Earlier this week, Capitals left wing Jason Chimera was sked which former teammate he would root for in the Western Conference Finals, where Joel Ward and the San Jose Sharks and Troy Brouwer and the St. Louis Blues are tied at 1-1 entering tonight’s Game 3 in San Jose.
“Nobody,” Chimera said with a grin. “I’ll root for Wardo because Brouws already won it, so I’ll cheer for Wardo. It’s the easy answer, yeah.”
Brouwer, 30, won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and was traded to the Capitals a year later for a first-round draft pick (26th overall) that the Hawks used to select Phillip Danault.
Joel Ward arrived in Washington the same summer, signing a four-year, $12 million contract with the Caps.
But in four seasons together, Brouwer and Ward could not get the Caps where they find themselves now – in the conference finals.
Brouwer, who went to St. Louis in the trade that brought T.J. Oshie to the Caps, and Ward, who signed a three-year, $9.75 million deal with the Sharks, kept close tabs on the Caps throughout this season and were disappointed to see them bow to the Penguins in the second round.
“The Caps ran into a really good team in Pittsburgh," Brouwer told ESPN. "There's no bad teams left. Talking to a couple of guys in the (Capitals) organization, they hadn't played too many meaningful games down the stretch and maybe that was something that hurt them. While for both us and (the Sharks), we've been fighting hard right to the end, so we were in playoff mode right when the playoffs started and even before the playoffs started."
Ward probably would have remained in Washington if he had agreed to a two-year deal.
"I've got good friends over there -- you know I was pulling for them, for sure,” Ward told ESPN. “There are guys there that were good teammates on the ice but also great guys off of it. It's unfortunate for them to get bounced. It's just the learning curve again. It's a hard, hard league. A lot of parity. We're in a fortunate position here now and trying to capitalize on it."
Brouwer, who will become a free agent on July 1, said he has no ill will toward the Caps.
"I was pretty upset when I got traded just because I had such great friends -- not just on the team, but in the neighborhood,” he said. “Our community was great. My family loved being in Washington, we were comfortable there. But I understand they made a hockey trade. They're going to happen. I didn't see it coming at the time, but looking back, they were looking for a player to play with (Alex) Ovechkin and (Nicklas) Backstrom, a different kind of player, and I think Osh did an unbelievable job for that team this year. But it's been a good move for me, coming to a team that plays the style of play that I love playing. So I was able to fit in here and find a good spot, a good role early on."
Oshie (26 goals, 25 assists) outscored Brouwer (18 goals, 21 assists) in the regular season. In the playoffs Oshie notched six goals and four assists in 12 games for the Caps, while Brouwer has five goals and five assists in 16 games for the Blues.
Ward followed up a 21-goal, 22-assist regular season with two goals and five assists in his first 14 playoff games with the Sharks. He said Brouwer sent him a good luck note before the Blues and Sharks met, but he expects no special treatment from him when they line up against each other as the series unfolds.
“I had a chance to play with him four years straight and consider him a good buddy. During the regular season, if we're playing each other, we'll go for dinner or whatnot. But now, it's a little different. We're all here to compete, we're all here for the same reason.
"Obviously, he's not going to let up on me as much as I asked him to. But that's just the way it goes."