Key Stat: 9.4 percentage points. The difference between Jay Beagle's goals for percentage without Alex Ovechkin (55.6%) and with Ovechkin (46.2%).
Interesting Stat: Jay Beagle was tied for sixth among forwards (Eric Fehr) with a scoring chance differential of +31 despite being a (just barely) negative Corsi player. In the playoffs, Beagle had the second highest scoring chance differential (behind Joel Ward) with a +22.
The Good: Beagle is a versatile forward, capable of playing up and down the lineup on any given night. While that descriptor, "capable of playing up and down the lineup," is used on lots of versatile depth players, the last three Caps coaches have taken it to the extreme, frequently skating Beagle on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. While the results of that time spent with the Caps top offensive guns belong in the next section, there's some value in having a player that can fill in on any of the four lines, sometimes even well.
As for his natural role, Beagle was a classic "little things" type of player for the Caps. He was third on the team in faceoffs, third among forwards in penalty killing time on ice per game, and had the third most defensive zone heavy deployment among forwards. Despite the tough assignments, Beagle managed to come out ahead in goal for percentage with 53.1% (thanks in part to Braden Holtby, of course). When your checking lines can come out ahead in goal differential your team should be in good shape.
While the goals for percentages are helped by Holtby, Beagle does deserve a fair amount of credit. Per the HERO charts, we can see that despite generally fourth line usage and fourth line offensive contributions (notwithstanding his strong scoring chance differential), Beagle's defensive metrics are on par with second or third line players. His ability to stifle offense at both ends of the ice allows the Caps to play a slower game, waiting for their stars to get a chance to score.
The Bad: Despite the insistence of three straight coaches, Jay Beagle is a disaster for the top line. When Ovechkin and Backstrom were with Beagle this season, they posted a Corsi percentage of 43.4% and 42%, respectively. That is woeful, and can't be blamed on the coach or system anymore. When Ovechkin and Backstrom were away from Beagle, they had Corsi for percentages of 54.6% and 55%, respectively. Both players also saw substantial decreases in their goals for percentages when they were lined up with Jay Beagle on their right wing. That's drastic, and if there are two guys you don't want to neuter on this team, it's probably Ovechkin and Backstrom. For what it's worth, Beagle was also substantially better away from Ovechkin and Backstrom.
The trio plays to nobody's strengths, and hopefully everyone can recognize that whatever the merits behind giving it a try, it's an approach that needs to take a permanent dirt nap this off-season. Brian MacLellan's recent comments about looking for a top line right wing seem to indicate the team has finally come to the same conclusion. Of course, we'll see how it plays out next year, maybe the allure of Trotz's lucky rabbits foot will be too strong to resist. But lucky rabbits feet do not exist, and Jay Beagle is not a top line player in the NHL.
Further, while Beagle posts impressive scoring chance numbers, his ability to convert on his own scoring chances is limited. Beagle had 22 individual scoring chances in the playoffs, and only one goal. That would be less than a 5% conversion rate on his individual scoring chances, but the one goal he had, the wraparound on Lundqvist, came after he failed to convert an actual scoring chance and couldn't fairly be called a scoring chance of its own. So on his 22 playoff scoring chances, Beagle had a 0% conversion rate. Obviously, he is what he is and if he had the ability to convert like some of the more prolific scorers in the league then he wouldn't be Jay Beagle (the notion recalls the "what if Jason Chimera had hands?" discussion). We shouldn't expect Beagle to rack up points, but he had very clear scoring chances that could have turned games 6 and 7 in both the Islanders and Rangers series. The Caps were able to overcome the Islanders, but not the Rangers. One wonders what could have been if Jay Beagle managed to pot just one of those goals.
The Video: Perhaps no play better signified the value of the Barry Trotz heavy game than Jason Chimera's game winning goal in game two against the Islanders. Take a look at how Beagle's forecheck causes the turnover leading to the goal:
The Vote: Rate Beagle 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: Have we seen the best Jay Beagle has to give, or is there another level to his game? Is Brian MacLellan right when he characterizes Beagle as a fourth line player, or does the usage by his past three coaches suggest he's got more value than a traditional fourth liner? What kind of commitment should the Caps consider making to Beagle this summer, in both dollars and years? What would it take for you to give him a "10" next year?