From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2009-10 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up, Eric Belanger.
#18 / Center / Washington Capitals
Dec 16, 1977
$1,750,000 cap hit in 2009-10; UFA after 2009-10 season
Previous Rink Wraps: N/A
|Regular Season (MIN)
|Regular Season (WSH)
Key Stat: Belanger cost the Caps their second round pick in the 2010 Entry Draft.
Interesting Stat: Belanger had half as many points (one goal, two assists) in his NHL debut - which came at Verizon Center back on October 6, 2000 - as he had in 15 home games as a member of the Caps in 2010 (two goals, four assists).
The Good: Belanger was (and still is) the League's top face-off man in the playoffs, winning an astounding 66.7% of his draws. He committed only two penalties during his 17-game regular season stint with the Caps and won 52% of his face-offs in those games. And, of course, what he went through in Game 5 of the Habs series provides a new legend of dental-related heroics in the range of Captain Cadaver.
The Bad: Though Belanger topped 40 points in a season for the first time in his career and set a career-best with 26 assists, most of those numbers came for Minnesota, and his goals- and assists-per-game dropped off the table once coming to Washington. In fact, for the Caps he scored goals at a lower per-game clip (.12) than in any season of his career and tallied points at the lowest per-game rate (.35) since his rookie season. As a point of comparison, only David Steckel and Quintin Laing had higher minutes-per-point ratios than Belanger among Caps forwards, and neither of them saw nearly as much power-play time or as high-quality linemates as Belanger did. (Steckel and Laing were also the only regular Cap forwards with a lower shooting percentage during the regular season than Belanger, so you'd have to think that given a larger sample size, the 32-year-old pivot's goal and point totals would come up a bit). And while Belanger was brought in to help a struggling penalty kill, his numbers were pretty terrible at 4-on-5... like, fourth-worst in the League terrible (most of which came for Minnesota, of course, but the Wild did kill penalties much, much better than the Caps on the campaign).
The Vote: Rate Belanger 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: Belanger has expressed a desire to return to Washington next season and believes the feeling to be mutual - at what price and in what role should the Caps be interested? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating in 2010-11?