Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee’s decision to re-sign center Brooks Laich can only be described by a bit of cultural slang.
The 28-year old has been a model of not only consistency as he has averaged just over 21 goals and just under 50 points the last four seaosons, but also of professionalism and character.
And, no, I’m not talking about how he changed a tire for a stranded motorist on his way home from the Capitals Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens two seasons ago. Laich has been the most upfront and honest member on the current roster when it comes to the teams play, or at times lack there of.
Everyone should remember his comments during HBO’s 24/7 documentary before the Winter Class when Laich admitted that at times the team gets complacent.
There are, as one should come to expect, the detractors who say the Caps overpaid to keep Laich as they are paying him 27 million over the next six years.
I disagree with that wholeheartedly and here is why.
One, the free agent market is thin this year, especially on quality forwards. A guy with Laich’s stats and ability would’ve commanded a much longer and richer salary on the open market especially for a team like Toronto who is looking to re-build, or a team like the Chicago Blackhawks who are looking to reload.
In the last four days the Hawks have traded both Troy Brouwer, ironically to the Caps, and Tomas Kopecky to the Florida Panthers. That’s 32 goals and 78 pts lost from last season. Laich certainly could’ve made up for some of that production.
Two, because Laich is a two-way player who also happens to play on the penalty kill and the power play. He finished first amongst Capitals forwards last season in average shorthanded ice time per game at 2:18.
The last reason, and the one which is most important is Laich is glue guy; a natural born leader. As soon as the Caps began their ascent to the top of the league in the spring of 2008, Laich became one of the faces of the team. Sure, there were the obvious attention getters; Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green come on down, but Laich was the one who stepped forward.
He seemed to have an internal understanding that when a young team is suddenly in the limelight they need a guy to step forward and take on the brunt of the spotlight; a guy who can stand in front of the camera’s and answer the tough questions when no one else on the team wants to.
Laich did that immediately.
I remember after the gut-wrenching loss to the Flyers in Game 7, Laich answered questions for about five-minutes from reporters, and then stayed just as long and answered each question as courteously as he did before when the second wave of reporters bombarded him.
I know because I was amongst the second wave.
Oh, and if George McPhee pulls off the trades and free agent signings the fan base has been yelling for the last few seasons a big thank you should go to Laich.
He said during his conference call with reporters yesterday that there needs to be more accountability amongst the players and coaches next season regardless of salary, length of tenure, or the name of the back of the jersey.
Laich knows the team has underachieved the last few seasons and that the only way they can achieve the ultimate goal is by changing the culture in the locker room.
Does anyone think it’s a coincidence McPhee traded for a player like Brouwer after Laich voiced his concerns after the sweep by Tampa Bay? Look at his role when the Hawks won the Cup in 2010. He’s exactly what the Capitals need, and hopefully a few more like him are on the way.
So, do I think the Capitals overpaid to keep Brooksie?
No, they couldn’t have paid him enough.