Over the summer, the Washington Capitals were close to the salary cap and had a glut of checking line forwards in the organization, like Travis Boyd, ready for more opportunity. The situation forced what for many was a sad situation. Veteran fourth-line center Jay Beagle, due for a pay raise after winning a Stanley Cup, left the only NHL organization he ever knew, signing a four-year, $12 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks in July.
Earlier this week, Beagle, who has played 21 games for the Canucks this season tallying four points (1g, 3a) and registering a 50.8 faceoff percentage, spoke to Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek of the 31 Thoughts podcast.
Beags spent a decent sized chunk of the conversation talking about his time in Washington and eventually signing with Vancouver. He found it especially difficult telling his now former teammates that he signed elsewhere.
“It didn’t go good,” Beagle said. “I’m not good at that. I’m not good at saying goodbye and I’m not good at, I didn’t wanna text. I didn’t want it to be a text. We still have a group chat that’s hopefully we never get rid of it. But I’m not a good guy at texting, especially my feelings.”
Beagle also revealed that Tom Wilson was the first player he called and told he was leaving. And his favorite Capitals coach was Dale Hunter.
What was your ECHL experience like?
Jay Beagle: I went to Boise. I thought it was the NHL. Really. I treated it that way. Every league I’ve gone into: it’s my NHL. It’s the highest that I’ve ever played. I was playing professional hockey and it was a blessing to be there. I didn’t take one day for granted.
It was just really cool to be there. To get in and have that experience, win the Kelly Cup with them – an experience I’ll never forget. It was a huge stepping stone why I got to play in the NHL.
There were likely a ton of ECHL players who saw you win the Stanley Cup and told themselves: that’s my path. I’m going to be that guy – that’s my dream. When you were on that path, were most of your friends and family always supportive of you? Or was there someone who said ‘Maybe you should try to find something else to do.’
Jay Beagle: [My family and friends] have always been supportive. Always supportive. Always positive. I never was drafted in any league. It was one of those things where I just kept playing because I loved to play. I really did. I loved to play hockey so where was the next place I could play? So from college, I got the opportunity to go to Boise. Everyone was real positive, excited for me. I never looked too far in the future. I was always living in the moment.
So no one was ever, ‘Okay, it’s not going to work out for you. You’re not that good.’
It was always a very positive experience.
What Beagle would be if he weren’t a hockey player:
Jay Beagle: Electrician.
Elliotte Friedman: Really?
Jay Beagle: I actually apprenticed for two years in college and in the summers and the year before college to make money. And I needed to do that and I had a bunch of hours banked and that was the backup. You know, even when going to school, I wanted to be an electrician and I still might after my career’s over.
On getting cut by the Calgary Hitmen:
Jay Beagle: I remember Getzlaf was in that camp and he ran me a couple times and I’m like “so this guy’s really big, really strong. A lot better than me. I need to get better.” So it was a motivation thing too.
Elliotte Friedman: Have you ever run Getzlaf to get back at him?
Jay Beagle: No I haven’t. With me being in the East, I don’t play him that much. But now I’m comin,’ Getzlaf.
Beagle’s favorite coach in Washington:
Jay Beagle: Hunter, yeah. And he was only there for a short amount of time.
Elliotte Friedman: Do you ever tell Ovechkin that?
Jay Beagle: No. But, he had a big impact on me. Just the style he wanted me to play and what he expected of me.
There was no, and not saying that other coaches have mind games cause they don’t, but he’s very direct. I think the most direct coach I’ve ever had. So he would tell me, very directly, what he expected of me and how I needed to play if I wanted to make a career here in the NHL.
So that was big. And so I knew what he expected of me and I went out and tried to do it to the best of my ability. And I had a concussion that year and came back I think ten games after he had been there, so I wasn’t with him for long. But he had a huge impact on my career and also the confidence that he gave me in playing me lots of minutes.
I think he was the first coach that gave me over 15 minutes a game and average that. Towards the end and that playoffs I got a lot of confidence from the ice that he had given me and the chances he took on me.
How he told his Capitals teammates he was leaving:
Jay Beagle: It didn’t go good. I’m not good at that. I’m not good at saying goodbye and I’m not good at, I didn’t wanna text. I didn’t want it to be a text. We still have a group chat that’s hopefully we never get rid of it. But I’m not a good guy at texting, especially my feelings.
Who Beagle’s first phone call was to when he was leaving:
Jay Beagle: Tom Wilson. Yeah, me and him, really close. Obviously linemates for four years and sat beside him and just became really good friends with him. So he was the first guy I talked to on the team.
TJ Oshie’s text got lost in translation:
Jay Beagle: I had an emotional text from TJ Oshie. And I think that text got me and it was one of those things where, it’s actually pretty funny cause I didn’t get it for the longest time, his text. And I saw him in person in Vancouver and he’s like ‘thanks for texting me back, like jerk.’ And I’m like ‘Osh I honestly did not get this text.’ And I came into the US and a text pops in, like from Canada. And I have no clue why my phone, well my phone’s an iPhone one, so that’s probably why it happened.
On his decision to sign in Vancouver:
Jay Beagle: I was still hopeful I was going back to Washington. And a couple days before that, you know that date where they can start to talk, we knew. That’s the great thing about Mac (Brian MacLellan), he was always clear with me. He said ‘we want you to come back obviously, we’re gonna try. But you know the situation.’
So it was one of those things where it was clear I wasn’t going back there so I had to find a new home. So that’s nice to know. You know, I just let my agent do the work and he just would tell me when calls were coming in and who to meet with, who to talk to, and Vancouver was obviously a frontrunner right away. They were the ones who called first and wanted to meet with me first, flew me in to meet. When a team wants to meet with you and see who you are and give you the layout of what’s going on in the organization and be that direct and clear with you, that’s a huge thing for me.
On him being a faceoff machine:
Jay Beagle: So now in the West I’m seeing a lot of different linesmen. You know you just see different linesmen and I’m trying to get to know the linesmen and the way they drop the puck and stuff. But I don’t focus too much on them, I try and focus on me and my routine and what I’m doing going into a draw, my reads and going off that.
So there’s little things you do notice from linesmen where they drop the puck on the circle. Sometimes they drop the puck really close to their body all the time, so you can cut the circle in half because they’re not dropping it on the far side of the circle. So you can cut the circle in half and put your stick in at the halfway point. There’s little things like that that you do notice over time, and draws have always been a big part of my game that I actually love to just watch and study.
Jeff Marek: True or false you’ve never intentionally lost a draw?
Jay Beagle: False. No I’ve never deliberately lost a draw.
The toughest player to take draws against:
Jay Beagle: Bergeron. I don’t know, he’s a righty and so for me, my strong side is on his weak side. Like he’s trying to pull it to the middle usually and I’m tryna pull it to the wall on my strong side and obviously it’s the same on the other side, he’ll be on his strong side and I’m on my weak side. So some games you’ll get him on his strong side almost 80 percent of the time so I’m losing almost 80 percent of those draws just because he’s so good on his strong side. He’s strong, his timing is really good, the way he takes draws he’s got three or four different looks where his stick positioning is and how he comes over top. Or he’ll sweep or do a slash and swipe. So there’s a buncha looks that he gives you.
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