[Introduction by Krafty] When polling Washington Capitals fans about their favorite player, it's not long after Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich that one of two cult heroes is named: Matt Bradley or Matt Hendricks. Both have found their niche in DC as gritty role players with a willingness to drop the gloves, a working class charm in a white-collar city.
Bradley is a 9-year NHL veteran, but after 6 seasons in DC, he is set to be an Unrestricted Free Agent this summer. "The Professor's" tenure with the Caps has spawned hash tags and physics lessons, plus a strong fan base for the fourth liner who was willing to defend DC's most prized personality since Ben of Ben's Chili Bowl. In the wake of Hendy's two-year contract extension, one is left to wonder what will become of Bradley as the season's end draws closer.
Former Training Camp invitee Matt Hendricks gained most of his notoriety during the Caps' tenure on HBO's 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: The Road to the Winter Classic, but has continued to impress all season. He has set career highs in points, penalty minutes, shots, fighting majors, and time on ice. He is currently 3rd on the team in hits with 124. With a 55.1% Face Off %, he's proven that he can play center in addition to his natural position on the wing. Hendy has even spent time with Caps' heavyweight DJ King to better himself during on-ice fisticuffs.
Hendricks has proven he can out-Bradley Bradley this season: tipping in a clutch game-winning goal, initiating fights to help swing momentum in the Caps' favor (Konopka Fight Video), taking down habitual pests (Downie Fight Video), drawing timely penalties, blocking shots and chipping in on both special teams. He's been the glue that's helped to hold the lower lines together through the incessant line juggling.
While I think a grinding line needs bodies, I can only speculate that Matt Bradley, currently over-priced and with a very replaceable skill set, won't be rejoining the team next season, especially with so many young players in the system. As Bradley's time on ice dwindles more and more each game (accompanied by his month-plus injury earlier this season), is it now time to start the rally cry of #NeedsMoreHendricks?
Andy Green had the chance to sit down with Matt Hendricks on trade deadline day. . He was kind enough to share his thoughts with us.
RtR: Congratulations on your new contract. Now that you've finally signed a 1-way contract, are you looking at real estate around here now?
MH: Oh, I don’t know, that’s still up for debate. I’m just still taking in the excitement of it. I’m happy and I’m looking forward to the future here in Washington.
RtR: We've noticed you've been fighting more this season. What goes through your mind before a fight?
MH: Not much, usually. I tend to do it to stick up for some teammates, if need be, to add a little spark. I just try to do the little things that aren’t always the most fun and don’t always show up on the scoresheet. It’s part of the reason, or most of the reason, I’ve made it this far.
RtR: Earlier this season you fought Gregory Campbell. Did it occur to you it might not be a good idea to fight the Deputy Commissioner's son?
MH: I don’t know, I’ve thought about that. I think Colin is pretty respectable, I don’t think he chooses favorites.
RtR: What would you say is your greatest skill attribute?
MH: I think my work ethic. Some people don’t necessarily think of it as a skill, but it is. I think I carry myself with that aspect, that strength, and it’s helped me to get where I am today and be successful.
RtR: Will you be treating the fans to any more snazzy breakaway moves?
MH: I would love to, we’ll see if I get the opportunity.
RtR: You've already set numerous career highs. Do you have any other personal goals for the season?
MH: The ultimate goal is to win, to be the last team standing at the end of the season. If I could attain that, I would be more than happy.
RtR: We know you can play anywhere on the ice, but what is your preferred position?
MH: I like right wing, I think it gives me an opportunity to shoot the puck more. I seem to be stronger on that right wall, but left wing is just as comfortable. I just don’t feel I get quite as many shots as I could if I was on the right.
RtR: Is there anything weighing on your mind on trade deadline day?
MH: It’s always an interesting day. There’s always things that happen and people being moved, but this is part of the business. We’ll know at 3 ‘clock what team we have to go to war with.