility is put in their hands. You want to teach them how to learn how to be leaders versus showing them how to be leaders. We can help them and guide them, but, most importantly, we want them to take more control of their own leadership traits.
We're trying to have them learn and understand the role of a leader. I love getting on Skype with the kids and observing the NHL game too, to pinpoint certain leadership traits you see on the ice. We want to focus on the positive stuff, so it's a fine line of balance. You don't want the guys to get too down on themselves. Each player has a different motivation; you have to treat kids a little differently and you have to look at that by helping and supporting the best you can as a coach. You always have to know when to applaud and make sure you show the confidence in them to get back on the ice.
We recently watched a program about Scott Niedermayer [when his number was retired by the New Jersey Devils] and we saw great examples of leadership and what it entails. The footage really showed how he conducted himself as a leader.
We're all looking forward to the World Junior Championship [in Edmonton and Calgary]. The kids don't really understand what this tournament is all about, but they need to know that it is a proud moment for these men. It's good to watch and see how these players perform under such great high-pressure situations. How they can function under this and come away with a positive outlook.
That's a really tough thing to play through; when you finally are thrown out there, the game is fast, intense, every single play matters, you've got to find a way to play through that and make smart plays. So it's a huge testament to [Vermette] and some other individuals in our locker room that are putting their own ego, their own wants and needs aside, and are ready for those opportunities when they do come.
— Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews on teammate Antoine Vermette, who returned from being a healthy scratch in Game 3 to score the double-overtime winner in Game 4