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Offseason Evaluation: Jay Beagle

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 center Jay Beagle, who finished his fifth season in the Washington organization on this past campaign.

Season Summary: The season started and ended on sour notes for Beagle, who sustained a serious concussion in his second game of the year against the Penguins and then broke his foot near the end of DC’s postseason run.  Beagle played in 41 regular season games total, recording four goals, an assist, a plus-five rating, and 23 penalty minutes.  However, Beagle made a real name for himself on the defensive side of the puck, establishing himself as a regular under Dale Hunter in mid-February and playing every night from there on in.  Beagle won 57.7% of all the draws he took, remarkable for a player who was playing wing before this season, while being relied upon to play big minutes on the penalty kill and block shots.  Despite these positives, however, Beagle was the fourth-worst puck possessor among Caps forwards with a -6.09 corsi rating, and he put that figure up facing middle of the pack competition – literally.  Beagle’s QoC was 8th out of 15 forwards that played in 20 or more games. Grade: B-

Role Play: Beagle entered this year with little to no expectations to become a key player or a regular, but he banged the door down under Dale Hunter and stole the show late in the season as one of Hunter’s go to guys in the dying minutes of games as a player who proved he could shut games down.  As I noted above, he won faceoffs at a very high clip and by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was one of the most important players in Hunter’s system because he was relied upon.  He responded to those minutes not with scoring, but with defense, and when healthy, really impressed me by working his butt off and never quitting on a play. Grade: A-

Playoffs: For much of the playoffs, Beagle did exactly what he did in the regular season: not score much (1 goal, 1 assist), but play big minutes to help shut games down and win faceoffs (54% clip).  He also played tough minutes, the fifth-hardest among forwards on the Caps, though he was still pitiful at possessing the puck with a -25 corsi, the second worst on the team.  Unfortunately, Beagle was hurt in game five of the Rangers series, taking a slapshot that broke his left foot.  Beagle did everything humanly possible to play in game six after finishing game five with the inury, literally putting his equipment on and trying to go out for warmups, but simply could not rely on his foot for support.  It was a premature end for a player who gave his all for his team and deserved better and a solid playoffs. Grade: B

Future Potential: Beagle, who is 25 but will be 26 a week into the 2012-13 season (providing it starts on time), is a restricted free agent this summer.  Based on his increased role and the small price that it will keep to retain his rights, I would think there is little to no doubt he will receive a qualifying offer and remain in Capital red next year, if not more years after that with a multi-year deal.  George McPhee has to be careful, however, because as good as Beagle’s season was when he played, investing much money or multiple years in a player who has only really been an effective NHL player for 53 games is not the best idea ever.  He’s a valuable player, but he’s not a full-time third line center to me. Grade: C

The next report card will feature goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

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