In every season, for just about every team in the NHL, there seems to be one or two players that have a huge impact on their team, whether it be positive or negative. A few examples of these impactful players are Viktor Arvidsson of the Nashville Predators, and Bobby Ryan and his massive contract in Ottawa. The Capitals, like most teams, have some players that have stepped up in big ways and proved to be very valuable, and others that have underperformed and not met expectations.
Without a doubt, the most valuable player for the Capitals this season has been Alex Ovechkin.
Nobody expected him to be done scoring goals, but predicting that he would be tied for the lead league in goals 33 games in would’ve seemed like a bit of a stretch before the season began, but that’s exactly what “The Great Eight” has done. Alongside the 22 goals in 33 games, Ovechkin has 35 points, 13 of which have come on the power play. Of these power play points, seven are assists.
It is an unexpected, yet pleasant, surprise to see more assists than goals from Ovi on the power play. This adds up to a season that nobody had seen coming. Many fans expected players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie to take over as Washington’s best player, but the Captain has proven that Father Time isn’t going to stop him from putting the puck in the back of the net just yet, and his unexpectedly strong production makes him easily the most valuable player.
While he may not seem to be having that bad of a season on paper, Brooks Orpik has been the Capitals’ least valuable player; watching him play this year hasn’t been very pretty.
First, a look at the numbers. Orpik is a 37-year-old stay-at-home defenseman with five assists through 33 games this season. This is right around normal for Brooks, who has recently hovered around the 12-14 point range at the end of the past few seasons. For a defenseman of this style of play, however, point production isn’t the main concern. Rather, the ability to shut down opposing teams is at the forefront. Orpik’s deficiencies can be seen through one basic statistic: penalty minutes. Orpik has 34 penalty minutes so far this season.
This same issue was discussed in a prior article regarding Orpik’s ability to keep up in a younger, faster NHL. Having watched a majority of Washington’s games, there have been numerous points in which seeing Orpik on the ice has caused some serious anxiety. Against teams with faster players, such as Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Tampa Bay, Orpik doesn’t even look to be in the same league. In situations where he is trying to out-muscle a player on the wall, he is still decently effective, but when it comes to keeping up with quick, shifty players, problems arise fairly frequently.
All of these problems coming from a defenseman with a $5.5 million cap hit easily makes Brooks Orpik the Capitals’ least valuable player.