The last piece I wrote was about Brooks Laich (that was met with much criticism). I wrote it about the exact situation we are facing today, something that we all knew was going to happen but something that we wanted to put off for so long.
I will warn you that this content isn’t going to be filled with stats or corsi numbers. No, it’s going to be filled with what Brooks Laich meant.
I almost feel like I owe this to him after the last thing I wrote (something I’m sure you can find buried in the archives) because in essence I truly like Brooks and I feel that all of us as Caps fans owe him a great deal. He and Alex are/were the last remaining players to ever wear the blue, black and gold jerseys. He played every game of his NHL career in Washington – well, all but one. 12 years. 12 years he went out every game and enjoyed it, probably just like he did when he was a kid playing in Canada. He played with true grit but with a smile on his face.
We all know the stories of him stopping to help change a tire after an elimination game, the constant charitable functions and the numerous appearances every Wednesday on the Sports Junkies. But, these were just surface things, just things that he did, not for the praise, but just because that is the kind of human being he is. After I wrote that article where I said that keeping Brooks and his contract was near impossible, I had the honor of being chosen as a season ticket holder to walk a Caps player down the “red carpet” on opening day – wouldn’t you know it, the organization (by sheer luck of the draw) chose me to walk Brooks Laich down that red carpet. It was one of those occurrences in life that make you chuckle because here I was escorting a guy into the Verizon Center who a week before I said would more than likely be traded.
I have met Brooks multiple times in settings that were not a fan on player setting and he was one of the best guys to have around. He was personable, fun and always made you feel like he genuinely cared about what he was asking you. I think it was this that endeared him to so many fans for so long. It was almost as if we were giving him a pass because we knew what he brought to the table. Being a great locker room guy and an even better teammate far outweighed the setbacks in his game. At least, we wanted it to, but it only could for so long.
Sports are hard guys. We live and die by these guys in red sweaters, chasing a black frozen piece of rubber, trying to get it into the back of a net. We live and die by every goal for and every goal against; every win and every loss; every so close moment and every moment that was so far away. We idolize these players and cheer for them (some of you boo your home team which I will never understand), encouraging them to skate faster, hit harder and play better. I don’t think I did this anymore than with Brooks Laich and, I think a lot of us did. We wanted him do well so we could keep him around because we wanted him to be here for the good times. The good times that he helped construct as a core pillar in the group.
12 years. 12 years, 5 head coaches, 133 goals, 191 assists, 324 points and 742 games all with the Caps. I hate to say that it’s almost like we chewed him up and spat him out but at this point it feels that way. For a player to give us so much we dump him when we are close. If we happen to make a Cup run(knocking on all the wood I can find) everyone should know that Brooks would get his name on the cup because he has played 41 games this season. While this is great, it still leaves that bottomless pit feeling in my stomach because he won’t be able to hoist it. You could say that Brooks Laich built this team just as much as the organization.
He was here when we were bad and rebuilding, and he had been here on our ultimate climb. He was the Caps in DC and it almost feels like fans forget that he was once a top guy – which landed him the contract that doomed him last night. He was on the top line at times; scored 20 goals in a season multiple times; he was, a great player, he is a great player.
This isn’t easy – saying goodbye. Most of us would make terrible GMs because this is the type of decision we could never make. This is the type of decision McPhee could never make. We have to give it to MacLellan though, he made a tough move for him to try to better the organization. While I respect this move, it will take a while for it to feel alright, for it to feel real. I fear that losing a guy like Brooks will hurt the locker room and the team for the simple fact that he is no longer there. I hope it doesn’t, but time will tell.
Wednesday night Brooks will make his short return to the Verizon Center in a white and blue sweater that doesn’t say Capitals on it for the first time in 12 years. I will be wearing my Laich jersey one last time before I put it away forever like we all have for the likes of Green, Semin, Knuble and so many others. It will be a somber day for sure but one that everyone will move past.
All I hope is that on Wednesday Brooks Laich gets the ovation and respect he deserves for the last 12 years.
Thank you Brooks – a lot of teams are lucky to have a superstar but not all are lucky to have a Brooks Laich.
By Chris McIntosh