Friday, May 16, 2008

2007-08 Rink Wrap: Brooks Laich

From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every player* who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. Next up, Brooks Laich.

Contract Status: RFA; 2007-08 salary of $725,000
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 25
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 3+
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 82 games played, 21 goals, 16 assists, -3, 35 PIMs
Key Stat: Laich was one of three Cap 20-goal scorers.
Interesting Fact: Superman wears Brooks Laich pajamas. So does Gary Roberts.
Where to Find More Brooks Laich Facts: Here.

The Good: Laich's breakout 2007-08 featured his highest single-season goal total since juniors, tied his single-season high in points as a pro and set a personal best in assists in an NHL season, but didn't really kick into high gear until February, as he had 13 goals and nine assists in the season's final two-plus months (including a span of ten goals in 12 games from February 20 through March 14). He was one of four Caps to play all 82 games, was third on the team in goals and power play goals (with 8), led the squad in shorties (with 2) and was tied for second in game-winners (with 4), all thanks in no small part to a team-best 17.2 shooting percentage and despite taking the fewest shots per game of any season in his NHL career. Laich protected the puck well, posting the fourth best giveaway-per-minute ratio on the team, was 17th among all NHL forwards in blocked shots, and was the only forward on the team other than Sergei Fedorov to average a combination of more than ten even strength minutes, two-and-a-half shorthanded minutes and one power play minute per game. He finished strong, too, with a goal and five assists in seven playoff games. Oh, and Laich doesn't read books - he stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

The Bad: Laich had the third-worst plus/minus per sixty minutes of ice time of any forward on the team (fourth worst overall) and won just 47.1% of his 596 faceoffs. Opposing teams had more shots on goal per sixty when Laich was on the ice than when any other forward other than Chris Clark or Matt Cooke was (and you question how much those guys' numbers should even count here), and he's such an intimidating force that it took thousands of fans more than half the season to summon up the courage to go see him play live (a fact reflected in the team's game-by-game attendance numbers).

The Vote: Rate Laich on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential 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 Questions: How much (dollars and years) would you be willing to give Laich to keep him in D.C.? What role do you see Laich playing on the 2008-09 Caps? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?

If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.

* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.

42 comments:

Natty Bumpo said...

breakout year is right. far exceeded expectations. my second 10! (first: huet.)

also, a quick word of praise for JP: love, love the rink wraps. and damn, these things are like CLOCKWORK! 6:38am every day. great feature--no small accomplishment to keep me hooked on hockey a full month since the caps hung up their skates. my third 10 goes to ovechkin, my fourth to japers' rink.

JP said...

Thanks, Natty, and you've caught on to one of my little, um, idiosyncrasies (or superstitions). Most of my posts, especially the morning ones, are posted at "38." My alarm clock goes off at 5:38 every morning, etc.

Those used to be 37s. Sad.

Kim said...

I gave Brooks a 9. Was considering a 10, based on the rules. There is no way that I ever expected Brooks to have the breakout season he did. I was so impressed with the offense he provided as well as his penalty kill role.

However, what really impressed me was Brooks' overall presence (especially in the post Thanksgiving era). He emerged as a pretty good leader and provided some of the best media quotes. His bank, bread, goal quote was priceless.

I do not know how much the Caps should sign him for, but they need him back. You can see the chemistry he has with the team and I think he has real leadership potential as well.

Rage said...

I gave the kid a 10. Coming into the year we were expecting him to be the last one cut or a < 10 minutes a game, 4th liner. He ended up scoring 20 and playing important minutes on a bunch of lines.

I could not have expected any more from the kid.

Oh, and he's WILLING TO STAND IN FRONT OF THE NET ON THE POWERPLAY!

JP said...

I gave him an 8, partially b/c I knew he had the potential to knock in 20 some day. Maybe that day came a little sooner than I'd have thought, but it has been there.

His leadership is undeniable, quotes indispensible and mackin' style unstoppable.

But he needs to get better 5-on-5 for me to give him a 9 and needs to bury the can-opener on an in-game breakaway for a 10.

Oh, and Apple pays Brooks Laich 99 cents every time he listens to a song.

NS said...

gave him a 9.

everything has more or less already been said. only thing i'd like to add is that i am pretty nervous/wary that Brooks might pull a Pettinger and stink it up after this break out year.

remember all those high expectations we had for Pettinger? yeah, didn't work out so well.

future "A" on his jersey, depending on how long he stays.

the Salary is going to be difficult. $1.25-1.5? 1.75 tops?

JP said...

It's not even 9:00 and y'all aren't getting anything new until early afternoon, so you'd better hope that not everything has been said. ;)

I think you're right on in the $1.5M range. Question is, for how long? I would think GMGM would sign him to a one-year deal to make sure he's not gonna "pull a Princess" and still have him as an RFA again next year, but I could see the team committing a bit more to him.

Mike in SF said...

There's been a lot of talk that one of Laich's best assets is his flexibility -- his ability to play every forward position and well.

Nonsense. Brooks Laich plays hockey. Everyone else adjusts their play around him.

JP said...

+1

More Laich-related goodies here, here, here and here (all YouTubes).

~Mark said...

I gave him an 8...the lower 8 that is. Brooksie finished strong, and showed shades of Chris Clark's younger brother. The biggest question is, was this a guy who got caught up in a surging team and raised his game for the stretch, or has Brooks matured into the player he can be? Hate to be a cynic, but I've seen this story too many times before. I agree with the shorter term for Brooks, to give him a chance to answer these questions.

Business aside, I love the "bigger than his body" play he brings. I'd love him to become a role-playing, 20 goal a year guy, who will hoist the Cup one day in DC!

NS said...

i can't see them signing him for more than 3 years.

NS said...

oh, and that OnFrozenBlog article you have posted today (The Cost of Becoming Competitive), if freakin scary. Its going to get pretty tight under the cap.

NS said...

anyone know a good way to cleanly export the figures from nhlnumbers.com spreadsheets to excel? or some other program?

Tyler said...

There were positive surprises yes, but still: 21 scored under 40 points. He's still a third liner. $1.5M tops, 2/$2.7-2.8M would be fine too.

JP said...

@ NS - I think NHLSCAP.com does a better job on some things than NHLNumbers.com (though very similar), and I think their tables are easier to cut and paste into excel, too.

exwhaler said...

Brooks got probably my only 10 for this. The man was playing for a job in spring training--and he became the Chris Clark, 20-goal-scorer replacement. Brooks Laich: More badass than Chuck Norris, Samuel Jackson, and Toshiro Mifune facing down an army of ninjas and rednecks.

I would think a Matt Pettinger-breakout contract would be in order for Laich.

JP said...

Agreed with exwhaler on the Pettinger-like contract. Here's a little more on that.

Pettinger made $900k in 06-07, $1M last year and $1.1M next year - a cap hit of $1M in each of the three years - after a 20-goal/18-assist/minus-2 season. Those are very similar to Laich's numbers, though on a much worse team.

As for penalty killing, it's hard to quantify, of course, but Laich got 2:35 of PK time this year (3rd among Fs, not including Laing), while Petty got 2:47 (4th among Fs, not including Gordon who only played 25 games) in his breakout year.

So add in inflation and the fact that Laich was a year younger than Princess was (though Petty was a 2nd round pick, which is a better pedigree than Laich has) and it's hard to see Laich getting any more than $1.25M per year and any more than three years. And, as I've said, I think a shorter deal for maybe a ruble or two more is more likely.

terpz said...

JP, i agree with natty, the rink wraps rule! But you forgot one of the goods for Brooksy. His name lends to all sorts of "witty" Headlines and posters in the stands. "Laich him? We love him!" (Or does that go in the bad?)

Rob Iola said...

He needs to stop leading with his right (or his chin)...

Other than that he's solid 9 - numbers aside he's a solid heart and soul kinda guy...

b.orr4 said...

"Most of my posts, especially the morning ones, are posted at "38." My alarm clock goes off at 5:38 every morning, etc."

Jesus, you sound like Hurley. Since we're on the numbers jag, I gave Brooks a nine (only Ovie gets a ten). He so far exceeded my expectations, it wasn't even close. For him to get to ten, he'd have to move into the 30 goal category, something I'm not sure he's capable of doing. Nevertheless, at his age he's got a very bright future ahead of him and could be a Kris Draper type of player for many years to come.

breed16 said...

I gave him an 8. I don't like the below par face-off percentage nor the shots-allowed-per-sixty stat. But he showed grit, hands, leadership, and his most underrated attributes: skating and speed.

And it's those pluses that separate him from Princess in my mind. I think the comparisons are off base; Princess and Brooks are two different players with similar stats.

But since stats make the salary, $1.3 - $1.5 million for two to three years seems about right.

JP said...

Pettinger had 26 more hits in 11 fewer games in '05-'06 than Laich had this year. They each had one fight.

Much as I love Laich, it's hard to justify saying that he was significantly grittier, faster or anything-er (other than funnier) this past season than Pricess was in 2005-06.

breed16 said...

He's shot-blockier!

I guess skating is more subjective but he seems to be more fluid. Two moments stand out to me: the beautiful Backstrom-Semin give and go and give and go goal in game 5 vs. Philly where Laich led the rush and blazed a path to the net, opening the passing lanes. 2.) the break-away vs. Nashville (granted the defenseman fell, but still, dude is fast).

Bottom line: who would you trust to keep a possession going in the corners between Laich and Princess? Who would you want planted in front of the net on a power play? Who do you want wearing an "A" on their chest? A "C"?

JP said...

He's definitely shot block-ier, I'll give you that.

And those plays you referenced were beauties, no doubt. But don't forget some of Petty's shorthanded breakaways where he turned on the afterburners.

As for your questions (assuming they're not rhetorical), Laich on all counts, but that's comparing current Laich to post-shoulder injury Princess. Prior to banging up his shoulder - from which he never seemed to fully recover - Pettinger was money and headed for good things, imo.

dcrock said...

Where can I get myself a pair of those pujammies???

JP said...

You can't get them. They get you.

NS said...

myeah. i hope that cap raise is pretty significant. played around with some numbers (extremely productive at work today, as you can tell):


FEDOROV, SERGEI 2,500,000
KOLZIG, OLAF UFA
NYLANDER, MICHAEL 5,500,000
OVECHKIN, ALEXANDER 9,000,000
POTI, TOM 3,500,000
HUET, CRISTOBAL 5,450,000
KOZLOV, VIKTOR 2,500,000
BACKSTROM, NICKLAS 2,500,000
COOKE, MATT UFA
SEMIN, ALEXANDER 4,200,000
BRASHEAR, DONALD 1,200,000
CLARK, CHRIS 2,750,000
EMINGER, STEVE 1,100,000
MORRISONN, SHAONE 1,000,000
FEHR, ERIC 985,000
JURCINA, MILAN 912,000
GREEN, MIKE 4,000,000
JOHNSON, BRENT 825,000
SCHULTZ, JEFF 650,000
LAICH, BROOKS 1,250,000
BRADLEY, MATT 800,000
LEPISTO, SAMI 675,000
GORDON, BOYD 750,000
ERSKINE, JOHN 550,000
STECKEL, DAVID 512,500
FLEISCHMANN, TOMAS 725,000
LAING, QUINTIN 487,500
total cap hit 53,834,500

a player or two might be demoted full-time to the AHL (Flush, Laing), but nothing significant salary-wise.

(I had Green getting 4mil, 4, 4.25, 4.75, 4.75)

(Huet for Kolzig salary of 5.45mil/3yrs)

breed16 said...

I always liked Pettinger, I think you're spot on that the shoulder injury derailed his development. Brooks Laich however, does not get injured. He drinks concrete milkshakes.

b.orr4 said...

Petty was way faster than Brooks. In fact, Matt was probably the fastest guy on the team before he left. It's too bad that the Princess downgrade has left us questioning Laich's future, but the reality of contract year greatness can't be denied. Do the names John Druce and Chris Valentine ring a bell?

dmg said...

I have to admit, I'm scratching my head a little at the thought of giving Laich a 10, since the criteria suggested by JP is that a player gets a 10 if he has the best season you could have imagined. For a grinder like Laich, I think that includes a positive +/- rating.

Personally, I'm not shocked Laich hit 21 goals, the account of him when he was traded to the Capitals suggested as much. I didn't think it'd happen at age 24 though, more like it'd happen a time or two in his career. That, plus his penalty killing skills and versatility, earn him an '8' from me.

For this season to have been a 10, Laich could have had a couple more assists and a positive rating. My expectations are higher now and for Laich to get a 10 next year he'd have to score low 20's-30 in goals, 60 points, and a positive plus/minus while retaining him versatility and willingness to battle.

dmg said...

ns,

two things:

(1) The Caps is projected to go to 56.5M next year

(2) When you're looking at numbers it'd the cap hit that counts, not the salary, something that relevant for anyone whose salaries changes year to year

Caps Dreamer said...

I gave Brooks a 9 because of his +/- and faceoffs wins. He definitely exceeded my expectations this year and I hope that continues. Thanks JP for the Rink Wraps, too, they're great!

Hooks Orpik said...

Laich is probably my favorite Cap. Lots of hustle and he knows where to be on the ice at all times.

It'll be interesting to see if he can score 20 goals again next year, it's always seemed like he's been a tweener (skilled but consistent enough for Top 6?). Hopefully his production doesn't fizzle.

Oh and JP: Gary Roberts doesn't wear pajamas. He sleeps naked on top of Brooks Laich's mom.

JP said...

I don't think anyone thinks Laich is a top six guy. Similar to Chris Clark, he's a 3rd liner on a contender.

And Brooks Laich doesn't have a mom - he and Mike Green double-team Crosby's.

Anonymous said...

Not top six, but definitely valuable on the PP. That's where a lot of his goals will continue to come from.

Ogre said...

I gave him a nine, cause I gave the kid no credit before.

Also, not every team needs a tomas holmstrom, Rage. But yeah, he shocked the hell out of me.

dcrock said...

Brooks Laich knows all and everything about Lost and how it ends. He wrote the script.

breed16 said...

Brooks Laich is Jacob. And the Smoke Monster.

Jimmy Jazz said...

Brooksie stepped it up big. Nine. I think he's the closest thing we could have had to a Chris Clark, in the Captain's absence.
Brooksie was one of the best post lockout surprises.

Iffy said...

NS/JP

Don't worry about clean cutting and pasting from NHLSCAP. It's already there.

I like what I saw of Laich, but I didn't see enough of the team to vote in your excellent series.

Recommendation: Fill the team with Ruskies and Saskies.

bigonetimer said...

I eighted him. every team needs a guy or three like him: durable and versatile, and effective at any point in the game. He is another key part to keep; I see Laich as a Cap for a long time

Mike in SF said...

And don't forget that Laich gave the best quote of the year:

"If you want money, go to the bank. If you want bread, go to the bakery. If you want goals, go to the net."