Comparing Seasons: Brooks Orpik

Posted April 13, 2017

(Caps Outsider)

Last May, Brooks Orpik sat despondently in the penalty box in Consol Energy Center, shifting his mouthpiece from one side of his mouth to the other. It was game six of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Pittsburgh, and Orpik watched as his double-minor high-sticking penalty resulted in two goals for the Penguins in an elimination game for the Capitals.

Although the Capitals stormed back from a three goals down to send the game into overtime, Orpik’s undisciplined penalty and overall spotty play last postseason drew criticism from fans and pundits.

Entering the current season, the 14-year veteran was put in a reduced role, moving from the second pairing with John Carlson to the bottom pairing with Nate Schmidt. As a result, Orpik’s minutes dropped significantly, going from 19:49 minutes a game in 2015-2016 to 17:47 this year.

The optimal usage seemed to help the rugged defender, who missed only three games (compared to 41 last season) and actually saw an improvement in certain possession metrics. According to Hockey Reference, Orpik’s relative corsi for jumped from -0.8 to 0.2 in a year’s time, although his points per game has dropped approximately by .07.

After finding second wind while paired with Schmidt and registering a team-high +32, Orpik has since been paired with trade deadline acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk, and is expected to continue so entering the team’s first round series against Toronto.