Throughout the coming weeks, CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Brooks Laich
Position: Left wing/Center
Age: 31 [turns 32 June 23]
Ht/Wt: 6-2, 197
Penalty minutes: 24
Average Ice Time: 14:43
Playoff games: 14
Penalty minutes: 0
Average Ice Time: 11:56
Contract Status: 2 years remaining on 6-year, $27 million contract RFA [2015-16 salary: $4 million; cap hit: $4.5 million]
Strengths: When he was averaging more than 20 goals and close to 50 points a season from 2008-11, it was hard to imagine Laich anywhere but on the Caps’ top two lines. But after missing parts of two seasons with groin issues, Laich’s greatest contribution to the 2014-15 Capitals came on the penalty kill, where he led all Caps forwards with an average ice time of 1:44 while shorthanded. Laich said he felt as strong physically as he has since first injuring his groin during the 2012 lockout. “I didn’t put one ice bag on my groin all year and that’s the truth,” Laich said. “I had no issues whatsoever with skating or with my groin.” Laich missed 15 of the Caps’ first 21 games with a shoulder injury but played in all but one game the remainder of the season, sitting out as a healthy scratch on March 3. He finished the season with seven goals, his lowest full-season output since his rookie season with the Caps.
Room for improvement: Quite frankly, the Capitals need more production from someone carrying a $4.5 million cap hit. Laich’s ice time dropped from 14:43 in the regular season, his lowest in seven years, to just 11:56 in the playoffs, also the lowest in his career and well off the 21:54 he logged in 2011. By the end of the playoffs Laich was playing on a fourth line and killing penalties. For that to change, Laich will need to either change teams or improve on his offensive skills. Laich said he will spend this summer working on his stickhandling skills and his shot, which he hopes will result in a greater role offensively.
Memorable Moment: Laich’s only goal of the playoffs came in Game 5 against the Islanders. With the Caps clinging to a 2-1 lead early in the third period and looking to take a 3-2 edge in the series, Laich looped around the New York net, fed Jason Chimera for a shot and pounced on the rebound, snapping a rising shot over Jaro Halak for a 3-1 lead. The Caps went on to win beat the Isles 5-1.
Quotable: “My neighbors were out there watching practice and two young girls came up to me and said they need to do some community service for health class and they asked me if they could shovel my driveway. You tell me I don’t love playing in this city?” – Laich on March 4 after sitting out a game as a healthy scratch
2015-16 Expectations: Don’t be surprised if Laich’s name comes up in trade talks around the NHL draft later this month. The Caps are looking to move salary in an effort to sign their restricted and unrestricted free agents, along with acquiring a top-line right wing, and Laich could draw some interest from a young team looking for leadership. If Laich returns, Barry Trotz will want more offense out of the soon-to-be 32-year-old forward. Twenty goals and 50 points might be a stretch, but 15 and 40 should be attainable.