And this is where I write something that many fans won’t agree with: Even if the Caps overpaid for Brooks Laich, or gave him too many years, or forfeited another chance to make a fundamental change to the core of a team that has underachieved in the postseason, I don’t really care. Because at the end of the day, it would mean a lot more to me to see Brooks Laich parading down Pennsylvania Avenue than, say, Marco Sturm.
And no offense to Sturm. Fans can certainly grow to love mid-season acquisitions. Free agency and player trades are, obviously, fundamental tools to win a title. I’m not asking for a return to my glorious youth in the 1950s, when my boyhood idols remained forever in one uniform and I drank my vanilla malteds at the soda counter. Many of you will no doubt disagree. Just seems to me that if you’re really rooting for a team of Marco Sturms (and no offense to him), you might as well stuff the sweaters with robotic droid hockey player zombies, who wouldn’t bother going on local radio stations and saying stuff like this.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, you step back and look at yourself,” Brooks Laich told ESPN 980 on Tuesday. “And you say, ‘You know what, I’m on a fantastic team that can win a championship, I’m playing with teammates that I absolutely love, that I can’t imagine not playing with. I’m in a place where I play power play, penalty kill, five-on-five. Where else in the world could life be any better than in Washington?”
Maybe this is posturing, but I think you don't say that if you haven’t gone through the bad times in a place. You don’t say that absent a real, genuine connection to a town. You don’t say that if you’re Marco Sturm. And no offense to him.
“You start getting the hockey itch again, you start thinking about your future,” Laich said, in discussing his offseason. “And it wasn’t long after that that I had a conversation with my agent and said ‘Listen, I’ve thought about it, I’ve taken some time away, and I can only picture myself back in D.C. That’s the only place I want to be, so our sole focus should be on trying to get back in D.C.’ ”
I know, I know, I’m being sentimental, and sports aren’t about that. Laich didn’t take a hometown discount to stay or anything. Plus, it’s a lot easeir to be sentimental in the summer than just after a second-round sweep. But whatever. It’s June. And this feels sort of right to me.
“People might call me crazy, but I don’t have one urge at all to go buy anything,” Laich said. “It’s nice to have the contract, but the main thing is I’m more excited about coming back to play hockey for six years in Washington....
“My main concern was the direction of the organization. And I talked with Bruce, and I talked with George, I talked with Dean, I talked with people in the organization, and everyone agreed the common goal is to win a Stanley Cup and that we are getting better. We ran into a team that was playing as good as they physically possibly could, and they beat us. We were playing well, but they were playing better. It was just one bad week of hockey. You live and you survive and you get better, you learn, you grow, all that sort of stuff. The common goal, the theme of everyone I talked to was get better each year, keep getting better, never stop getting better, and believe that we have the group to win the Stanley Cup. And that was enough for me to re-sign and commit to come back to Washington.”
(Random shot at Marco Sturm.)