He’s been a Capital for 13 years and in that time he’s become the longest-tenured Washington pro athlete and a fan favorite. He’s been part of many special moments in the Capitals’ recent history and he’s done many things for the DC community. This of course, is Capitals forward Brooks Laich.
Acquired by the Capitals in 2003 along with a second-round draft pick for franchise legend Peter Bondra, Laich is one of the team’s hardest working players and one of its best leaders. Once a 20-plus goal scorer and 50 or more point producer, Laich’s role has diminished to a fourth-line forward; a far cry from what he was just a few years ago.
In his best days, the 32-year old Laich was capable of scoring 20 or more goals and close to 60 points. However, an injury sustained during the lockout of 2012-13 has derailed Laich’s once-productive career. Laich’s best season came during the 2009-10 season, when he registered 25 goals, 34 assists, and 59 points in 78 games played; he also averaged 18:17 minutes of ice time. After the 2010-11 season, when he had 16 goals, 32 assists, and 48 points, Laich signed a six-year, $27 million contract extension; the contract carried an annual cap hit of $4.5 million.
Just five years later, Laich is now playing on the team’s fourth-line, averaging just 10:49 of ice time, and has just one goal and five points in 44 games played. These poor stats are the result of an unlucky groin injury that hurt Laich’s career. During the lockout of the 2012-13 season, Laich was enjoying a nice stint with the Kloten Flyers of the Swiss League (18 points in 19 games) when he suffered a groin injury that required surgery; which resulted in him playing just nine games in the NHL. After multiple setbacks in his recovery, Laich finally returned to full health in 2014-15, only missing 16 games due to a minor shoulder injury. He finished with seven goals and 20 points in 66 games played.
While some Caps fans want Laich traded or buried in the AHL, there are things to consider. If Laich had not gotten injured, there’s a chance he could still be a 20-goal, 40+ point producer playing on a very talented Capitals team. Secondly, Laich is not seeing as much ice time as he did and even if the Caps wanted to trade him, there would be few NHL General Managers who’d want to take on a $4.5 million cap hit for a player that hasn’t scored more than 10 goals in four years. Laich will likely finish out his contract (through the 2016-17 season) with the Caps and it’s fair to assume at this point, he’ll be a fourth-liner until he leaves Washington. Caps Nation should enjoy the longtime fan favorite while they can.