Brooks Laich says he doesn’t need any extra motivation from his coach or general manager or the scores of fans who want more production from the 32-year-old forward.
“I put more pressure on myself than anybody does,” said Laich, who has scored just 16 goals in his past three injury-riddled seasons.
“I’ve had good success here playing for this team and I want to get back to that level. I want to get back to leaving the rink and feeling the way I used to feel – not just being a part player but being a driving element on the team. I really feel my health is there, my legs are there.”
Laich’s career took a turn for the worse during the 2012-13 lockout when he injured his groin during the second year of his six-year, $27 million contract. He played in just nine games for the Caps that season and was limited to eight goals in 51 games the following season.
Last season, an early shoulder injury limited Laich to seven goals in 66 games, a far cry from the 20-goal, 48-point averages Laich put up for the Caps from 2007-12.
“We have expectations for him and he has high expectations,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He did a really good job with that (Eric) Fehr line last year and did a great job on the penalty kill. We just need a little more production from him I think. He’s been a 40-50-point guy. He still skates well enough and he still has enough skill that he wants to be a more productive guy and find the back of the net.”
Caps general manager Brian MacLellan was even more direct.
“We need more offense, more plays, more goals, more production from him,” MacLellan said. “He’s struggled through some injuries and we’ve been patient with him coming back and hopefully we get a little bit more out of him this year.”
To that end, Laich said he worked extensively on his hand skills over the summer, even reverting back to the curve on his stick that he used years ago.
“I still am fully confident in myself and my game,” Laich said. “That doesn’t change. I had a bumpy road with some injuries but this year coming to camp I’m 100 percent healthy. My legs feel great on the ice. I’m just excited to be back playing hockey and I want to get back to being the player that I expect of myself, the player I was known for around here and the player I want to be.”
Laich is starting off training camp centering a line with veteran left wing Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson and said he’s excited to go back to his roots as a centerman, even if it turns out to be a preseason experiment.
“I want a lot of responsibility,” he said. “I want to play with speed, shoot the puck, make my teammates better. I’ll have different assignments, but every night I want to have the mindset that even with defensive assignment I want to get shots and I want to get chances and ultimately produce. It’s a big year for myself. I have thought about it a lot and I have some goals in mind.”
Laich did not reveal those goals, but a 40-point season seems like a realistic one to set. But as the longest tenured professional athlete in D.C., there is another goal Laich is aching to achieve and that’s a Stanley Cup.
“There’s still a lot of hurt from last year,” he said. “I thought we really had a contending team and you’re one goal away from the conference final.
“Every year you exhale at the end of the season and when you come back it’s fresh air. There’s so much potential on this team. But we’re tired of talking about potential. We want to realize that and put results on the board.”
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