Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Washington Capitals 2021-2022 Previews -- Defensemen: Trevor van Riemsdyk

Trevor van Riemsdyk

“Toil and pleasure, dissimilar in nature, are nevertheless united by a certain natural bond.”
-- Livy

If you look at the career of Trevor van Riemsdyk casually, you might think of him as one of those marginal NHLers who bounce around on the edge of getting a sweater for an NHL game or getting a notice that he has been sent down to the minors.  Things are not what they seem, though.  Van Riemsdyk has appeared in more than 75 games three times in a seven-year NHL career, and he might have topped 75 games on two other occasions, in 2014-2015, when he missed the last 64 games of the regular season and all of the postseason to a leg injury, and in 2016-2017, when he missed 20 games to an upper body injury.  The fact is, he has assembled, if not a career that inspires headlines, a solid resume nonetheless.  In 384 career games with three teams (Chicago, Carolina, and the Caps), he is 16-56-72, plus-9 (3-12-15, plus-2, per 82 games).

Odd van Riemsdyk Fact… Trevor van Riemsdyk is one of two NHL players to have been born in Middletown, New Jersey.  The other is his brother, James.

Odd van Riemsdyk Fact II… van Riemsdyk is one of three brothers – James and Brendan being the others – to have played for the University of New Hampshire.  He is the only defenseman among the three.

Fearless’ Take… With the departures of Brenden Dillon and Zdeno Chara, van Riemsdyk has an opportunity to cement a spot on the Caps’ blue line on a regular basis.  The last two seasons, both of an abbreviated nature, limited van Riemsdyk to 69 games overall, over which he was 2-9-11, minus-8, with Carolina and Washington.  He could surpass all of those numbers this season, even as a third-pair defenseman. 

Cheerless’ Take… Trevor van Riemsdyk dressed for only 20 games last season in his first year with the Caps, so there is little to latch onto as far as his performance is concerned.  There is the matter of ice time; the Caps were 3-2-1 when he skated more than 20 minutes, 9-4-1 when he logged fewer than 20 minutes.  Although not an offensive defenseman, there was the matter of the Caps being 8-3-0 in games in which he recorded at least one shot on goal, 4-3-2 when he was blanked on the shot meter.

Potential Milestones to Reach in 2020-2021…

  • 400 career NHL games (currently 384)
  • 100 career NHL points (72)
  • 500 career shots on goal (473)

The Big Question… Can Trevor van Riemsdyk anchor a third pair on defense?

The top four spots on defense for the Caps are all but set – John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Justin Schultz, and Nick Jensen would appear to have those spots locked down.  The third pair is unsettled, with van Riemsdyk, Matt Irwin, Martin Fehervary, and Alex Alexeyev potentially competing for ice time.  None of that group has a big salary cap footprint, so the decision would seem to be a “hockey” decision, although van Riemsdyk has the advantage of being the only right-handed defensemen in this group.  Van Riemsdyk might not have a better opportunity to claim a regular spot in the lineup.  He has the experience to take advantage of that opportunity.

In the end…

Trevor van Riemsdyk played intermittently last season, one that was essentially broken up into two pieces – a seven-game run of games in late January/earl February, and an 11- game run to close the regular season.  He has not had a heavy workload the last two seasons, so the open question here is whether he will have more in the tank as the season grinds on, or he will hit a wall 40-50 games into the season.  It would seem he will get his opportunity.

Projection: 65 games, 5-14-19, plus-1


Washington Capitals 2021-2022 Previews -- Defensemen: Justin Schultz

Justin Schultz

“I think people who have faults are a lot more interesting than people who are perfect.”
-- Spike Lee


If one looks at the scouting report on Washington Capitals defenseman Justin Schultz at TSN.ca, you might think Schultz is among the most interesting people on the planet: 

  • Assets: Can often act as a fourth forward on the ice, thanks to supreme offensive instincts and excellent mobility from the back end. A natural with the puck on his blade, he produces plenty of offense. Is a natural power-play QB, too.
  • Flaws: Is wildly inconsistent. Has major holes in his defensive game, which can at times negate his offensive assets. Lacks the physical strength to effectively handle big NHL forwards at the highest level. Plays a passive game at times.

Last season, for the most part, Caps fans saw more of the “assets” Schultz than the “flaws.”  His overall top line numbers were good (3-24-27, plus-12), his on-ice even strength goal percentage (59.2 percent) was best on the team.  He was on ice for 31 even strength goals against, second fewest among the six Capitals defensemen to dress for more than 20 games.   

Odd Schultz Fact… Schultz failed to record a shot on goal only 12 times in 46 games, but the Caps were 8-2-2 in those games.

Odd Schultz Fact II… Schultz’ 1.3 primary assists and 1.9 points per 60 minutes last season were career bests.

Fearless’ Take… If you start with the premise that Schultz is primarily an offensive defenseman, then last year was a good one for him.  Whether he is an effective defender or not, there wasn’t a lot of bad happening on his watch on the ice.  And as for that offensive emphasis, it mattered.  The Caps were 16-1-2 in games in which Schulz recorded at least one point.

Cheerless’ Take… Good things happened when Schultz was on ice, for the most part, but his 49.0 percent shot attempts on-ice at 5-on-5 was worst on the team among defensemen appearing in at least ten games.  That is not an outlier in his career.  Seven times in nine seasons he was under 50 percent.  Some of those years were spent with struggling Edmonton Oiler teams, but the same pattern was evident in his years with a good Pittsburgh squad.  There is also the matter of Schultz’ durability.  He missed ten games last season with lower body and facial injuries.  Only three times in seven full NHL seasons did he dress for at least 70 games.  He has appeared in 80.6 percent of his teams’ scheduled games over his career.

Potential Milestones to Reach in 2020-2021…

  • 600 career NHL games (currently 528)
  • 100 games as a Capital (46)
  • 200 career assists (188)
  • 250 career points (241)
  • 100 career power play points (97)

The Big Question… Can Justin Schultz be the “1A” offensive defenseman on this club?

Schultz finished second among Caps defensemen in points last season (27) despite missing ten games.  Six times in nine NHL seasons he finished with more than 25 points.  He has a 51-point season on his resume (2016-2017 with Pittsburgh).  Schultz would seem to have it in him to relieve John Carlson of some of the offensive burden or, preferably, to supplement Carlson’s production.  This is particularly promising in that Schultz’ points output has been primarily a function of his assist totals (eight times in his career he finished with more than ten assists).  The Caps certainly have their share of finishers for Schultz’ playmaking.  He averaged more than half an assist per game last season, his 0.52 assists per game being a career high.  It would not be surprising if he pushed that a bit higher this season.

In the end…

That scouting report from TSN.ca sort of lingers when considering Schultz’ 2021-2022 possibilities, as does the matter of his durability.  The flaws were not as evident last year as they might have been in previous seasons, but on a team that could be unsettled on defense, at least to start the season – Michal Kempny’s attempt to comeback from serious leg injuries, the possibility of one or two rookies getting ice time (Martin Fehervary, Alex Alexeyev), some uncertainty in how the pairings will shake out – a solid three-zone effort from Schultz will be important for the Caps to stake a claim to a postseason berth.

Projection: 65 games, 6-31-37, plus-8