Multiple sources have claimed that Washington Capitals’ General Manager George McPhee confirmed that Brooks Laich will be the second-line center for the Caps next year.
I agree with this move for a couple reasons. For one, this summer’s free agent market, or what’s left of it, isn’t that enticing for teams in search of a second-line center. With Vincent Lecavalier snapped up by Philadelphia, Mikhail Grabovski is the name that is being tossed around the most. Grabovski is a fine player despite coming off his worst season as a pro (which really wasn’t his fault), but the Caps don’t want to get caught up paying a role player more than he’s worth. Hopefully, finally, Evgeny Kuznetsov will come over and join the Capitals a year from now. He is the solution to second-line center for the Caps, and Washington would be wise to continue to be patient as it comes to fruition. The plan all along, according to owner Ted Leonsis and McPhee, has been to establish the backbone of this franchise through the draft. Kuznetsov is potentially another big building block to go along with the rest of the core, and the Caps should not get caught up in a bidding war for immediate satisfaction.
Secondly, I really like Brooks Laich. His IQ and his work ethic combine to make him a very trustworthy top 6 forward, as every Caps fan has realized over the years. I believe, back during last season, I remember head coach Adam Oates talk about how he sees Laich as a natural left winger in the ideal scenario. This, if I remember correctly, is because of Laich’s aggressive forecheck and responsible defense. Adam Oates forgets more about hockey than I’ll ever know, so I won’t even begin to challenge that assessment. However, I do think, and Oates probably/most definitely agrees, that Laich’s top hockey traits make him a very competent centerman, especially on a second line. With Laich being perhaps the forward I trust most on this team, I am certainly okay with him playing in all four corners of the rink, which is the noble responsibility of a center. Maybe I’m even delighted. I can’t remember. The injury to Laich last season was such a depressingly bleak story-line at the time that I blocked it from memory. Having Laich back in any capacity next year will be a delicious treat for everyone involved with the Caps. He will basically be our de facto free agent signing of the summer, and I think he will fit in the 2C slot better than Mikhail Grabovski would.
With this mindset, why would the Caps want to reach and hope for a role player in free agency and hope that he’ll turn into something greater? It appears McPhee is avoiding the war for the scraps of free agency, and is opting to stick to his guns and use his draft gems of past and future to answer the Caps’ problems. Good on you, George.