Following his first post-lockout workout on the ice in Arlington, Capitals forward Brooks Laich offered a blunt assessment of the damage he believes the stoppage caused the NHL and hockey as a whole.
“I’m honestly really embarrassed by the lockout, like personally embarrassed,” Laich said. “I feel terrible about it. I feel like we just punched our sport in the face. And I feel bad for everybody that was affected by it directly or indirectly.”
Laich, 29, is nursing an apparent groin injury and skated for a little less than an hour Thursday morning primarily before his teammates started their full practice session. He said he was “just getting in a little extra work” and dismissed questions about his health.
“Just making sure that everything is good to go, that was all. Nothing major,” Laich said. “I feel good. We’ll see. Just a few things to work on, want to still get better. But camp starts on Sunday so that’s pretty exciting for us.”
Laich reportedly suffered a groin or adductor injury during his time playing for the Kloten Flyers of Switzerland’s National League-A during the lockout, but said Thursday, “I don’t want to get into that.” In 35 games for Kloten, Laich recorded 17 goals and 38 points.
Overall, Laich said he thoroughly enjoyed his time in Switzerland. He was able to escape the day-to-day news of the lockout by immersing himself in his new team, which he admitted likely made the time during the lockout more palatable than it was for players who waited out the stoppage in North America with small practice groups.
“I had games and practices and I was around teammates, and I had a purpose to come to the rink every day. I could improve my game. Whereas players who weren’t playing, it’d be really hard to improve your game,” Laich said. “So I think I was very fortunate and I made some friends that I’ll be friends with the rest of my life, guys that I’ll have to visit. There’s guys there that want to come over and watch playoffs here already. It was, for myself, a tremendous experience.”
Laich was anxious to reunite with his Capitals teammates, though, and to get started playing under new Coach Adam Oates. He and Oates met for roughly 45 minutes this morning, examining video and discussing what the team’s philosophy will be under the first-time bench boss.
As Laich described it, the Capitals aim to be a “very fast, very aggressive team” with a relentless attack. He believes Oates’s cerebral way of viewing the game will help the players make minor adjustments to their games that have tremendous payoffs.
“I think he is such an intelligent hockey individual – a man, too. But he sees a million things on one single little play where a lot of other people might just see one or two,” Laich said. “There’s going to be a lot of area that we have cleaned up, that we have made small adjustments on. Same players, but small adjustments that’ll make us so much better. And I just told him at the end of our meeting, I said, ‘I’m excited. I can’t wait to play.’ And he said ‘I am, too.’”