Life after the Caps: Brendan Witt

Life after the Caps: Brendan Witt
August 14, 2014, 4:00 pm
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(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Have you ever caught yourself thinking of an old Caps' favorite and wondered, what ever happened to that guy?

Hockey, like all professional sports, is a tough business. Team legends can spend many years in one city but find themselves looking for a new team near the end of their careers. Other players are brought in to bolster the squad but are let go through free agency or trades just as they began to establish themselves in Washington.

The hockey world, however, does not end when players leave D.C. Here’s a look at some former Caps and how they fared after their time in Washington.

Brendan Witt

Played for Caps: 1995 - 2006

Stats with Caps: 626 GP, 20 G, 63 A, 83 Pts, Postseason: 31 GP, 4 G, 0 A, 4 Pts

A quintessential stay at home defensemen, Witt played with the Caps for 11 seasons protecting the defensive zone with crushing authority.

Witt scored at the Karl Alzner snail's pace, but the thankfully the Caps did not rely on him for his scoring touch. It was a different era of the game in which defensemen like Witt were more the norm. He was never afraid to drop the gloves or play physical hockey and led the league in hits in 2000-01. Witt still ranks fifth in franchise history with 1035 penalty minutes.

The Caps drafted Witt in 1993, but he did not make his NHL debut until 1995. He asserted himself among his teammates quickly and was even named a co-captain in 2001 with Steve Konowalchuk. Konowalchuk would be named the full captain a season later, but Witt remained a team leader.

Finally, after watching the roster get completely torn down, Witt requested a trade to a contender in the summer of 2005 just as the NHL returned from the lockout. George McPhee honored that request in March of 2006 and traded him to Nashville. Witt yielded a nice return despite being a 31-year-old veteran and the Caps received a first-round draft pick and forward Kris Beech.

Witt added instant grit to Nashville, but little else and the Predators failed to live up to their "contender" status getting eliminated by San Jose in five games. His time in Nashville should always be remembered, however, for the game in which Scott Parker tried to climb over the glass to fight him.

The Islanders signed Witt to a three-year contract in 2006 and he responded with the best offensive season of his career. He scored a career best 13 assists and 14 points. Fourteen whole points! Again, teams weren't interested in him for his scoring.

Witt was given a two-year extension, but wear and tear seemed to finally catch up with him and his ice time and effectiveness began to dwindle. The Islanders tried to shop him around, but after finding no potential suitors for the veteran defenseman, he was placed on waivers and sent to AHL Bridgeport. New York would buyout the final year of his contract following that season, signaling the end of his career.

Never a flashy offensive player, Witt still made headlines as a tough guy. He caught the ire of the NHL in 2009 and was suspended for five games after he elbowed Niklas Hagman in the head.

If you really want to talk tough though, how's this: in 2009, Witt was hit by a car and did not miss New York's game that night. I'm not talking about a minor fender bender, I mean physically struck by a car.

The Islanders were in Philadelphia to play the Flyers and Witt was struck by a car as it was making an illegal turn. Witt told reporters he instinctively tried to jump onto the hood of the car before being thrown to the ground. After a few profanities, Witt dusted himself off and told onlookers he had a game to play. I can only assume a slow clap followed.

A bruising defensman who was always willing to drop the gloves and never willing to admit when he was injured, Witt was the embodiment of old school hockey.