Are Fehr and Beagle In Oates’s Doghouse?

Posted November 15, 2013

Jay Beagle is wondering what is up with him not playing. (Photo by Alena Schwarz)

During the summer, two roster spots were figured and penciled in for forwards Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle. While Beagle was thought to be the fourth line center, Fehr was being tried out at center after playing most of his career on the right wing. Both have small salary cap hits, and were thought of as consistent parts of the Washington Capitals’ roster. Through 19 games, while Fehr has played 14 games, he has been in the press box the last five, while Beagle has only played in five games. The reasons why are likely not just one.

The biggest reason they could be healthy scratches most nights would be that the coaching staff believes that the lineup over the past few games is their strongest. The case regarding Fehr is difficult to understand. Fehr is currently tied with Troy Brouwer for 8th on the team in scoring with six points, five of which are assists. While Brouwer has four more goals, he did it in five more games with likely better scoring opportunities. If Fehr is not going to play above Brouwer, he would have to beat out Joel Ward, who currently has 12 points, eight of them being goals. It would appear to be that unless a player goes down with an injury or goes into a slump, Fehr may be in a suit most nights.

The case can be made that Fehr should be playing over Brouwer, whose cap hit is more than double Fehr’s. As noted, they have the same number of points, although Fehr has played five fewer games, with less ice time. Fehr’s lack of goal scoring is not helping his case, but with more offensive-minded linemates, his numbers could go up. Brouwer has played on the second line with Mikhail Grabovski, Brooks Laich, and Marcus Johansson this season, while Fehr has spent most of his time on the third or fourth line. He also sees a lot less power play time. According to their profiles on the teams official website, Fehr is an inch taller, and they weigh the same, so the differences really would come down to skill. Should Brouwer get a night off to see what Fehr can do?

As for Beagle, the case is not much easier to see. Through five games, Beagle had zero points and is a minus one with three shots on goal. While a fourth line center is not necessarily known for scoring, the occasional goal or assist is required at the NHL level. Through eight games, Michael Latta has two assists while also being a minus one with four shots. The case then becomes who is better defensively and in the faceoff circle. Through his five games, Beagle’s faceoff percentage is 0.688, while Latta’s is 0.533 through eight games. However, head coach Adam Oates may prefer Latta due to his potential to bring more offensively.

Could there be room for both players on the ice? With John Erskine out, the Caps lack that enforcer that other teams keep in the back of their mind. While Tom Wilson is willing to drop the gloves, sometimes too often, Aaron Volpatti may be getting a sweater most nights just in case a team decides to dirty things up. Could we see Beagle return when Erskine returns? Oates could put Latta on the left wing with Beagle and Wilson, and Volpatti back in the press box.

Neither Fehr nor Beagle have large cap hits, therefore having them sitting in the press box is not going to hurt the team in the long run. However, both are going to want to play and both can bring something to the team. Both could see more games in the press box until another player goes down with an injury or statistically, but both players can make their case to be included. Beagle has to produce more offensively, but Fehr has and deserves the chance to contribute. In the end, it is up to Oates and his staff to decide who should be playing, and who should not.

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