Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Importance of Brooks Laich

This offseason, decisions will be made.  There is no doubt about that.  Several of these decisions are going to be very difficult to make for George McPhee, and in all likelihood, the Capitals are not going to able to retain all of their free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. In a salary-capped NHL, it is simply impossible to keep teams together for long periods of time.  As such, on July 1st at 12:00 AM ET, eight Caps will be become free agents: two restricted and six unrestricted.

Among those unrestricted will be utility man Brooks Laich, who saw significant ice time at all three forward spots this year and saw large minutes on the penalty kill and power play.  Laich played in all 82 games this year, one of only three Caps to do so (the others were John Carlson and Karl Alzner), tallying 16 goals and 32 assists, as well as a plus-14 rating.  But that only begins to explain what he means to this organization and it's fans, as well as the players.  You already know this, but I'll say it anyway: The Capitals cannot afford to let Brooks Laich walk.
Laich is one of the best and most respected leaders on the team, even though he does not usually wear and "A" on his chest for all the hockey world to see.  Laich has been in this organization through all of the ups and downs over the last six years, and he has seen the Caps go from worst to first and then collapse not once, but twice, but thrice in the playoffs.  When he talks, people listen.  There are not many players under the age of 30 who don't have gaudy offensive statistics who command as much respect as Laich does.  Washington needs more leaders like him.
Laich is a grinder and a two-way stud.  Almost nothing he does is sexy or will ever make a SportsCenter list of top plays, but all of it is important.  Brooksie does all of the little things, and he almost never makes mistakes that cost his team.  Heck, he even takes smart penalties.  It is widely considered by teammates and coaches that his work ethic is second to none.  He can play defensively or offensively equally well, and as I mentioned before, his penalty killing prowess was a huge part of the Caps' shift from one of the worst shorthanded teams in the league to one of the best.  If he didn't play on a team already loaded with big name "stars" he could be a nominee for the Selke Trophy. I still think he'll win it someday.
Laich is as intense as they come.  There's something about him that just screams it.  You could see it in his exit interview, he wants to win so badly.  For Laich, as is the case with pretty much every Cap, there is nothing more important to him than winning a Stanley Cup, but you just get the sense that he wants it more.  He wears his emotions on his sleeve and he lets you know how he feels; he never holds back.  He is, to me, the heart and soul of the team because of these things. Alex Ovechkin may be the captain and the leader in the eyes of the management, but if you take Brooks Laich out of the equation, this team takes a huge step backwards.  The fans love him.  And if the Caps ever win a Stanley Cup, you can bet that Brooks Laich will be a big part of it.

All of this being said, hanging on to Laich is going to be hard.  Unless Washington trades Alexander Semin or lets Scott Hannan walk, the money is going to be very hard to come up with.  Laich is a desirable player, for many reasons, and a team like Toronto or Los Angeles, who have young core players and alot of salary cap room, would snap Laich up in a heartbeat if the Caps didn't give him a dollar figure he was happy with.  He's only 27 and he is entering his prime.  Pay up, George.

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