Brooks Laich re-signed with Washington today, three days before he could have become a free agent, ensuring that the Caps will have another piece of their core under contract for six more years.
Not surprisingly, the 28-year-old forward from Saskatchewan is upbeat about the Caps despite their four consecutive springs of playoff flops.
“There was never a consideration to go anywhere else,” said Laich, the oldest and least accomplished member of the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin-Green-Laich quintet around whom Washington’s franchise has revolved for four years. “If you look at some of the other (top) teams like San Jose and Detroit, their (best) players are in their late 20s or early 30s. The core of our team is still young. We’re still getting better. If (we) can keep it together, we have a chance to win championships for the next 10 years not just the next two or three years.”
With Laich, Backstrom and Ovechkin signed long-term and goalie Michal Neuvirth and defensemen Karl Alzner and John Carlson also not going anywhere, the Caps will retain their nucleus unless general manager George McPhee deals perennial postseason underachievers Semin and Green this summer.
Standing pat – other than last week’s trade with Chicago for versatile forward Troy Brouwer — seems counter-intuitive, especially with the five core forwards all coming off frustrating regular seasons and/or playoffs.
And for all their young talent and regular season excellence, when it really counts, coach Bruce Boudreau’s high-flying Caps haven’t won anything. Instead, they have been the NHL’s biggest playoff disappointments with Game 7 losses at home in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and a stunning four-game sweep by Tampa Bay this past year.
So even the ever-optimistic Laich knows that it’s time for him and his teammates to make some magic with something on the line other than yet another Southeast Division title or a President’s Trophy for finishing first overall.
“It’s time for us to take the next step,” acknowledged Laich, noting that the Caps have yet to play their best in postseason. “We’ve got to have accountability to each other and to the coaches. We’ve got to adhere to the game plan and work as a team. If we see a teammate not doing things we want, we have to rein him in.”
Fine words, but we won’t know if those lessons have really been learned for nearly another year.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.