Yesterday's announcement that Rob Dibble would no longer be broadcasting Washington Nationals games didn't come as much of a surprise to most MASN viewers. Dibble's often style as an analyst was home-team slanted and often abrasive or controversial. As an experienced ex-player, his knowledge of the game often got in the way of being an unbiased commentator.
Dibble's short run for the Nats lies in stark contrast to the extended engagement of another Washington, DC sports color analyst: the Washington Capitals' own Craig Laughlin. Laughlin has now presided over the telestrator for Caps games for 20 years and managed to do so under several play-by-play men. He has survived despite being a frequent home-team sympathizer, possessing quite possibly the worst voice in broadcasting (sorry Craig, but it's a bit piercing), and frequently pimping his own business interests on-air.
Unlike Dibble, Laughlin is likable. His slang hockey terms are endearing to Caps fans, as are his cutesy nicknames for certain players (usually just shortening or adding a 'y' to the player's last name). His use of the telestrator has become proficient and his style is certainly that of a hockey coach; thoughtful and instructional. Laughlin seems to want his viewers to love the game of hockey as much as he does. His banter with play-by-play man Joe Beninati keeps the game interesting, even during the middle of a boring or blow-out game. Oh, and he was once a Cap, which goes a long way in connecting him to Caps teams of old (and the fans of those teams).
Once upon a time, Caps fans weren't the hockey-educated, statistics-minded group they are today. They were occasional viewers who needed someone to educate them on what they were seeing on the screen. They needed entertainment in the form of a goofy, munchkin voice with some hockey savvy. They needed Craig Laughlin.
Dibble didn't have to go far to find a good sports color man to emulate. By simply watching a few Caps games, he might have extended his stay in DC and endeared himself to Nats fans the way Laughlin has to us.