It is hard to imagine Brooks Orpik left DC for the summer with anything more than a scowl on his face. The end of the season was tough for all the players and fans as well, but Orpik had to put a lot of blame on himself. Whether that blame was warranted or not is something that we will take a look at.
Welcome to the Brooks ballyhoo or bash fest. Both viewpoints are welcome.
|19.8||time on ice per game|
|52.8||5v5 shot-attempt percentage|
|56.5||5v5 goal percentage|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2015-16 season. A short description of each chart:
Let’s start off with an interesting statistical note about Brooks Orpik’s season:
No, it isn’t that the usually statistically inept Orpik was second on the team in shot attempt percentage.
It is not even that he was third on the defense in hits and fourth in blocks at even strength despite missing half of the games.
The real “anomaly” was that he played in half the regular season games and half the playoff games for the Caps. Exactly half in both “seasons.” In the regular season games that he played, the Capitals were 25-12-4 for a total of 54 standings points. The team amassed 66 standings points in the other 41 games. Playoffs were the opposite where the Caps were 4-2 with Orpik and 2-4 without him.
We can split Orpik’s season into four parts. The first fourteen games of the season after having missed training camp were largely forgettable. He looked slow in the defensive zone, though some of that may have been a lingering injury. The last couple of games before he finally shut it down were some of his worst.
The majority of Orpik’s season came after he returned from a 41-game absence and a cracked femur. He started with sheltered minutes with Dmitry Orlov on the third pair slowly getting more and more ice time with his normal partner, John Carlson, until the beginning of the playoffs.
He looked much better during these games. He was relatively mobile, his shot attempt percentage was very high, and he even scored his first game winning goal of his career.
The final two sections of the season are the two three-game pieces of two playoff series. Orpik was good against Philadelphia for the most part, and he was bad against Pittsburgh for the most part culminating in his Game Six double minor high-stick that basically lost the Capitals the game and series.
It is very hard to quantify a Brooks Orpik season. For a number of years, he has been a shot attempt percentage black hole. All of a sudden this season, he sees the second best shot attempt percentage on the defense. Why is that? The answer is usage.
Brooks Orpik has more or less zero offensive ability. Defensively he plays a strong positional game, he hits, and he blocks shots. That means that using him in offensive situations is misusing him. Last year, Trotz started him in the defensive zone 700 times to only 456 times in the offensive zone. Doing that allows Orpik to do what he does best, play in the defensive zone. Once the puck is gotten out, Orpik may even change before ever having a chance for offensive zone time. This usage does not do wonders for his shot attempt stats.
Luckily for his shot attempt stats, Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner really gelled as a shutdown pair this year, which took some of the burden off John Carlson and Brooks Orpik to be starting in the defensive zone so often.
Still, the real switch in usage did not occur until Orpik was paired with Orlov. Being paired with the most sheltered Capitals defenseman had its advantages for Orpik’s stats. He started to receive offensive zone starts with scoring line players. The shot attempt percentage started to go up. In the final 27 regular season games, he started in the offensive zone 127 times compared to only 110 in the defensive zone.
The biggest thing for Orpik to work on is picking his spots better. Just as Dmitry Orlov needs to pick his hero moments with the puck a little better going forward to grow into a defenseman that the Caps can rely on in the top four, Brooks Orpik needs to pick his physical spots better to stay a defenseman that the Caps can rely on in the top four. Brooks Orpik is slow, and when inconsequential physical plays in the defensive zone leave him far from his position, bad things can happen. Like in this play in the Penguins series:
Pick your spots, big fella. And now for a positive play from that series: What a box-out!
Brooks Orpik is not a lost cause. If he is used correctly and he is a bit more physically cautious, he can be a valuable member of the Caps defensive corps.
Which Or do you want to see in the top four next season? Are Orpik’s statistics justified?
Read more: Japers’ Rink
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