Theme: “Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”
Tyler Sloan is the sort of player who might be said to put the “journey” in journeyman. Over the past ten years he has pulled on a sweater for the Kamloops Blazers, Syracuse Crunch, Dayton Bombers, Las Vegas Wranglers, Hershey Bears, and finally, the Washington Capitals. He saw his first NHL action last in 2008-2009 at age 27, getting into 26 games before the NHL portion of his season ended in early January 2009.
This year, he dressed for 40 games, but the odd part of it was that while he did get into more games, he did so with a lower average ice time (14:14, compared to 16:38 the previous year). His ten-game splits do not show much…
…but then again, his appearances in the lineup were spotty –no fewer than three games in any ten-game split, no more than eight.
Delving a little deeper into his five-on-five numbers, despite the fact that Sloan faced rather meager competition (only John Erskine, among Caps defensemen playing in at least 40 games, played against lesser competition), he had the second highest goals against/on ice-per 60 minutes (Caps who played the entire year in DC). He also had the second worst plus/minus differential) on ice/off ice) per 60 minutes.
Sloan was similarly situated in 4-on-5 situations among Caps defensemen. He had the worst goals against/on ice-per 60 minutes and had the second worst plus/minus differential (on ice/off ice) per 60 minutes. That he had only 1:01 in average penalty killing time (seventh among Caps spending the entire year with the team) was perhaps a good thing.
Sloan’s season beaks down rather cleanly into the 2009 and 2010 portions of the season. In the 2009 portion of the season he played in 18 games and was 2-2-4, minus-2 with 14 penalty minutes in just short of 13 minutes a night. In the 2010 portion of the season he appeared in 22 games, while going 0-2-2, plus-1, with eight penalty minutes in just over 16 minutes of ice time a night. He had more in terms of “numbers” in the first half (good and bad) in less ice time than in the second portion of the season, when his numbers were quieter with more ice time.
Sloan got a taste of playoff action in Games 4 and 5 of the Montreal series when Shaone Morrisonn went out with an injury. The Caps split the games with Sloan averaging just over 13 minutes of ice time. He was on the ice for two of the five goals scored against the Caps in the two games.
Sloan is probably not a 70-game, 15 minute a night defenseman. He is, however, useful as a player who can plug a hole for a week or so at a time in the event of injury. Although he skated only two games in Hershey this season, the role he plays is somewhat typical of how the Caps have used the Bears. There are a lot of guys up the road who have come down the road to fill a role in a pinch. For example, last night’s Hershey lineup in their AHL Eastern Conference-clinching win over Manchester featured 12 players (of 20 who dressed) who played in DC over the past two seasons. And that does not include Steve Pinizzotto or Braden Holtby, both of whom were recalled to Washington but did not dress, nor Andrew Gordon, who is injured for Hershey and did not dress last night.
With the advancement of John Carlson on a permanent basis next season (unless the sun stops in the sky) and the likely advancement of Karl Alzner, it could be very difficult for Sloan to find any minutes on this club except in a pinch, even though he does have two more years under contract with the Caps. For this year, however…