From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading the 2008-09 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2009-10. Next up,Tyler Sloan.
#89 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Mar 15, 1981
UFA; Contract of $475,000 (league minimum) in '08-'09.
Key Stat: During the regular season, he was fourth-best amongst Caps D in GA/60 (minimum 20 GP).
Interesting Stat: He, and Karl Alzner, were the only Caps D to draw more penalties than they committed at even strength (again, 20 GP minimum).
The Good: Most of Caps Land had never heard of Tyler Sloan, signed by Washington to a one year deal on July 2 of last year. Except those who closely followed the Hershey Bears during their first Calder Cup run in the era of Capitals affiliation -- Sloan was an emergency signee for Hershey and saw two games of 2005-06 playoff action in the A. But when Sloan took his first NHL shift in his home town of Calgary, and crushed Flames F Daymond Langkow in the neutral zone, with an open-ice hit fit for a year-end league highlight reel, we all took notice.
Yes, "Cinderella Man" provided one of several feel-good stories of the season for Les Capitals, his long-winding journey to the summit of the hockey world. A rags-to-riches to rookie dinner tab tale, punctuated by his first NHL goal, a third period tie-breaker that could have been a game-winner, and finishing up with a healthy dose of ice time in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Ok, that's all well and good, but how did Sloan fit it to the bigger 2008-09 Capitals season picture? Well, principally, he provided solid injury support, most often paired with Tom Poti, during the months of November and December, when all of Mike Green, Jeff Schultz, Shaone Morrisonn, and even Poti himself, spent time on the shelf. And, as for injury insurance, Sloan was as cheap as they come, earning the league minimum (and yeah, he probably was really liking it).
He was an effective penalty killer, earning the second (to Green) lowest GA/60 ratio at 4-on-5 amongst Caps D, and was on pace to block more shots on the PK than all Caps D but Alzner (in each case, minimum 20 GP).
I even suggested that Sloan could've, perhaps should've, seen more playoff action, later in the second-round Penguins series, over an severely injury-compromised Green. Think I'm crazy? Well, the Penguins didn't score while he was on the ice in his two GP (Games 2 and 3), either at even-strength or on the PP. And Sloan stayed out of the penalty box. According to Brian Pothier, after Sloan's NHL playoff debut, "[H]e just makes great decisions....I don't think he made a mistake [in Game 2]." Green was a -4 at ES during the post-season; Sloan, a + 1. So for what that's worth.
The Bad: At times, admittedly, Sloan looked more like a Las Vegas Wrangler than a Washington Capital. For stretches he would efficiently clear the puck and at other times make dangerous clearing attempts that would directly result in goals, or highlight-reel saves. Like we saw a bit with Alzner last season, the pace of the game tends to wear on an NHL rookie, after the adrenaline of the call-up, and excitement of playing in the show, begins to subside.
But seriously, going into this season, what did you expect from the first #89 in Capitals history? So . . .
The Vote: Rate Sloan below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: Is Sloan worth resigning as injury depth for 2009-10, up to what price (assuming he could garner an offer from another team)? What re-signings of other Caps D not currently under contract (Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina, Schultz, Bryan Helmer, Sean Collins, Sami Lepisto) would make Sloan expendable?
Update: Per the team, Sloan has been re-signed for next season. Further details have not yet been disclosed.