The Washington Capitals have been pretty silent for the most part. Which means that the front office is content to let Adam Oates have at least one more year, and one with a full season, with the group that he took over in the 2013 season. There are plenty of pros and cons that come along with that.
The Capitals caught fire in the second half of the season and grabbed a division title, not long after getting off to a miserable start to the year. But what they did, they did with Mike Ribeiro as a second line center and he had a fantastic year. The same can’t be said heading into the new year.
Ribeiro has parted ways with the Capitals since free agency began, despite his desire to return. Which means that the Caps will be forced to find an option to replace him in the middle of that second line. That search has apparently already ended, as Brooks Laich will take over in the middle.
Laich spent pretty much all of the 2013 season on the shelf with an injury, appearing in only nine games, finishing the year with four points, including a goal. It’s pretty clear that from a pure offensive skill standpoint, that second line center role could take a bit of a step back with Laich in there.
Ribeiro is among the best playmakers in the game. Laich is perfectly capable, but doesn’t have that skill. Still, the Capitals will be just fine with Laich in the middle there, as long as he’s healthy. He’s a three-time 20-goal scorer and has finished with at least 30 assists three time in his career.
Laich obviously is not the talent that Ribeiro is from a pure offensive standpoint. But in his own way, he’ll be successful in the middle of the second unit. He brings size to the middle, he’s better in the faceoff circle, and he can play the physical game. He won’t put up outlandish numbers, but the Capitals will be just fine with Brooks Laich instead of Mike Ribeiro.