In 2004-2005, hockey went dark. Good thing, from an aesthetic perspective, because for all intents and purposes the Capitals were an expansion team. When they came out of the darkness, the Caps iced a team in 2005-2006 that was not so much engineered to compete as to develop. Or, more accurately, allow kids to develop in Hershey and elsewhere.
While the strategy was paying dividends in some respects in 2005-2006 (Hershey, for example, won the AHL Calder Cup), the Capitals struggled, finishing that year with a 29-41-12 record. It was a club filled with role players, journeymen, youngsters, and one emerging star (that being Alex Ovechkin's rookie year).
Until yesterday, six players who played in at least half of the Capitals' games that season were still with the organization -- Ovechkin, Chris Clark, Brooks Laich, Matt Bradley, Shaone Morrisonn...
...and Ben Clymer.
Clymer was placed on waivers yesterday with the aim of buying out the remaining year of the three-year deal he signed in July 2006. Clymer spent all of last year in Hershey with the Bears, while the Caps were once more competing for a playoff spot. Before that, he played 143 games with the Caps over two seasons, going 23-30-53, -24, with 116 penalty minutes and three game-winning goals.
He was the epitome of the good soldier, accepting a changing role (moving to defense to start the 2006-2007 season, although that did not work out) and playing through an injury he suffered in training camp of the 2006-2007 season that plagued him until March, when he was finally shut down for the season.
Clymer is one of those players who risks being forgotten or having his contributions dismissed as the Caps become a more competitive team. But for a couple of years, he played his role and fulfilled his responsibilities faithfully on a club that despite its record, probably did better than most folks (this one included) would have predicted. And let's not forget, Clymer did play 66 games in the regular season and five playoff games for a Stanley Cup champion (Tampa Bay, in 2003-2004).
Still only 30 years old, with more than 400 games of NHL experience, Clymer may find himself employed by an NHL club this fall. Good luck to him in that effort.