It’s well known around these parts that I’m a fan of Mike Knuble. Perhaps the entry on the night of his 1000th game will jog your memory if you did not recall that fact. Mike Knuble is OUTLANDISHLY important to my life.
There is one friend with whom it is inviolate tradition to begin every evening of joyous celebration with a toast “To Mike Knuble!” and may the gods strike us if we forget.
Another friend who knows nothing of hockey whatsoever, but has committed to memory that, as I once said to her, “I cannot be friends with anyone who does not know who Mike Knuble is,” and henceforth has made mention to me, “Annie? Uh, Mike Knuble? I remember that, but why?”
And a third, who, when I said “MIKE KNUBLE GONE WHY” replied “OH GOD NO” despite having no interest in hockey herself.
To those reactions, let me add:
This kills me. I understand Mike Knuble may not be the ideal of the offensively minded, anti-Hunter Capitals, who would like a return to the original Boudreau-style “you score five, we’ll score six” team, which I know is what Leonsis wants even if no one will say it, but he had a place on that style team much more than he had on any other. He fit on an Ovechkin or equivalent line, even if he didn’t have the offensive chops himself — he took someone’s chance and put away the rebound, or deflected it, or confused the goalie enough that he (the goalie) would commit a penalty. 8 straight seasons of 20+ goal-scoring is not a coincidence, and the fact that he didn’t manage 20 goals under Hunter isn’t either. He belonged on the “first” line, which I put in quotes because I’m not really sure what Hunter considered the first line. The line that scored goals, that’s what I mean. That’s what Knuble helped to do. He may have been a big body presence in front of the net, but he wasn’t Jay Beagle and he wasn’t a 3rd or 4th line grinder who was best put to use as lump of flesh blocking shots. Just because he wasn’t graceful doesn’t mean he wasn’t a 1st liner.
Not to mention his veteran presence and the fact there was a small but vocal group advocating his choice as captain. And regardless of the choice, he served in a captainly function anyway — see the speech he gave during 24/7. Ovechkin couldn’t have given that speech, English skills notwithstanding. Everyone looked up to him, regardless of what their particular style was. The Brooks Laich types (like, say, Brooks Laich) had to take him as a god, who got to where he was through a demon combination of luck but mostly pure hard work. Just because he ended up on Joe Thornton and Alex Ovechkin lines through happenstance doesn’t mean he didn’t work to make the most of them. He still talks about the fire driving him to compete.
Which is what makes this so sad to me. If he were retiring to spend time with his family, I would wave him goodbye with the combination of sadness and dignity befitting an Elf departing for the Grey Havens. But GMGM has chosen not to sign him again. Why? I’m sure he would have accepted 1 or 1.5 mil, which I think is reasonable. We’re not really looking to conserve cap space — we’re generally up against the cap, but if we’re willing to work with the Neuvirth/Holtby tandem then all we’re really looking for is the second line center. I suppose GMGM is just enacting the stringent approach I have always wanted to see, and yet rebel against the moment he actually tries to perform. Shame on me.
Against all logic Mike Knuble has become an emblem of the Capitals — at least in my sphere. None shall miss him more than I. May he play as long as he wants.