5 Lineup Changes Washington Capitals Should Consider
However, the Caps only have 10 points on the season and are fifth in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Maybe Oates should do some more tinkering. Perhaps he should alter his forward lines and defense pairings, or even his special teams units.
Here are five lineup changes the Washington Capitals should consider.
Unless noted otherwise, all statistics updated through Oct. 27 courtesy of NHL.com.
5. Scratch Aaron Volpatti
One area of Oates' lineup that needs significant improvement is the fourth forward line.
The first means to bring about some improvement would be to make Aaron Volpatti a healthy scratch.
Volpatti has only played four games so far this season and has made a minimal impact. The following table lists his statistics in multiple categories, with his team rank among 14 forwards:
4. Move Eric Fehr to Left Wing on 4th Line
Oates may need to bring a halt to his experiment of having Eric Fehr learn the center position.
Fehr has played in all 11 games and averaged 12:04 of ice time per game, ninth-most among Capitals forwards. However, he has only two assists.
Furthermore, Fehr's faceoff percentage has come back down to earth. He has won only 50 of 105 draws for a faceoff percentage of 47.6 percent. However, his percentage of team faceoffs taken is 15.0 percent. Simply put, Fehr is a liability at the faceoff dot.
Yes, Fehr is the Capitals' most underrated player. At this point, though, his skills can be better used on the wing.
3. Insert Jay Beagle at Center on 4th Line
Washington's team faceoff win percentage has taken a beating as a result of novice Eric Fehr playing center.
The Caps have won 348 faceoffs but lost 352 for a subpar faceoff percentage of 49.7 percent. That ranks 18th in the NHL, and has to be better.
Washington has an in-house solution to this problem in the form of Jay Beagle. In five games played, Beagle has won 22 of 32 draws for a faceoff win percentage of 68.8 percent. That is best on the team and better than Washington's faceoff leaders by almost 16 percent.
Beagle's performance at the faceoff dot is not a fluke. Last season, the 28-year-old Calgary native won 249 of 444 draws for a faceoff win percentage of 56.1 percent. That was 10th-best among the NHL's faceoff leaders.
So, Beagle is good at this. Unfortunately for the Capitals, Beagle's percentage of team faceoffs taken is fifth-best on the team at 10.0 percent.
Returning Jay Beagle to the lineup as fourth-line center will instantly improve the Capitals' ability to win faceoffs—an under-appreciated but vitally important aspect of the game of hockey.
2. Increase Jay Beagle's Time on Penalty Kill
Beagle's particular skill set is perfectly suited for the penalty kill. Faceoffs are crucial on the penalty kill, especially in the defensive zone. The opposing power-play unit cannot set up its offense if it doesn't have the puck.
True, the Capitals' penalty kill is already excellent, ranking second in the league with a total penalty-kill percentage of 89.2 percent. However, bringing a faceoff specialist like Beagle back into the fold can help the Caps maintain and perhaps even increase the dominance of this vital unit.
1. Increase Tom Wilson's Time on Power Play
Capitals fans have already seen firsthand the type of physical presence that Tom Wilson brings to the lineup. According to HockeyFights.com, the 19-year-old rookie already has a team-leading three fighting majors.
But there is more to Wilson than just fighting. The Hockey News describes what he brings to the table:
Has great size and strength, plenty of snarl to his game, as well as good offensive instincts. Can score goals and set up linemates, but he does his best work when utilizing his big frame to create space for teammates.
This type of player is perfect for the center of the Capitals' 1-3-1 power play, which is wreaking havoc with a total power-play percentage of 26.8. That's third-best in the league. Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward have excelled in this role, and Wilson can do the same.
To do this, Wilson must be given more power-play time. So far, he has averaged 0:14 of power-play time per game—10th among Capitals forwards. Letting him skate on the second power-play unit would accomplish this goal.
By doing this, Oates will give Wilson a chance to show what he's really made of.