Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Washington Capitals 2022-2023 Previews -- Forwards: Garnet Hathaway

Garnet Hathaway

“Who sows virtue reaps honor.”
-- Leonardo da Vinci

Another Capital, another expiring contract.  Garnet Hathaway is in the final year of his four-year/$6.0 million deal.  He goes into that walk year with a tough act to follow, a career year in 2021-2022.  He tied his career high in games played (76), posted career highs in goals (14) and points (26), tied a career high in assists (12), had a career-best plus-19 rating, recorded a career high 124 shots on goal, posted career highs in credited hits (250) and blocked shots (62), and averaged a career best 13:23 in ice time per game.

What makes his season a bit more impressive is that he got off to a lousy start.  Hathaway went his first 13 games without a point, but he broke out of that slump in a big way with a pair of multi-goal games (five goals in all) and three multi-point efforts over his next four games.  He also closed the season without a point in his last six games; it was in those middle 57 games he played over which he averaged almost half a point per game (26 points), a rather impressive pace for a fourth line forward.

Odd Hathaway Fact… All three of Hathaway’s game-winning goals last season came on the road – November 17th in Los Angeles (2-0 Caps win), February 17th in Philadelphia (5-3 Caps win), and April 16th in Montreal (8-4 Caps win). Four of his five game-winning goals as a Capital were on the road.  Bonus: Ten of Hathaway’s last 40 goals scored are game-winners.

Fearless’ Take… It’s not as if Hathaway’s career year in 2021-2022 was a one-off.  He’s improved in points with each season with the Caps.  From 0.24 points per game in 2019-2020 to 0.32 points per game two seasons ago to 0.34 points per game last season.  And, he’s been better about coloring within the lines.  His penalty minutes dropped over those three years from 1.20 minutes per game to 1.18 to 0.75 last season, and his fighting majors dropped from five in his first year with the Caps to three to one this past season.  The 13-4-2 record the Caps had when he posted at least one point is unsurprising, but it is notable nonetheless.  Is increased offensive engagement also tracked with success, the Caps going 12-4-3 in the 19 games in which he recorded at least three shots on goal. 

Cheerless’ Take… The odd thing about Hathaway’s season is that the things for which he has endeared himself to Caps fans – getting under a player’s skin, doing the dirty work expected of a fourth liner – didn’t track well with team success.  In 25 games in which he logged penalty minutes, the Caps were 11-11-3.  They were 10-8-2 in the 20 games in which he was credited with five or more hits.  They were 6-6-2 in the 14 games in which he had two or more blocked shots.

Potential Milestones to Reach in 2022-2023

  • 400 career games (he has 373)
  • 200 games as a Capital (198)
  • 500 career penalty minutes (421)
  • 5,000 career minutes played (4,305)

The Big Question… Can Hathaway keep his streak of year-to-year improvement with the Caps going?

It would be inaccurate to say that Garnet Hathaway’s game is “mellowing.”  He is too feisty a player to apply that description.  But his game has become more well-rounded with age.  He is not just an agitator; he can provide some offensive contributions, and his averaging more than a minute of shorthanded ice time per game in each of his three years with the Caps is evidence of his ability to play the role of penalty killer.  He does, however, play with a high-revving motor and a grinding style that can be hard on a player.  But while he is another Capital on the far side of 30, he turns 31 in November, still in what might be the chronological prime of his career. 

The moderation, relatively speaking, in his game argues further that wear and tear should not be an issue with Hathaway.  He has become a more efficient scorer in his three years with the Caps (10.9 percent shooting versus 9.0 percent in his four years with Calgary).  The 13:23 in ice time per game he logged last season, a career high by more than a minute over his previous high (12:19 with the Caps in 2020-2021), might be an upper limit in terms of marshalling his effectiveness.  If anything, it would be that limitation that would keep him from adding to his string of seasons with improving numbers, but there is no reason to believe he would suffer any diminishing returns this season.

In the end…

Is Garnet Hathaway a “most” valuable player?  No, he is not.  But he is valuable.  He makes a range of contributions important to a team with designs on a serious postseason run – he plays hard in all three zones, he can distract (if not outright annoy) opponents, he can provide shorthanded minutes to kill penalties, and he makes offensive contributions.  He did not play in more than half of his team’s games until his 26-year old season (with Calgary), so he probably has less wear and tear than the normal almost-31-year old.  He will have the incentive of this being a walk year, and he would appear to be in line for a bump up in compensation in his next contract.  While a team has to manage cap hit and term with any prospective deal, the Caps should look long and hard at re-upping Hathaway for another tour with the club.  It’s hard to find players of his skill set who are as good a fit as Hathaway has been with the Caps.

Projection: 75 games, 14-14-28, plus-15