Monday, September 6, 2010

30 Caps in 30 Days: Eric Belanger

During the thirty days of September, I'll be trying to preview the seasons of thirty players currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and who have a good chance of spending some time in red, white, and blue this season. Advanced stats are given from behindthenet.ca ranked against other players at the same position, in the same organization, at 5-on-5, unless otherwise noted. Age is on opening night. Today, Eric Belanger)

(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)

Eric Belanger: age 32, 6'0", 185 pounds, shoots left.
Contract: $1.85 million, UFA in 2011. Although he's officially a free agent, James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail stated he is 100% certain that Belanger will be signed by the Capitals.
2009-2010 linemates: 23% Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin, 12% Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr, 11% Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann
2010 playoff linemates: 22% Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin, 21% Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr, 14% Matt Bradley and Jason Chimera

2009-2010 raw stats:
NHL: 17 GP, 2-4-6, +3, 31 shots, 4 PIM (Capitals); 77 GP, 15-26-41, +2, 151 shots, 32 PIM
Playoffs: 7 GP, 0-1-1, +0, 6 shots, 4 PIM

2009-2010 advanced stats: 2nd in Corsi QoC, 2nd in Corsi Rel QoC, 10th (last) in Corsi QoT, and 4th in Corsi Rel QoT. Zonestart 44.4% offensive zone (second-to-last) with Zonefinish 46.3% offensive zone (second-to-last).
2010 playoffs advanced stats: 2nd in Corsi QoC, 1st in Corsi Rel QoC, 5th (second-to-last) in Corsi QoT, and 4th in Corsi Rel QoT.



WOWY (yellow is how much better the player is with Belanger, green how much better Belanger is with the player):



George McPhee at the 2010 NHL trade deadline acquired Eric Belanger from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a second-round draft choice, presumably to help the Capitals' poor penalty kill as well as have a good second-line center for Alexander Semin. While Belanger fought tooth and nail for his new hockey club, he couldn't quite help make Caps history. Yet.

While Belanger does not look like the second-line center the Caps were hoping for, he looks like a solid third line and part-time second line center. Since the lockout he has consistently been a 35 point player. With Cal Clutterbuck, Owen Nolan, and James Sheppard his most frequent linemates in Minnesota, he looks like a good bet for another 35 points or so, especially on an offensive team like the Capitals and with probable linemates four or five of the Caps' 39+ point scorers last season (if the WOWY is any indication, Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich). Simply retaining his point production rates and his great faceoff success should make him a very positive addition in Washington.

Expectations for Belanger should be cautiously optimistic, however. With the dearth of offensive depth in Minnesota Belanger was able to get over two minutes of power play time per game. As long as Bruce Boudreau basically utilizes a single power play unit and keeps Belanger buried on the depth chart (though not much fault of either of them--the Capitals are a very skilled team offensively), Belanger should take a significant hit there, to the tune of around nine points. Whether that loss will be offset by better even-strength production (in part better linemates, in part regression to the mean in on-ice team shooting percentage) remains to be seen. It certainly would help if he gets a little more time on ice, though: in Minnesota he got 15:45 per game with 11:41 at even strength, while in Washington he was getting 14:39 with 12:18 at even strength.

Considering his history, Belanger looks set to contribute 75+ games played, 10-15 goals, 30-40 points, and a plus-minus rating under +20 but better than -5, with more than a minute on the penalty kill per game but very little power play time. That is good contribution for a third-line center.

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