Two-time Stanley Cup champion Brooks Orpik may have already seen the end of his pro playing career. If that’s the case, he will retire a legend.
|15.7||time on ice per game|
|48.6||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|50.9||5-on-5 expected goal percentage, adjusted|
|57.3||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 season. A short description of each chart:
Two-time Stanley Cup champion Brooks Orpik had a weird start to the season. The Caps traded him to the Colorado Avalanche to free up cap space, then he was bought out, then he was signed again by the Caps for way less money. His buy-out money and performance bonuses for suiting up in 40-plus games would make him whole compared to his old contract, but a knee injury early in the season sidelined him for nearly thirty games. We should have known better to count him out though– Orpik returned and got that bread.
Here, via hockey-reference, is the pantheon of defenders in their age-38 seasons and how much they played.
There are three groups: the “oh nevermind” cohort at bottom left who didn’t play more than a fraction of the season, the ageless wonders at top right who played tons of games and tons of minutes, and the dudes in the middle. Orpik is one of those dudes. Being left of the trendline means Orpik played relatively low minutes per game.
And he got them against the easier competition available. Orpik faced star forwards on the opponent’s team less often than any defender except Christian Djoos.
|Defender||TOI vs top Fs||TOI% vs top Fs|
The shorter version of all that is that Brooks Orpik was sheltered. In one sense that deployment strategy was successful. Opponents took fewer shot attempts and generated fewer expected goals against Orpik than any other full-time Caps defender. Washington’s biggest defensive troubles occurred when Orpik was on the bench.
But he sure was on the bench a lot. All that rest increased the workload on the top pairing, who were plainly outmatched. The cost of facilitating Orpik’s fine season was the further sinking of Orlov-Niskanen.
Precisely zero percent of the blame for this falls on Orpik. His role as a crease-clearer was always a bad idea (preventing opponents from getting into the crease in the first part would be better), and his assignment as long-term partner for young defenseman stifled their development (Djoos, Siegenthaler) while keeping Orpik statistically afloat. Orpik’s always done what’s asked of him, but what’s asked of him has rarely been wise.
That’s not on him, and by all accounts he is universally beloved by his teammates. The ecstatic reactions to his OTGWG in Game Two are evidence of that.
But time doesn’t care. Orpik, if he plays next season, would be 39 years old. Just 13 defenders have locked more than 20 games at that age since the lockout. The attrition rate is brutal.
If this is the end for Orpik, he’ll go out a legend. He’s seen the league change styles a handful of times, he’s won two Cups (or one Cup twice if you want to be a jerk about it), and he’s become answer to a trivia question that will make your eyes light up forever: who scored Washington’s first ever game-winning goal in a Cup Final?
In 2014 I set the terms for measuring whether or not Brooks Orpik’s tenure as a Capital could be considered a success. Clause A.1 for the affirmative was “if the Caps win the Cup.” They did. And not that it mattered, but Orpik materially helped. His tenure was more than a success; it was a triumph.
Two-time Stanley Cup champion Brooks Orpik is a legend. End of review.
A fitting salute to an amazing player and even better person.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 19, 2019
Anyone else wanna see Orpik become a coach?
Read more: Japers Rink
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