Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Washington Capitals 2021-2022 Previews -- Forwards: T.J. Oshie

T.J. Oshie

“There's a lot of blood, sweat, and guts between dreams and success.”
-- Paul “Bear” Bryant

If T.J. Oshie is not part of the “core” of the Washington Capitals roster, he is a cornerstone, an element that serves as a reference point for the structure.  He has been a fixture at right wing, either on the top line or second line, since his arrival from The St. Louis Blues in 2015, in a deal that seemed rather balanced at the time, an exchange of similar right wings, Oshie coming to Washington for Troy Brouwer (with goalie Pheonix Copley, and a draft pick).  But where Brouwer went 50-58-108, minus-21, in 320 games with three teams over five seasons after leaving Washington, Oshie went 128-129-257, plus-55, in 360 games over those same five seasons before adding a 22-21-43, minus-3 scoring line last season (Brouwer did not play in the NHL last season).

Odd Oshie Fact… As noted, T.J. Oshie came to Washington in a trade with St. Louis for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a draft pick.  Copley eventually returned to Washington in a trade (with Kevin Shattenkirk) with the Blues, and the draft pick eventually made its way back to Washington, the Capitals selecting Garrett Pilon in the third round of the 2016 Entry Draft.

Odd Oshie Fact II… In six seasons in Washington, Oshie has 150 goals and 150 assists).

Fearless’ Take… T.J. Oshie has become both a prolific producer on offense and a consistent one.  Only once in his six seasons in Washington has he averaged fewer than one goal per 60 minutes over a season (0.8 in 2017-2018), and he averaged at least one assist per 60 minutes in each of his six seasons with the Caps.  In gross terms, only twice in six seasons did he finish with fewer than 25 goals, and one of those was in last year’s abbreviated season (22 in 53 games, a 34-goal pace over 82 games).  Oshie is also one of five players in Caps history to have appeared in fewer than 450 games with the team and post a rating of plus-50 or better (Alan Haworth, Eric Fehr, Jeff Schultz, and Matt Niskanen are the others. 

Cheerless’ Take… Oshie will be 35 years old in December.  He plays bigger than a player of his size.  He can’t keep this up forever.  He’s going to start missing games (he has missed 40 of 453 games in six seasons).  His contract is going to be a liability (he has completed four years of an eight-year deal).  Don’t we do this every year with Oshie?  He could start to break down, or his production could just wane naturally (like the use of “wane” there, cuz?).  But he just keeps plugging.  The thing is though, the Caps cannot afford this season being that turning point in his production or durability.

Potential Milestones to Reach in 2020-2021…

  • 900 career NHL games (currently 856)
  • 200 career power play points (182)
  • 100 power play points with the Caps (91)
  • With 32 goals, Oshie would jump into 11th place in goal scoring in Caps history, passing Kelly Miller (162), Michal Pivonka (181), and Dale Hunter (181)

The Big Question… Will T.J. Oshie post a career-high in goals in 2021-2022?

In the last three seasons, Oshie has averaged 29.7, 30.9, and 34.0 goals per 82 games.  He posted a career-high 33 goals in 2016-2017.  He has been a remarkably efficient shooter, posting a 17.9 percent shooting percentage in six years with the Caps, second among 467 skaters appearing in at least 250 games over that period (Paul Byron leads with 18.0 percent).  You would think that goal scoring would be more impactful (the Caps were 10-5-2 in games in which Oshie scored a goal last season; 15-5-2 the previous season), but that goal scoring could become an important factor if the Caps do not get consistent production elsewhere in their top six (Anthony Mantha, we’re looking at you).

In the end…

Chances are that T.J. Oshie is not regarded with the same respect outside of Capitals Nation that, say, an Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom command.  In the Caps community, however, Oshie has to be considered among the biggest fan favorites.  This is not a “Mr. Congenialty” award, either.  Hockey fans appreciate hockey players, with all the attributes that term implies – productive on the ice, durable, dependable, clutch, a “stand-up” player who will go into the tough areas to produce, a player who leads by example, and a generally good guy who is a positive influence in the community off the ice.  Oshie has been that for six seasons in Washington, and even though predictions of his imminent diminishing of his production has become something of a perennial concern, he has toughed his way through that, and until it happens, it makes little sense it will come true this season.

Projection: 78 games, 31-25-56, plus-1