From Alzner to Wideman, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2011-12 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2012-13. Next up, Jeff Halpern.
#15 / Center / Washington Capitals
May 03, 1976
$825,000 cap hit in 2011-12; UFA summer 2012
Prior Rink Wraps: N/A
Key Stat: Halpern's 58.3 faceoff percentage was the fifth-highest in the League during the regular season.
Interesting Stat: Halpern went from April 18, 2006 to November 4, 2011 between goals scored in a Washington uniform, but that's not the longest such stretch. Per Mike Vogel, Anson Carter holds that distinction, going nearly seven years between Caps tallies.
The Good: Halpern was brought in over the summer to provide some of what departing Cap Boyd Gordon had lent to the team - a defensively responsible third- or fourth-liner who could kill penalties and win his fair share of faceoffs (while perhaps providing another veteran voice in the locker room). He did exactly that, too, giving the team another excellent faceoff man who did a lot of the little things that won't show up on the scoresheet. He was on the ice for just 1.80 goals-against per 60 at five-on-five over the course of the season, the fourth-lowest on the team, and was among the team's leaders in shorthanded ice time, skating an average of 1:44 a game 4-on-5 - the fifth-highest average on the team and second among the team's forwards.
Where he was the strongest, however, was in the faceoff circle. Over the course of the season Halpern would take 625 draws, the fourth-highest amount on the team, and win 365 of them - the second-most wins of any center on the team. In fact he won at least 50% of his draws in 50 of 69 games (and both playoff games in which he appeared), which would lead him to finish the season with a 58.3% win rate on faceoffs, good enough for fifth-best in the NHL.
The Bad: The expectations for Halpern were never for him to be an offensive dynamo, but 16 points in 69 games fell short of even those expectations and was tied with the lowest of his career (with the other 16-point season one in which he played 17 fewer games due to injury). Going even beyond that, the four goals he racked up beat his previous career low of five exactly a decade ago. And while he was a regular fixture of the team's penalty killing unit, he was also dinged for the most goals-against per 60 among those playing a regular role shorthanded.
But when talking about Halpern and the negative side of his season, the focus automatically falls on one which was likely not entirely in his control - the playoffs. Halpern found himself a healthy scratch for the last two weeks of the season and the first twelve postseason games the Caps played. Had he appeared in even half of the team's games, it would've tied a personal high for him; instead, the two games marked the fewest he would appear in during any season in which his team actually made the playoffs.
And when an injury to Jay Beagle meant he was finally given a jersey for the team's last two playoff games against the Rangers, he wasn't able to do much to help his team, taking a bad double minor in Game 6 (and getting dinged for the only goal-against in the last minute of regulation) and playing less than six minutes in Game 7.
The Vote: Rate Halpern 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: Does the lack of offense put a damper on his return performance with his hometown team or did the things he accomplished that aren't quantifiable make up for it? Did you see him as an upgrade, a downgrade or neutral compared to the player(s) he replaced? If he's re-signed over the summer, what contract terms would you be comfortable with? And finally, assuming he's still here, what will it take for Halpern to earn a "10" next season?