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Offseason Evaluation: Dennis Wideman

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team’s games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is defenseman Dennis Wideman, who finished his second season with the Capitals, but 7th NHL season overall, on this past campaign.

Season Summary: Wideman got off to a blazing start, recording seven points in his first seven games and 12 in his first 14.  This was a significant surprise to some, who thought that Mike Green would carry the offensive load along rearguards and his success at the beginning was not expected.  After his hot start, however, Wideman was decidedly mediocre and at times poor down the stretch in terms of point production; though he did have some hot stretches, he also had some very long dry spells.  Overall, he played in 82 games, recording 11 goals, 35 assists, a minus-eight rating, and 46 penalty minutes.  At even strength, he was the Caps’ fourth-best puck possessor among defensemen with a -1.09 corsi rating; he accomplished this against the third-hardest competition among defensemen.  Grade: B+

Role Play: Because it was expected that Mike Green would be healthy most of the year, not much was expected out of Wideman by many this year.  But when he was given the chances, Wideman was what Wideman has always been: an offensive defenseman with a big shot, puck moving ability, and challenges in his own zone.  His 46 points and negative rating indicated that, and 46 points from someone who started the year on your third defensive pairing is nothing to sneeze at.  Sure, Wideman’s salary says that maybe he should be better in his own zone.  But in terms of points from defensemen, Wideman was the Caps’ best and most consistent player.  It wasn’t pretty, but the numbers speak for themselves for Washington’s only all-star (GULP). Grade: B+

Playoffs: Pshaw. As good as his regular season was, Wideman’s playoffs were terrible.  Playing in all 14 games, Wideman had three points, all assists, and was minus-seven, the worst among all NHL postseason players at that time; he did not have a single playoff game in which he had a positive rating.  Again, he was the third best puck possessor among defensemen; he did it against the second easiest competition among defensemen.  He struggled in his own end terribly; he and Jeff Schultz were a constant unmitigated disaster and were constantly at the center of defensive breakdowns.  In addition, even though the power play could not score more often than not, Dale Hunter continued trotting him out there with the man advantage, which was an adventure that nobody enjoyed.  I was disappointed that he did not see less ice as the playoffs wore on. Grade: D+

Future Potential: An unrestricted free agent, the 29 year-old Wideman is due for a large pay day this offseason, and if the Caps have any sense at all, it won’t be from them.  As one of maybe four defensemen on the unrestricted market who can run a power play, Wideman will be in high demand and will get a multi-year deal with an annual cap hit north of $4.5-5 million.  The Caps do not have that kind of money, and even if they did, I wouldn’t want him back because of his inconsistency and his defensive inefficiencies, which are pronounced.  This is not the same as Mike Green, either; Green is a restricted free agent and has a much higher upside.  Wideman will probably get his 50 points next year in Edmonton or Dallas; let him do it.  He will be a solid player, just hopefully not here. Grade: B

The next report card will feature goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

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