taught me patience with young, still developing hockey players, but not right away. First, there was my constant screaming at him the first year he played 73 games for the Caps in 2005-2006. He's awful, I thought constantly, berating a 22-year old that played 10 games in the AHL that year. I wasn't the only one. The howls from the message boards and long time Caps fans rang out often about Laich that year.
This happened about the time that my Caps hockey fandom went into overdrive. I've been a Caps fan forever, but that year a certain Russian hockey player became a Capital, and I couldn't contain my excitement about the Caps. I understood Ted Leonsis's and GMGM's plan about rebuilding and developing from within, but I'd been waiting for this team to win a Cup for 31-years at that point. I was and still am impatient for that elusive Cup.
The year of Laich's mostly full time debut was the year Alex Ovechkin won the Calder Cup and made the NHL first team all stars. Although Ovie shined with his 53 goals, including "The Goal", the Caps were awful finishing in the cellar of the Southeast division with 70 points.
Brooks's second year he only had 18 points, but looked a little bit more relaxed playing in the bigs. In 2007-2008 he had his breakout year under replacement coach, Bruce Boudreau, who had coached Laich in Hershey. He broke the 20-goal mark with 21 goals and he also had 14 assists for 34 points. That year, Brooksie became the subject of fan adulation on the message boards in a legendary thread that went on for hundreds of pages extolling the mythic like powers of the hockey player named Brooks Laich.
This season, so far, Brooksie is playing like a man possessed, averaging 2 points per game and starting with a 2-goal game that garnered him that night's second star. He appeared briefly on the NHL's goal leader board to the delight of Caps fans. He plays a gritty, muck it up game and the Caps desperately need that. I see him only getting better because he's extremely competitive and plays hard every night. Brooks will also get to learn from veteran Mike Knuble, who plays a similar game, and that will be invaluable for him.
Brooksie, at age 26, is already a leader on the ice and off. He leads by example, by playing hard and by working hard. I'm looking forward to watching him play this season.
And, thank you Brooksie, because I'm much more patient with young developing players now. Okay, not with all of them! I'm only human.
Caps host the New York Rangers tomorrow night. No doubt they'll be looking for revenge after Sergei Fedorov sent them home last playoffs.
Let's go Caps!
Labels: Brooks Laich, NHL, Washington Capitals