Brooks Laich – The One That Got Away

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All teams have those players in their past.  You know, the one who your team drafted, but subsequently gave up on or underestimated their abilities.  Your team traded him away for a draft pick or for an asset at the trade deadline.

Well for my money, that player is Washington Capitals’ centre Brooks Laich.  Without much fanfare, Ottawa drafted the Saskatchewan native in the 6th round in the 2001 NHL draft.  Subsequent to his draft year, he put up 2 great seasons in the Western League with the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Seattle Thunderbirds.  In his last junior season he scored 41 goals and 94 points in 60 games, impressive totals for the Western League.  He also played for Team Canada at the 2003 World Juniors in Halifax, getting 6 points in 6 games.

After turning pro in 2003, he opened his career in Binghamton and even made his NHL debut with the Senators.  After putting up 33 points in 44 games with Binghamton, the NHL trade deadline was upon the Senators.  GM John Muckler felt his club was close to being a title contender, and he went looking for a scoring winger.  He found one in 36-year-old Peter Bondra of the Capitals.  The cost was minor league rookie Brooks Laich and a 2nd round pick.  At the time, fans in Ottawa were overjoyed at the prospect of adding a 2 time 50-goal scorer to the lineup, that they didn’t pay much attention to the young player they were giving up.  Bondra didn’t live up to expectations (14 points in 23 games, 0 pts in 7 playoff games) and that was the extent of his Ottawa career.

Laich, on the other hand, has blossomed into a legitimate 2nd line centre with the Capitals, and can even fill in on the first line.  He can play power play, kill penalties and play a regular shift.  Although a natural centre, he can play any forward position when required, and has also been seen manning the point on the power play.  In only his sixth full season, he has already scored 20 or more goals three times and has an outside shot at doing it for a 4th straight time this season.  Mike Fisher didn’t get 20 until his sixth full season. Laich’s salary is a very reasonable $2.06 million (although due a raise as a UFA this summer).  If Mike Fisher had been making that amount as Ottawa’s 2nd/3rd line centre (as opposed to $4.2 million), he might still be a Senator today.

The reason for my lamentation of this deal is that Laich scored his 100th career goal the other day with the Capitals.  He is a player that Ottawa might target in the off-season if he is still unsigned, as a Free Agent acquisition who will not break the bank.  Laich has the 3rd most points (230) of any player drafted by Ottawa in the 2000’s (behind Spezza and Vermette).

For me, Brooks Laich will remain the one that got away from the Ottawa Senators.