CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2012-13 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Brooks Laich
Position: Center/Left Wing
Age: Turns 30 on June 23
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 204
Penalty Minutes: 6
Average Ice Time: 16:32
Contract Status: 4 years remaining on 6-year, $27 million contract [$4.5 million cap hit]
Strengths: When healthy Laich is probably the most versatile forward on the Caps roster, able to play all three forward positions and even take a shift on defense if needed. He’s excellent on faceoffs, strong on the penalty kill, creative on the power play and capable of scoring 20 goals and 50 points in a full NHL season. His physical strength, stamina and durability – he missed four games during the previous six seasons – are what sets Laich apart from his peers. But this season his body betrayed him.
Weaknesses: Calling it the most difficult season of his NHL career, Laich missed 39 of the Caps’ 48-game season with what he called a “groin-related” injury that required a “procedure” sometime in early April. He ended the season feeling a little like Jean Valjean, hoping the Caps would play one day more so that he could return to the lineup for Round 2 of the playoffs. A Game 7 loss to the Rangers ended those hopes. Laich might have been available for the post-season if he had undergone surgery earlier in the season but his attempts to return to skating were met with setbacks.
Memorable Moment: Despite his shortened season you can make the argument the Caps would not have made it into the playoffs without Laich. He returned to the lineup on March 19 in Pittsburgh, picked up a goal and an assist in back-to-back wins in Winnipeg and helped spark a 6-1-1 run that vaulted the Caps back into the playoff hunt. Overall, the Caps were 6-2-1 with Laich in the lineup and 21-16-2 without him.
2013-14 Expectations: Will Laich be a second-line left wing next season? A second-line center? A third-line center? It all depends on whether the Caps re-sign Mike Ribeiro. If Ribeiro comes back, Laich is the early favorite to play second-line left wing with Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer. If not, he’s likely to begin the season as the team’s second-line center. Either way, he’ll need to post at least 20 goals and 50 points to earn his big salary.