This was supposed to be the season Nate Schmidt established himself as a bona fide top-four defenseman. That did not happen. Instead we got an uneven year and a semi-disastrous playoffs. Where do we go from here? That’s up to Nate, who definitely has the right attitude.
|18.0||time on ice per game|
|51.4||5v5 shot-attempt percentage|
|56.6||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:
At the dawn of the season, it seemed like Nate Schmidt had finally arrived. His performance early mirrored Washington’s own dominance, but neither lasted. Our final Schmidt memories of 2015-16 are unfortunately regarding his struggles in the postseason, which were not illusory. He really did falter, though I think by now we’ve got a real idea of the player he is — and I’d ice that player over Mike Weber any night.
Because it’s still fresh, let’s revisit those playoffs. Schmidt was scratched a few times, and I can see why. Aside from the top pairing (who played against great players), Schmidt had the worst relative possession among the D corps. He had the second lowest expected goals percentage next to Brooks Orpik, and he was +0 / -3 in goal differential during 5-on-5. There were big mistakes, sure, but the underlying play wasn’t so hot either.
And that was a continuation of the poor play we saw late in March, when Schmidt, underwater in all event stats except goals, didn’t quite have the sheen we were hoping for for a future top-four defenseman. His previously strong neutral-zone play, especially on the defensive side, seemed to evaporate when his pairing got shaken up. And while Schmidt had a respectable assist total (14 in 72 games), his primary offense hasn’t really developed since his first two partial seasons.
This is criticism, but it’s also a challenge. We have heard that the Caps’ Cup window will close after 2016-17, and that’s probably right. We have seen that the Caps’ fortunes align with their depth defensemen’s, and that’s no coincidence. It’s time for Schmidt to take the next step, to turn the glimmer of promise into an 82-game shine.
It’s on him alone to do that.
With Brooks Orpik’s role reportedly diminished next year (thank goodness), who should fill his spot (handedness aside): Orlov or Schmidt? What part of his game needs the most work?
Read more: Japers’ Rink
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