Photo: Monumental Network
As I touched on in the Sunday Snapshot, Brooks Laich is ice cold in 2015-16. With just one goal and five assists in 53 games, Laich’s $4.5-million cap hit becomes even more disastrous than it already was.
“I don’t think he is much of a hockey player anymore unfortunately,” one RMNB commenter said. Others, whom I will not excerpt here, were far less diplomatic.
While there is no plausible justification for his contract, which was authored by former GM George McPhee, I’d argue that Laich’s current season has been a solid one, his god-awful scoring luck excepted.
What follows is my hot-take defense of Brooks Laich’s 2015-16. Bring your pitchforks.
One of my favorite statistics is individual shot rate. While possession tells us about the relationship between a player’s offense and defense, shot rates tell you how aggressive or desperate or reluctant a single player may be when he’s got the puck.
Among 12 Caps forwards with at least 200 5v5 minutes, Laich ranks fourth in shots on goal/60 (7.0) and sixth in shot attempts/60 (11.2). He’s on the schneid, but he’s trying. He’s generating more individual shots than Evgeny Kuznetsov or Nick Backstrom.
On the defensive side, only one Caps player suppresses opponent shot attempts better than Laich (49.3 opponent SA/60), and that’s his linemate, Michael Latta.
Latta and Laich are Washington’s only forward pair who can slow the pace of the game to under 100 shot attempts/60. If you’ve got the lead and want to grind your opponent into dust, the fourth line is your huckleberry.
For me, that’s the very picture of a dependable, though not exhilarating, fourth line. The bummers lie in the things those players cannot control.
Let’s start with goaltending, which has been stellar overall for the Caps, but for Laich in particular. Instead of a Vezina-level 93.2 save percentage, he’s been seeing 91.8 percent goaltending.
And his goaltending is nothing to compared to his offensive shooting luck, which is just a trainwreck.
Before this season, Laich’s career 5v5 shooting percentage was a pedestrian 7.0 percent, but 2015-2016 has been a burning trashcan full of rancid mayonnaise, offensively speaking. He has one goal on 52 shots: a terrible 1.9 shooting percentage. His teammates are not faring much better when he’s on the ice: 4.8 percent, also a team low.
On offense, Laich is a ghost.
If Laich and the Caps were shooting just seven percent (below league average but on par for Laich’s career), the Caps would have 3 or 4 more goals. That’s not a lot, but it would go a long way to restoring Laich’s minus-8 rating, which we don’t really care about, and his 36-percent 5v5 goal percentage, which we care a tiny bit more about.
But that’s all in the past. The salient point is that Laich could keep playing exactly as he is now and contribute meaningfully to the Caps’ historic success for the remainder of this season and beyond.
Besides his contract, for which there is no justification, there is very little wrong with Brooks Laich right now except bad luck. And maybe his Instagram, which just makes me feel totally inadequate.
A photo posted by Brooks Laich (@brookslaich) on
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