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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Will Caps Fans Laich the Deal? This one doesn't.

Twenty-seven million dollars...six years.

What could possibly go wrong?

Doing the math, that works out to $4.5 million a year.  This for a guy who has the potential to provide 30+ goals a year and provide the sticks-like-glue tenacity to help keep out untold more goals in his own end.  Stuff like that is something that hasn't been seen on the Caps since one Steven Reed Konowalchuk wore the colors.

But can he deliver?

A look at the positives says yes: He's durable, playing all 82 games last year and missing only four games in the last four seasons.  He plays a solid two-way game, ranking high in several offensive categories and leading the team's surprising penalty killing unit in ice time.  He's versatile, he can play any position on any line...except the first.   And he's the glue guy when the chips are down...or is he?  I've touched on this before--if his leadership has meant something,  why hasn't the team gotten any further these past few years.  I will touch on this more at the end.

I have to admit I'm of two minds about his guy.  Before you ask--no, I do not have an agenda against him.  I happen to think he's one hell of a hockey player.  But is he REALLY worth $4.5 mil a year?  Let's compare that number with some forwards from the two Cup finalists.  You're telling me that Brooks Laich is worth more a season than the following players: Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Nathan Horton, David Krejci, and Manny Malhotra?  And worth ALMOST as much as Ryan Kesler?  Think about that one...

What I can't stand about him is that he could stand to play smarter in the other team's end.  He has a penchant for driving past the blueline and then just shooting from the tops of the circles.  It just seems like anytime he's taking a shot, it's from the tops of the circles or from the perimeter.  Personally, I think he does his best work grinding it out in front of the net.  This goes along with what I was saying about how the team should adopt a more hard-hitting style.  Goals that are pretty make the highlight reel, but goals that are earned, truly earned by hard work, drain an opposing team's morale.  Would Laich be willing to contribute to a self-sacrificing style?

Lastly, what I find most questionable is his leadership skills.  He's certainly not lacking.  It's just you find him doing a lot more talking than most.  Sometimes he backs it up with action, such as when he scored a game-tying goal against the Lightning in Game 2.  But a lot of the time you find him doing a lot of talking after the fact.  Consider this quote from Joseph White's article at Puck Daddy, when the deal was announced:
“I think this year there’s got to be a lot more accountability amongst our players to each other, and to the coaches,” he said. “It’s up to every single player—doesn’t matter how much you make, or how long you’re been here or what your name is—to practice as hard as they can, to practice as a team, to work as a team."
Now you could say that, yes, now that he's making some serious spondulicks, he's calling himself out along with Ovechkin, Green, Semin, et al.  Well, you could say that, but in reality you can't, because Brooks Laich's leadership still isn't worth a Continental Dollar .  It just isn't.  If it was, why did the team have to go get Jason Arnott for the playoff run?  If he is truly worth the contract he just signed, why then the the trade for Troy Brouwer beforehand--who, for all intents and purposes is a younger and more intense version of Laich?

Sorry, but I think this is just another example of GMGM overpaying for what he was led to believe would be a cornerstone of the franchise much like Tom Poti. Can't blame Laich for going for the big contract when the time is ripe.  But is he worth it?  And more importantly will it pay dividends in the form of Stanley Cups down the road?  The answer to both questions is no. 

One last thing to consider--a leader often has to do something to help his team, no matter what. Looking back, Dale Hunter did it many times throughout his career.  Dale Hunter would have been worth this kind of a contract even in his declining years.  Brooks Laich isn't.  He's got his big contract...let him prove he's worth it.

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