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. Last up, Dennis Wideman.
#6 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Mar 20, 1983
NHL Seasons: 8
Key Stat: Wideman racked up 20 of his 46 regular season points on the power play, trailing only Alex Ovechkin's 23 for tops on the team.
Interesting Stat: With just three points in the playoffs, Wideman tied a career low for postseason production - with the previous 3-point postseason coming in just six games.
The Good: Wideman's first season in Washington was a trade- and injury-shortened one, so it was hard to tell if the Caps would see the puck-moving power play quarterback they'd hoped to acquire at last year's trade deadline. After a summer of rehabbing from his severe leg injury, though, it looked like Wideman hadn't missed a step - in fact, he started off the season red hot, registering a point in each of the team's first seven games and eleven of the first fifteen en route to an 8-goal, 30-point first half. Those impressive numbers not only led the Caps but put him among the League leaders, as well, and resulted in his first career invitation to the All-Star Game.
Despite a bit of a production drop-off in the second half (which was as much about the team's offense trailing off as anything else), Wideman still finished the season in the NHL's top 15 in both goals and assists and top 10 in points among all NHL defensemen. His goal, assist and point totals were all the second-highest totals of his career, and he set a new career high in game-winning goals (including this beauty).
He didn't just set (or fall just short of) personal highs - Wideman's offensive production was among the team lead, as well, in a season where offense was hard to come by. His 35 assists led the team, with 16 of them coming on the power play - a mark that was tied with Nicklas Backstrom for the team lead - and he finished tied with Marcus Johansson for the fourth-highest point total on team. His 175 shots-on-goal led all Caps' defensemen. He also logged the most power play time per game among the team's defensemen, with the third-highest PP GFON/60 among players who logged a significant amount of time with the extra man. Rounding out his special teams acumen was a significant amount of time shorthanded, as well, with the team's third-highest ice time.
The Bad: As productive as he was offensively,there were times when Wideman appeared to be something of a liability in his own end... which is kind of the opposite of what you're going for at that position. His minus-8 rating was second-worst rating among Caps defensemen, a rating which at times reflected his poor - and sometimes downright head-scratching - decision-making with the puck. By the end of the season he had been on for 86 goals-against, second-most on the team behind only John Carlson, almost a third of the team's total goals-against for the season. At even strength, Wideman finished with the team's second-highest GAON/60 (and the highest in the playoffs).
Wideman turned into something of a scapegoat during the postseason - particularly in the first round - as he seemed destined to be on the ice whenever that big, heartbreaking goal was scored on the Caps. He finished the fourteen game run having been on for 13 goals-against, including eight in that catastrophic first series alone (when the team only gave up 15 total), and was a team-worst minus-7.
The fact that he was on for so many goals-against certainly wasn't helped by the fact that his hand in goals-for declined dramatically. With just three points in the playoffs he tied a career low (one that was established in a postseason in which he played only six games), registering just a single assist against the Bruins and two more assists in the second-round loss to the Rangers. And while two of his three playoff points were on the power play, the fact that he wasn't able to quarterback the team to a more substantial rate of production with the extra man certainly didn't help their chances of getting out of the second round.
The Vote: Rate Wideman 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: On a team whose offense struggled at times, which stuck out to you more - Wideman's offensive production or the fact that he was occasionally a defensive liability? With Dmitri Orlov waiting in the wings, can the Caps afford to release Wideman this summer or should they try to retain him? If it's the latter, what type of contract would you be comfortable with? Finally, if he sticks around, what will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?