Jay Beagle might be the perfect example of a meat-and-potatoes Caps player, but we might have just seen the end of him in DC.
|12.4||time on ice per game|
|39.9||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|44.8||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:
Without context, Jay Beagle’s season was a catastrophe. Opponents outshot the Caps by 276 attempts during Beagle’s 5-on-5 shifts. Among the 1600 forwards who have played 600 minutes in the last 5 seasons, that shot-attempt differential is in the bottom 30. That constant onslaught gives Beagle his lowest career on-ice shot-attempt percentage of 39.9 percent, just a smidge below the Mendoza line of 40, the point at which it’s generous to call it competitive hockey.
That’s it without context. Here’s the rest of the story.
As we know by now, Jay Beagle is a faceoff assassin. He won 584 of the 998 puck drops he saw, good for 58.5 percent, top five in the league among full-time centers. That dependability on the dot, paired with Evgeny Kuznetsov’s weakness at the same, prompted Barry Trotz to throw Beagle on the ice for every possible defensive-zone draw. It made Beagle the most disadvantaged forward in the league.
Taking 74 percent of his non-neutral faceoffs in the defensive zone wouldn’t have been possible unless Trotz used Beagle in a faceoff/get-off role. Beagle took a cameo shift with top sixers, try to win the faceoff, and then exit for a shift change as soon as possible. There’s no upside for shot-attempt differential in that role – you either give up shots to the opponent or you get off the ice. Those shifts explain about a third of Beagle’s defensive usage.
No one could reasonably expect Beagle to perform well in that assignment, so when he put up the worst numbers in the league this season, or last season, or the season before that (aside from Jarret Stoll’s career-ending 2015-16), we weren’t shocked. Beagle would not have been a possession dynamo in any context that doesn’t have Dan Winnik on his wing.
I wonder if Beagle was a necessary sacrifice so that the other three lines could be productive, or if this was a bad habit that hurt the team more than it helped. Faceoffs just don’t matter as much as orthodoxy thinks, and Beagle struggled to get the puck back in the 40 percent of faceoffs he lost.
The issue may be moot now. Beagle, 32, is an unrestricted free agent this July. He’ll likely earn a raise on the three-year, $1.75 million annual deal that just expired, and it’ll be tough for Washington to scrape up that money. Still, Beagle has collected a Kelly Cup, Calder Cup, and a Stanley Cup in his career within the Washington franchise. He’ll be beloved in the area for decades as the meat-and-potatoes guy who grounded the Caps depth so that the top-liners could soar. As legacies go, that ain’t bad.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 13, 2018
— RMNB (@russianmachine) May 12, 2018
If this is it for Beagle with the Caps, how will you remember him?
Read more: Japers’ Rink
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk
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