“Garnet: a group of silicate minerals used as gemstones and abrasives. As a birthstone (January), it is said to bring love, luck, health, loyalty and friendship.”
Undrafted, spent four years in college hockey, signed to a minor league contract as a free agent, did not get into his first NHL game until the age of 24, did not become a regular in an NHL lineup until age 26, built a career around hard minutes doing the dirty jobs – working the corners, getting under opponents’ skin, killing penalties – while providing occasional offense. It is the profile of a “good story,” a player who climb a long and steep hill to stake his claim to an NHL position.
When Garnet Hathaway was signed by the Washington Capitals as a free agent in July 2019, fans might not have known what they were getting, he having toiled out west with the Calgary Flames in his first four NHL seasons. The player who came to Washington was the sort who would record ten or so goals per 82 games, a similar number of assists, log a substantial number of penalty minutes by being as abrasive as the meaning of his first name suggests, and generally playing 10-12 hard minutes a night.
And that is just what Caps fans saw in Hathaway in his first season in Washington – nine goals and 16 points in 66 games, 79 penalty minutes (25 of those earned in five fights), and 10:47 of ice time a night (1:18 a game on the penalty kill). Those minutes were better the more he logged. Washington was 9-0-0 in games in which Hathaway skated at least 13 minutes (“leading” effects probably coming into play when a team is either trying to protect a lead or have enough of one to roll four lines and not have scorers forced into more minutes), 19-6-1 in 26 games in which he logged at least 11 minutes.
Odd Hathaway Fact… Garnet Hathaway was one of four players in the NHL last season to play in at least 50 games, record at least 15 points, post a rating of plus-5 or better, and do it playing less than 12 minutes per game. Odder still, two of the other three were also Capitals (Richard Panik and Nic Dowd; Minnesota’s Ryan Donato was the other).
Odd Hathaway Fact II… Hathaway is the all-time leading NHL career goal scorer (25) among players born in Maine. He was born in Kennebunkport.
Scoring was not particularly important with respect to Hathaway’s contributions. The Caps were just 4-2-2 in games in which he scored a goal, 9-4-2 in games in which he had a point. Physical engagement was another story. Washington was 4-1-0 in the five games in which he had a fighting major, 23-10-2 in the 35 games in which he was credited with three of more hits.
Garnet Hathaway has appeared in 13 postseason games, eight for the Caps, and is still looking for his first playoff point. The Caps missed getting production from their bottom six forwards in their last two trips to the postseason, and this is going to be a sticking point with respect to any Capital bottom six forward when looking at his value.
Potential Milestones to Reach in 2020-2021:
- 250 career NHL games played (he currently has 241)
- 300 career penalty minutes (298)
- 3,000 career minutes played (2,598)
The Big Question… Does Garnet Hathaway have another level of offense in him?
Since becoming a regular with the Calgary Flames in 2017-2018, Garnet Hathaway has been a “teen” sort of scorer – 13 points in 2017-2018, 19 points the following season, and 16 points with the Caps last season. But those 16 points came in just 66 games, which would have put him on a pace for his first career 20-point season over 82 games. He was on a similar pace in his last season in Calgary before coming to Washington. Seeing as how Hathaway is something of a late arriver to regular play in the NHL, it is not unreasonable to wonder if he does not have a little more offense to provide, say, in the 25-point range. If there is a career arc to think of in comparison, it might be that of jay Beagle, who became a regular in his mid-20’s, spent a couple of years with modest point totals, and then became a 25-30 point player per 82 games in his later years with the Caps, into his 30’s.
In the end…
Making a living as a “grinder” getting bottom-six minutes is a hard way to make a living. The job is hard and, frankly, the players are more replaceable than stars. Since the NHL started keeping time on ice statistics in 1997-1998, 29 forwards have appeared in at least 500 games while averaging less than 12 minutes a game. Garnet Hathaway is not quite half-way there (241 games), so on one level he might be considered in the “prime” of his abrasive self as an NHL player. But what bears watching is whether the kinds of contributions he can make in the regular season translate to the postseason, where his offense has been absent.
Hathaway is a player that fans seem to instinctively root for, a hard worker who comes to the aid of teammates and rarely, if ever takes a night off. Add to that his contributions to the community through his “Hath’s Heroes” effort, and one might believe the Caps have a “gem” as well as an abrasive asset on their roster.
Projection: 54 games, 8-9-17, plus-4