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,.
#81 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Jul 23, 1991
Part of 1
$900,000 cap hit through 2013-14; RFA summer 2014
Previous Rink Wraps: N/A
Interesting Stat: Orlov's 19 points were the most by a first-year Caps blueliner since Mikhail Tatarinov's 23 in 1990-91 and the sixth-highest total in team history.
The Good: After tallying nine points in fifteen games in Hershey, Orlov was recalled to Washington for good. He picked up his first career point in just his second game and scored his first goal, a game-winner, in mid-January (and speaking of game-winners, he assisted on four of 'em and scored one). Orlov led Caps rearguards in points-per-sixty at five-on-five (leading in both primary and secondary helpers per minute and barely trailing John Carlson in goals-per-sixty) and had the third-best relative Corsi among Washington defensemen, trailing only Roman Hamrlik and Mike Green. That last note transitions nicely into a look at Orlov's even-strength defensive work, which included the highest per-game hit total of the team's D-corps (including more than one devastating old school hip checks), the lowest shots-against-per-sixty total of the group and the lowest goals-against-per-sixty of any Caps blueliner who averaged a dozen even-strength minutes a night. Granted, Orlov's minutes didn't pit him against particularly tough competition, and he started plenty of shifts in the offensive zone, but he certainly posted strong all-around numbers (which weren't bolstered by a particularly high PDO).
Orlov (who will turn 21 next month) got limited special teams time, and didn't look
any more out of place than anyone else, and demonstrated some toughness down the stretch as his face became a puck magnet but he remained undeterred. Overall, in a season full of disappointing individual performances in Washington, Orlov's stands out among the bright spots, made all the more impressive when you realize that a year earlier he was playing for cellar-dwelling Novokuznetsk Metallurg in the KHL.
The Bad: Orlov was only credited with 27 missed shots on the season, but it certainly seemed like a lot more (in point of fact, nearly all of the Caps' regular defensemen were in a similar ~33% when it came to percentage of shots that got through but didn't end up on net). Still, with the shot he's got, you'd like to see it put on goal a bit more - and it's part of the reason it took him 25 games to score his first goal. Orlov had a ten-game pointless streak in mid-winter, and then there was the incident in Carolina (in which he lost his temper in response to some garbage from Jeff Skinner and ended up shoving a linesman) and a very-not-good shootout attempt on Long Island. But really, there wasn't a lot of "bad" in Orlov's season... which makes it all the more curious as to why he was unable to get even a single game in the playoffs while at least a couple of the defensemen ahead of him were struggling mightily. Oh well, coach's decision.
The Vote: Rate Orlov 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 Orlov a full-time NHL defenseman at this point? If so, with whom would you like to see him paired next year and in what role(s)? What does he need to work on? Finally, what will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?