Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Washington Capitals 2022-2023 Previews -- Defensemen: Trevor van Riemsdyk

Trevor van Riemsdyk

“My powers are ordinary. Only my application brings me success.”
-- Isaac Newton

There are no “ordinary” players in the NHL.  The 1,004 skaters and 119 goalies to dress for at least one regular season game last year represent the pinnacle of the sport, world-class athletes.  Chances are, if you are reading this, you are not among the 1,000 top performers in your profession.  Certainly, we are not in this line of endeavor.

…that goes without saying.

That’ll be all out of you, Cheerless.

But to the point, if you look at a player like Trevor van Rimesdyk and his numbers over eight years with three teams (Chicago and Carolina in addition to Washington), you might be tempted to use the word “ordinary” to describe him.  Do not fall into that trap.  Van Riemsdyk dressed for 72 games last season, the Caps posting a 38-22-12 record in those games.  They were just 6-4-0 in the ten games he missed.  They were 8-3-1 in the games in which he skated more than 20 minutes (4-3-6 when he skated less than 20 minutes).  He did not put up big offensive numbers (1-16-17), but the Caps were 10-5-2 in the 17 games in which he recorded a point.  This points did have a geographical bias to them.  Fifteen of his 17 points (all assists) were scored against Eastern Conference teams in 44 games.  He had only two points (a goal and an assist) in 28 games against Western Conference teams (an assist against St. Louis and a goal against Dallas).

If anything, the 2021-2022 season was a return to normalcy – a more typical season – for van Riemsdyk after a pair of forgettable seasons (one in Carolina and one in Washington) in which he was 2-9-11, minus-8, in 69 games overall.

Odd van Riemsdyk Fact… van Riemsdyk not only led the Caps in shorthanded ice time per game (2:39), it was the most of his career by almost a full minute per game (1:43 with Chicago in 2015-2016).  The Caps were 28-14-6 in the 48 games in which he skated at least two minutes on the penalty kill.

Fearless’ Take… About those offensive numbers.  He had those 17 points, and that was a career high for him, as were the 16 assists.  His 17:28 in ice time per game were the most he had for a season since he left Chicago after the 2016-2017 season.  He had 129 blocked shots, the most he had since 2015-2016, when he had 155 (in ten more games) with Chicago.  Thirty takeaways were second-highest in his career (45 with Carolina in 2017-2018), and he was the only Capital defenseman to finish the season with more takeaways (30) than giveaways (19).

Cheerless’ Take… Van Riemsdyk was one of only four defensemen in the league to average less than 15 minutes of even strength ice time per game and be on ice for more than 50 even strength goals.  He had the worst goal differential on-ice at even strength of any returning Caps defenseman (minus-5).  Getting physical didn’t tract with success, either. In 21 games in which he was credited with at least one hit, the Caps were 10-7-4.  His offense, while modest, was also inconsistent on a month-to-month basis.  In four of the seven months of the regular season he had three or more points, and in the other three he had one or none.  And, in one of the stranger aspects of his game last year, he skated less than 15 minutes 13 times.  The Caps went to extra time in seven of them, winning once. 

Potential Milestones to Reach in 2022-2023

  • 500 career games (he has 456)
  • 100 career games as a Capital (92)
  • 100 career points (89)

The Big Question… Can Trevor van Riemsdyk stabilize the third defensive pair? 

Last season, Trevor van Riemsdyk was arguably the junior partner, reputation-wise, on the third defensive pair, often matched with Justin Schultz.  This year, Schultz traded one coast (Washington) for the other (Seattle), leaving van Riemsdyk as potentially the senior partner on the bottom pair.  The other side could be a revolving door of Erik Gustafsson, Matt Irwin, Lucas Johansen, and (depending on the state of his health) Alex Alexeyev.  Until things settle out at that spot, the Caps will need van Riemsdyk to be the “dependable defensive defenseman” described in his career potential at 

He showed the capacity to be that dependable defensive defenseman last season, especially as it wore on.  Overall, though, his being on ice for almost a third of all even strength goals scored against the Caps, while averaging less than 15 minutes of even strength ice time per game, could stand improvement.  The concern might be that as it wore on, his offense seemed to fade.  He was just 0-4-4, minus-7, over his last 28 games after going 1-12-13, plus-4, over his first 44 games. 

In the end…

Trevor van Riemsdyk will not be relied upon to be a game-changing, minutes-eating defenseman.  That is not to say, however, that the Caps can afford his being a liability.  He will play a sightly different role this year than last, relied upon as the stabilizing presence on what might be an unsettled third pair to start the season.  He does have more than 450 regular season games and 32 postseason games on his resume, so experience should not be an issue. 

There is also the fact that he is one of six Capitals defensemen playing for a new contract this season.  Although he will not likely be playing for a mega-deal (four of his five contracts in the NHL were of the two-year variety; the other was a one-year deal), he could be playing for a bigger payday than he has had since he signed a two-year/$4.6 million contract with Carolina in July 2018 (he is on a two-year/$1.9 million contract with the Caps that expires after this season).  Van Riemsdyk has carved out a solid career by playing a dependable sort of game.  His numbers do not jump off the page, but he has the capacity to provide stability, which should never be thought of as ordinary.

Projection: 76 games, 3-12-15, even