The Capitals have been known for making big trades throughout their history. In 2004, longtime Capitals fan favorite Peter Bondra was traded to the Ottawa Senators for 21-year-old newbie Brooks Laich. He played his first full season in 2006 after playing up and down with the Hershey Bears in 2005 during the NHL Lockout. For the past 12 seasons, Laich has become a hometown favorite and is the only player that has been with the team as long as Alexander Ovechkin.
Laich has been one of the leaders in the locker room, a positive influence on younger players but he has also been outspoken about the team, especially after a loss. There are times that he has very positive things to say about the team and his teammates. He is never one to hide his opinion. For example, he was outspoken during the 2012 collective bargaining agreement negotiations saying, “At some point you have to dig your heels in and fight.” The players dug in and the NHL owners declared a lock-out.
No matter how he plays, Laich has endeared himself to fans. In April 2010, Washington Post reporter Dan Steinberg shared the story of how Brooks stopped on his way home (in his suit mind you) to help a woman and her 14-year old daughter change a tire—the same night the Caps were eliminated from the playoffs. Ever the gentleman! He has always been the private one—until he met Julianne Hough, his fiancé. He is now a bit of a celebrity, turning up at Hollywood events to support her (like “Grease Live!”) and is mentioned in numerous articles–including a rather revealing article in Cosmopolitan. He’s still just as humble as ever, often giving props to his teammates at every opportunity,.
There are those who think that his best years may be behind him. In 735 career NHL games, he has notched 323 points with 133 goals and 190 points. He recently passed Rod Langway’s eighth place hold on 726 games played in Caps franchise history.. From 2007 to 2012 he averaged 20 goals a season with a career high of 25 goals in the 2009/10 season. Perhaps more impressive was his assists average of 27.4 per season during that timeframe. For many years, Laich has been a solid player and key contributor to the Caps top nine players. Then 2012 brought injury. Between the lockout and numerous injuries, he only played nine games that shortened season.
He missed the better part of the 2012-2013 season for a number of injuries including a groin and shoulder injury. In February 2012, Laich took an awful hit in the Caps game against the Bruins and was assisted off the ice. Though he initially denied the injury, Russian Machine Never Breaks reported that he was seen later walking out on crutches and in a knee brace.
Unfortunately, this season has been rough for the Caps veteran. Although he has been much healthier this season, in 52 games he only has one goal and five assists as he centers the fourth line. He hasn’t scored since November 5 against the Boston Bruins. Despite the hope that this season would be his breakout season, the numbers prove otherwise.
So what is next for Brooksy? He has one year left on his contract with a lot of buzz that the Caps could trade him. The question remains: who would risk trading for an injury prone 32-year old points-declining player? Or will he finally break out and redeem himself with Washington fans? Only time will tell…
Written by Christopher Johnson and Maggie Marcum
Photos by Mel Abernethy, Brittney Marcum, and the NHL Capitals