From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2009-10 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up, Brooks Laich.
#21 / Center / Washington Capitals
Jun 23, 1983
NHL Seasons: 5
'08-'09 Rink Wrap: 7.88 rating
'07-'08 Rink Wrap: 8.38 rating
Key Stat: Laich's twelve power play goals trailed only Alex Ovechkin's thirteen for the team lead, and was good enough for 18th in the NHL.
Interesting Stat: This season marked the first campaign of his career in which Laich finished with a positive plus-minus rating.
The Good: Laich continued his steady development into a consistent point producer, posting his third straight 20+ goal season and the fifth highest point total on the team. He raised his points per game from 0.65 to 0.76, blocked more shots than any other forward not named Nicklas Backstrom, and established new career highs in goals, assists, points, power play goals, plus-minus and shots on goal. Once again counted on in all situations, Laich registered one of the lowest GAON/60 on the PK while providing a net presence for the League's most dominant regular season power play. Naturally he carried that "go to the bakery" mentality into his even-strength play as well, with the third shortest average shot length at five-on-five.
And lest we forget the best part of Brooks Laich's season - the way he ended it, classy as ever.
The Bad: Despite becoming a "jack of all trades" for the Caps, Laich still had some difficulty fending off opponents at even strength, with the fourth highest GAON/60 five-on-five despite having a relatively even match-up most of the time. He continued to struggle with consistency, often going long stretches in between goals
Worse, however, was his performance in the playoffs. Two of the aspects Laich brought to the table in the regular season were his secondary scoring and his work on the power play. In the playoffs, however, he put up just two goals (although he did provide the lone tally in Game 7) and, like just about everyone else on the team, was held without a goal on the power play. He also finished a -2 for the series and was on the ice for 3 of the 7 power play goals scored by Montreal while leading the team in shorthanded ice time per game. His performance through seven games seemed to be lacking some of tenacity and net presence that usually made him so tough to play against, in a series that could have used both.
The Vote: Rate Laich below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: Heading into a contract year, do you expect more of a steady upward progression, a dramatic leap or more of the same from Laich? Considering the continued gap at center and Laich's ability to play with multiple linemates, what do you see his role being next year?