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, Roman Hamrlik.
#44 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Apr 12, 1974
$3,500,000 cap hit in 2011-12; UFA summer 2013
Interesting Stat: 5,038 players have been selected by NHL teams since Hamrlik was taken first overall in the 1992 Entry Draft.
The Good: For Hamrlik, 2011-12 was essentially "A Tale of Two Coaches," as he struggled under Bruce Boudreau and turned things around 180 degrees under Dale Hunter (who, curiously, benched the veteran blueliner for... wait for it... taking bad penalties). To be sure, Hamrlik was a victim of some bad puck luck under Boudreau, but his play was the primary contributor in a woeful goal differential (he was on ice for 15 Caps goals and 31 against in 22 games played) that nearly mirrored his disparity under Hunter (42 Caps goals, 24 opposition tallies in 46 games). At five-aside, Hamrlik got tough zone starts, but faced relatively weak competition and posted the best relative Corsi among the team's blueliners, and on the penalty kill he performed similarly - hard to ask for much more from the defensive conscience of the second D-pairing.
Hamrlik stepped his game up in the playoffs and was only on the ice for four five-on-five goals-against in 14 games (two of which came in Game 1 of the Rangers series), which helped him to the third-best five-on-five goals-against per 60 of any blueliner in the tournament (minimum 10 games played), while maintaining very solid possession numbers and chipping in with a bit of offense. When the dust settled (or, more accurately, as it is still settling), Hamrlik was third in the League among defensemen with 10-plus games played in five-on-five goal-differential. Again, it's hard to ask for much more from the defensive conscience of the second D-pairing.
Finally, a lot of "The Good" for Hamrlik has to do with longevity. On October 15 in Ottawa, he passed Bobby Holik for the most NHL games played by a Czech native (1,315), and he finished the season having played 60 or more games for 17th time - only Nicklas Lidstrom has more 60-game seasons among active players. There are a lot of miles on those tires, but Roman Hamrlik is still rolling.
The Bad: When Hamrlik came into the League he was an offensive-minded defenseman who, in his most-productive season, pumped in 16 goals and added 49 assists (to go along with a minus-24 rating) as a 21-year-old. That was 15 seasons ago and a wholly different Hamrlik (for better or for worse). In 2011-12, Hamrlik posted career lows (in both raw numbers and per-game rates) in goals, assists, points, shots on goal and shooting percentage. In fairness, he got hardly any power-play time, but 27 games into the season, Hamrlik had just one goal and nary an assist. That's not good.
As noted above, Hamrlik struggled at the start of the season (he had a minus-10 rating under Boudreau, meaning he was plus-21 under Hunter), and at times throughout the season looked... well, his age. And he didn't necessarily handle his frustrations over being benched as well as one might hope a veteran would, but maybe we can chalk that up to a bizarre reaction to a bizarre decision. Overall, if you expected the 30 points Hamrlik had averaged over his previous four seasons before coming to Washington, you had to be pretty disappointed in his production in 2011-12. Then again, if you expected 2011-12 to look anything like the previous four seasons in Washington, you were probably pretty disappointed across the board.
The Vote: Rate Hamrlik 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: As he gets on in years, how can the Caps maximize Hamrlik's effectiveness? What role can play on a team that hopes to get back among the League's top teams? With whom is he most-effectively paired? What will it take for him to earn a "10" in 2012-13?