“Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
-- William Shakespeare
When Joey Crabb was signed by the Washington Capitals to a one-year, one-way contract paying him $950,000 on July 1st, optimism was the order of the day. His agent, Kevin Epp, noted that “he’s versatile and can move up and down the lineup — wherever he’s needed.” He was confident that Crabb landed in the right place, saying that “Washington was a good fit. For Joey to have the opportunity to play on a championship-caliber team, that’s what was most important for him, and this was a good chance to do so.”
And why shouldn’t the Crabb camp paint a picture of optimism? In his first full season in the NHL, with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-2012, Crabb was 11-15-26 in 67 games skating just over 13 minutes a game. Surely on a team with the offensive features to be brought to bear by new head coach Adam Oates, a player like Crabb could build on that season and flourish in Washington.
It was probably an ominous sign when Crabb did not dress for the season opener against Tampa Bay on January 19th. He got into the lineup the following game against Winnipeg, then scored his first goal of the season in the next game against Montreal. But even that had a cloud hanging over it, the goal being the lone goal for the Caps, scored with less than three minutes left in what would be a 4-1 loss. He then went without a point over his next 21 games. His ice time, which averaged over 11 minutes per game over his first 12 games with the Caps, dwindled to an average of less than eight minutes a game over his next 14 games.
By the time Crabb skated his last shift for the Caps early in the third period of a 5-3 win over Buffalo on March 14th, he had two goals and no assists in 26 games. One of the more shocking numbers in his 2013 season resume was the fact that he was on ice for five power play goals against. Only four other Capital forwards were on ice for more, and three of them – Nicklas Backstrom, Matt Hendricks, and Jay Beagle – did so playing in all 48 games. The other – Troy Brouwer – played in 47 contests. Seven Capitals averaged more penalty killing time per game than did Crabb.
Another shocking number, which might not be altogether shocking given his season, is “four.” That is the total number of goals he was on ice for in 26 games, and two of those were his own.
Here is another one… “three.” Crabb, who scored 11 goals on 75 shots on goal in 67 games in Toronto in 2011-2012, managed only three games in which he recorded more than one shot, and in 11 games did not have a shot on goal at all.
Crabb was waived in late March, cleared waivers, then was sent down to Hershey for the remainder of his season. He was 6-6-12, plus-5 in 12 regular season games with the Bears, then went 5-0-5 in five playoff games in the Bears’ first round loss to the Providence Bruins. He was recalled after the Bears’ season ended but saw no action in the playoff series against the New York Rangers.
Game to Remember… March 14th at Carolina. In a season as forgettable as Crabb’s you might think that there would be no game to remember. But there the Caps were, heading to Carolina on a three-game losing streak and in danger of tumbling into last place in the Eastern Conference. It got worse when the Carolina Hurricanes, ten points ahead of the Caps in the standings at the time, broke on top with a pair of first period goals, one of them by former Cap Alexander Semin. However, in the sixth minute of the second period, Crabb went to the basics. As Aaron Volpatti was chipping the puck along the left wing wall past Hurricane defenseman Justin Faulk, Crabb darted to the net. Volpatti retrieved the puck and sent a pass to the front of the Carolina net where Crabb had beaten defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti to the spot. Crabb redirected the puck in, starting a comeback that resulted in a Caps 3-2 win. You could argue that it was the most important goal of the Caps’ season, for with that goal and the comeback win that followed, the three-game losing streak was over, and the Caps finished the season 17-4-2, Southeast Division champs one last time.
Game to Forget… pretty much the rest of them.
In the end…
On the one hand, there was that 11-goal season in Toronto in 2011-2012. On the other, Washington was Crabb’s third team over parts of four seasons – one in Atlanta with the Thrashers and two in Toronto. On the one hand, there was that 11-goal season in Toronto in 2011-2012. On the other, Crabb was approaching his 30th birthday having played in only 144 NHL games. On the one hand, there was that 11-goal season in Toronto in 2011-2012 that might have merited a $950,000 one-way contract. On the other, well…
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