Nate Schmidt is okay, I guess.
|15:29||time on ice per game|
|55.1||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|67.4||5-on-5 goal percentage, adjusted|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2016-17 season. A short description of each chart:
On ice for 42 Caps goals and just 21 opponent goals during 5-on-5, Nate Schmidt had a banner year. His was the highest goal ratio among all NHL defensemen. So when I said that Nate Schmidt was one of the best and most successful defensemen in the entire league this season, that wasn’t the conclusion of some esoteric ‘advanced’ statistic invented in a lab by some dork– that’s the goddamn scoreboard talking.
(Though shot attempts and scoring chances and expected goals all lined up with Schmidt’s goal ratio, so the dorks nailed this one too – and they did so long before the doofuses came around.)
And I’m not even sure the doofuses truly have come around after all. It took a significant injury to Karl Alzner, one severe enough to make him miss his first game in seven years – a playoff game no less, to allow Nate Schmidt to finally crack the postseason lineup. All season, head coach Barry Trotz didn’t pass up many opportunities to not use Nate.
I mean, twenty-two scratches, woof. Trotz has many virtues, but evaluating and appreciating young talent is not one of them. Rather than trust Schmidt with the top-four role he gracefully occupied in the postseason, Trotz returned the obviously still-hindered Alzner to the lineup, forcing an awkward roster of eleven-forwards/seven-defensemen. It did not work, and the Caps lost to the Pens in seven games.
But I can understand why some people aren’t in love with Schmidt’s game. His style isn’t all bright colors and flashing lights. He’s a smooth skater, but he’s not a loud presence. Of any teammate, I’d liken him most to Dmitry Orlov. They have similar individual output (9 individual attempts per hour) and represent about an equal share of the offense (about 15 percent of shots and 7 percent of goals), and they both keep opponents right around 50 attempts per hour. Orlov is more physical and played against tougher opponents this season, but the profile of their games are similar. That’s good company to be in, and it’ll make the Caps’ top four fearsome in 2017-18.
We’re tempted to pay attention to the ends of the ice because that’s where the exciting stuff happens, but Schmidt excels in the middle. He’s the team’s best defenseman at the breakout. He secures safe passage through neutral by being mobile and unprecious with the puck. Though he himself doesn’t often venture close to the enemy net, Schmidt’s outlet and entry passes are often the opening salvos of the Caps attack – even if he doesn’t get credit for it.
And that’s fine. Credit is what normal people need to scaffold self-esteem. Nate isn’t like that. For all his on-ice skill, his off-ice personality is his true distinction. Hardcore kids in DC used to call it P.M.A. – positive mental attitude – and Schmidt’s got a shit ton of it.
Didn’t get drafted? Work and get signed anyway.
Benched for two weeks? Work at practice and smile through it.
Paired with an aging vet? Work and turn him into a hero.
Get called 7D by your coach? Work and show the world you’re top four.
Sports are silly, and hockey is extra silly, but if you can’t see the triumph here and let it infect your soul just a little bit, then I think you’re pretty silly, you silly goose. We could all stand to be a bit more like Nate Schmidt.
Okay, now all fun stuff.
A video posted by Washington Capitals (@capitals) on
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 9, 2016
Oh crap, I forgot all about the expansion draft. Um. Uh oh.
Oh, and will Schmidt be a top-four D-man next year? How will his numbers hold up when he plays against better opponents? Will he be played 20-plus minutes a night? And will he get some time on the PK? Guys, I have so many questions.
Headline photo: Amanda Bowen
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