As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals. As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is center Brooks Laich, who finished his ninth NHL season, and ninth with the Capitals, on this past year's campaign.
Season Summary: In the first season of a new six-year contract, Laich, like most of the Capitals, experienced a drop off in point production, scoring seven less points this year than last. He also managed to score his points rather consistently, though he did go through some rather long stretches with little point production in the winter months. Overall, he had 16 goals, 25 assists, a minus-eight rating, and 24 penalty minutes while playing in all 82 games for the second consecutive season and playing all positions up front. His puck possession numbers, however, were terrible; he checked in with a -7.49 corsi, the third worst among Caps forwards. It should be noted, however, that he also faced the toughest competition among those forwards. Grade: B
Role Play: With a $4.5 million cap hit, Brooks Laich is overpaid. But he is also an incredibly versatile player, and to me, he filled his role admirably for what was expected of him at the beginning of the season. Playing third line center, second line wing, second line center, and first line center, Laich played tough shutdown minutes at even strength and was also one of the Caps' prime penalty killers. His point production was modest, but again, similar to his career averages. And despite his occasional poorly-timed remarks to the media, Laich continued to be a leader on and off the ice and show why he was important for the Caps to keep around...despite his big contract. In addition, there is something to be valued about his remarkable durability, as Laich has not missed a game in the last two seasons and only two games total in the last five seasons. Grade: B+
Playoffs: Laich played in all 14 playoff games, recording two goals and five assists to tie for third in postseason scoring. He also had a plus-one rating a six penalty minutes. His corsi stayed terrible at -26.12, the worst on the team, but again he did it again against top competition among forwards. Overall, I was a fan of Laich's postseason - he was consistent, played smart, and though his puck possession was terrible, he played against top players every shift and blocked a lot of shots in a system that is anti puck possession. Plus, he was able to score more consistently. Grade: B+
Future Potential: Signed for five more years at a cap hit of $4.5 million, the 28 year old Laich has probably had his best season, if not close to it. But I see no reason that he will not continue to put up good defensive numbers, be very versatile, and play a lot of tough minutes for the foreseeable future, especially next season. Laich has never been a sexy player, nor will he ever be one. He's solid and unspectacular, and he will continue to be. It's not awesome and it won't blow your doors off, but there is something to be said for it. That said - it will be interesting to see if he plays more center or wing next season - particularly if the Capitals get a center in the offseason. Grade: B
The next report card will feature winger Alexander Semin.
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