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Offseason Evaluation: Matt Hendricks

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 forward Matt Hendricks, who finished his third season as a member of the Washington organization, but his ninth professional season overall, on this past campaign.

Season Summary: Hendricks played in 78 games this year, compiling four goals, five assists, a minus-six rating, and 95 penalty minutes.  As can be expected for a defensive forward like him, he went through long scoring droughts, but in general, Hendricks did what he always does: skate hard, hit people hard, be responsible, drop the gloves every once in a while, and chip in with the occasional goal.  Also of note are his ridiculous shootout moves, which helped the Capitals make the playoffs because of winning games in the skills competition.  His puck possession was rather poor at -5.72, but that is to be expected to me when you are a forechecker and shot blocker like Hendricks.  He did all of this while facing the tenth-hardest competition among Capitals forwards. Grade: B-

Role Play: While the roles of the Caps’ “young guns” decreased under Dale Hunter, it was the “wagons” like Hendricks who were thrust in to the spotlight as players to lock down games, block shots, and play a hard 18 minutes a night to grind out wins.  Hendricks’s role expanded into the latter, and he met the challenge admirably, proving that he can be a viable bottom six forward in the NHL that is more than just a pair of fists; similar to Shawn Thornton.  One thing that was predictable but still disappointing was his decrease in points from 25 to 9, but with the defensive improvement he encountered, it’s not fair to pick too many nits. Grade: B

Playoffs: Dale Hunter took his defensive hockey to a new extreme in the playoffs, and again, Hendricks was at the center of that, playing a ridiculous amount of minutes for a supposed “fourth line” player in crunch time.  The 31 year-old had two points, a goal and an assist, in his 14 playoff games to go along with a minus-one rating and six penalty minutes; he also registered an astounding 61 (!!!!!!) hits in those two postseason series and was a constant factor despite not putting up gaudy offensive totals.  Despite being in “beast mode,” however, Hendricks had a very poor -21.20 corsi rating, the sixth-worst among forwards; again, this was against relatively easy competition. Grade: B+

Future Potential: Hendricks got unlucky this year, registering a 985 PDO, which could indicate a rebound both offensively and defensively next season.  With one more year on his contract at $825,000 before becoming an unrestricted free agent, I expect Hendy to have a very strong year next year as he attempts to earn a new contract.  That means more of the same hard-nosed, responsible play, with maybe a tad more points.  It’s almost assuredly not going to get much worse, and Hendricks has, without a doubt, established himself as a regular on this team. Grade: B

The next report card will feature defenseman Mike Green.

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