When Hillen's regression comes, how bad will it be? (AP)
As the Washington Capitals’ 2013 season has come to a close, and many words have been written about the team as a whole, it’s now time to look at this club at an individual level. As such, we will be taking a look at each player who played a significant role on the club this season and what they could bring in the future. Next up is defenseman Jack Hillen.
Season Summary: Hillen, after being signed to a flier contract in the offseason, made the team out of camp and played on opening night, only to take a crunching hit early in his first Capitals game and miss the next seven weeks with what was believed to be a shoulder injury. Once he returned to the lineup in mid-March, he was actually pretty good, much to my surprise. He posted nine points in 23 games, three of which were goals, and posted the highest corsi (1.35) and second highest corsi rel (7.5) among Capitals defensemen. He did this while playing mostly even strength minutes with some time on the penalty kill. Outside of the injury, I would have to say that it was a very good year for him. Grade: B+
Role Play: There really wasn’t much hype surrounding Hillen when he got to Washington, other than the nice tidbit that he once ate an Alex Ovechkin one-timer in the teeth while playing for the Islanders. Many, including myself, did not understand why he was signed at all given the apparent logjam on Washington’s blueline at the beginning of the season, but by the end injuries and bad play by others had made him a steady presence in the lineup. He exceeded all expectations. Grade: B+
Playoffs: Hillen had a lone point, an assist, against the Rangers while posting a solid corsi of 9.14, though that figure fell to fifth among the six Capitals defensemen to play in the postseason. In addition, his corsi rel fell to -12.4, an alarming drop off which was again fifth on the roster among six defensemen. He made some solid plays and had some gaffes, though his penchant for taking some bad penalties was certainly not a plus. Overall, there really wasn’t much to report, especially for a guy with such low expectations. Grade: C
Future Potential: Towards the end of the season, Hillen was signed to a two-year contract extension that will pay him $700,000 per annum for the next two seasons. That’s a fine contract in terms of money, especially because Hillen’s sky-high PDO of 1051 indicates that there is a correction in store for his statistics next season. It seems curious given all the young defensemen that Washington has, but they may end up trading him. In the end, Hillen is a middle-aged, somewhat reliable defenseman who can play good minutes in limited quantities. That’s nothing to sneeze at, despite the likely regression. Grade: B-
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.