Following his first game as a Toronto Maple Leaf, Brooks Laich couldn’t sugar coat his disappointment over being traded from the first-place Capitals to the last-place Leafs.
“Bit of mixed emotions,” Laich told Toronto reporters after logging 12:27 of ice time in a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday night. “Having put in 12 years of service there, I was really hoping to chase down a Stanley Cup.”
Laich, 32, learned that wouldn’t happen when Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan informed him in a voicemail that he had been traded to the Leafs, along with defenseman Connor Carrick and a second-round draft pick, for winger Daniel Winnik and a fifth-round pick. Laich learned he had been traded late Sunday night and by Monday morning he was on a plane to Toronto.
Hours later, Laich was playing right wing on a third line with Colin Greening and Ben Smith. He managed one shot and was a minus-1 in the loss.
“Change is part of life,” Laich told reporters. “Playing in the NHL is a privilege, I still love the game, love the game more than ever.
“I am very excited to be here. I don’t want anybody to discount that. I plan to prove it to my teammates.”
At 32, Laich is the fourth-oldest player on the Maple Leafs roster and has been asked to lead a very young group of players, four of whom made their NHL debuts Monday night.
"I don’t know if I look at myself like that,” Laich said. “I just want to play alongside them. I remember when I was a young guy coming into the league and I remember what some of the veteran guys did for me and you never forget that. For the young guys I want to befriend them right away, make them feel comfortable and make sure they feel they have a voice."
One of those young players is Carrick, who made his Leafs debut Monday night, logging 19:13 of ice time while fishing out three hits and getting into a fight.
“He had some grease to him," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.
Laich and Carrick will return to Verizon Center on Wednesday night in what should be an emotional game for both players.
“Ain’t that something,” Laich told reporters. “(I) enjoyed laughs with the guys via text today that, ‘I’ll meet them in corner on Wednesday.’”