The Washington Capitals’ Brooks Laich should start the new season as the second-line center. Since 2009, the Caps employed eight different players to fill the position, so it’s clear they need stability in this department. Mike Ribeiro was the guy last season, but he left Washington for the Phoenix Coyotes on July 5. Newcomer Mikhail Grabovski is the probable second-liner but Laich should be in the frame.
Laich, 30, is an excellent player in any forward position and has proved that with the Caps where he’s frequently utilized at left wing. Changing him to center for the entire upcoming campaign won’t cause any heartburn—he’s a team player and he’ll shine as a center in the NHL 2013-14 season.
“We had him there in the playoffs a couple of years ago, liked it a lot,” General Manager George McPhee told the Washington Post in July. “He’s a natural center, grew up playing center, and we think it’s time to play him there.”
High praise indeed, although McPhee had coach Adam Oates inquire about the possibility of landing Vincent Lecavalier in June (he subsequently landed a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers), and inking Ribeiro to a new deal wasn’t too far-fetched in McPhee’s mind either. However, the GM signed Grabovski and touted him as the number two center — but why not Laich? He’s had a remarkably solid career with the Caps.
Since 2003-04, Laich has played 565 games for Washington. He’s scored 117 goals, 115 assists and has a plus/minus rating of plus-8. He was ever-present during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, racking up 90 points over that time span, including 44 goals.
However, Laich’s best season by far was the Capitals’ 2009-10 campaign. With 25 goals, 30 assists, a plus/minus rating of plus-16 and 222 minutes in the penalty box as he emerged as a star player that year. In fact, some mentioned him in the same breath as the Caps’ three certified stars: Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom. Laich deserves the mention—he’s just as good.
Laich has fully recovered from a persistent groin injury which sidelined him for all but nine games last season. This is good news for the Capitals as he is a consistent player and a guy who garners respect on the ice, is never afraid to drop the gloves and never gives up.
Look for Laich to have one of his best seasons in a Capitals uniform this term.