"We are definitely a United Nations team," he said. "There's no animosity, but we've got Czechs and Russians, Slovakians and French-Canadians. Last year, you'd see these little groups of players in all the corners of the locker room talking in their own languages and other guys would wonder, what are they talking about?
"So, Calle and I brought in foreign language dictionaries and handed them out," Kolzig said. "It kind of broke the ice and everyone understood."
That episode and several team-building experiences designed by Cassidy have forged the first web of trust among them. Now, the Caps face the NHL season, which begins with eight of their first 10 games on the road.
"We've talked about getting out of the gate better so as not to be battling from behind all year," Cassidy said. "We've talked about playing more as a team, sacrificing for each other. That means protecting leads, making the right decisions, playing with discipline. It means no selfishness. It means accountability to your teammates."
Cassidy paused. It's a lot to ask. But he said he wakes up every morning thinking his team is going to win the Southeast Division title. He said he'd be disappointed if his players didn't believe the same thing.
"I had a coach once who told me if you don't demand, you don't receive," he said. "Our guys have to expect that. It's a very realistic goal, and if our guys don't have that, then they're cheating themselves, because what are we playing for? The Stanley Cup. That's the ultimate goal. But you don't want to put it right out there. You don't want to put the cart before the horse."