As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals. As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is right winger Joel Ward, who finished the first year of his career with the Capitals, but his fifth NHL season overall this past campaign.
Season Summary: Ward got off to a hot start for a third line winger, posting four goals and seven points in his first 12 games as a Capital. After that, though, he produced at a far lesser clip offensively, and was bumped between the third and fourth lines regularly before being sent to the press box in late March, where he remained until the final game of the regular season. Overall, he played in 73 games, recording six goals, 12 assists, a plus-12 rating, and 20 penalty minutes. Ward was right in the middle of the pack in terms of even strength corsi rating at -2.20 and the competition he faced. He was also the 2nd luckiest forward on the team, with a PDO of 1027. Grade: C+
Role Play: An overly aggressive signing from the beginning, Ward, like Hamrlik, is a victim of the contract that George McPhee handed him last summer. He was brought in to be a "playoff performer," with seemingly little regard to his decidedly average career regular season statistics. However, Ward did play very good defense when he was on the ice, at one point moving through a 19 game stretch towards the end of the season where he was not on the ice for a single goal against of any kind. You have to give him credit for playing that kind of lockdown D, but at the same time, you expect more from a player making the kind of money that Wardo does. Grade: C-
Playoffs: Well, this is awkward. Ward went from zero to hero and back to zero in the 2012 postseason. On one hand, he crashed the net and scored the goal that sent the Bruins home for the summer, but on the other, he took an incredibly boneheaded high-sticking double minor in the late stages of game five against the Rangers that turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 loss in the span of 120 seconds and put the wheels in motion for Washington's exit. He did have three assists in his 14 playoff games as well as a plus-three rating; in terms of puck possession he was fifth on the team with a -3.95 corsi rating, but the third-easiest competition among Capitals forwards. Grade: B-
Future Potential: Ward has three more years on his current contract at a salary cap of $3 million, a very substantial number for a player like him. Because of his contract, he's probably not going anywhere, and even if he was traded, he almost assuredly would not fetch much of anything in return. It's nothing against Ward, who is a very good defensive player, it's just the amount of money he makes is not suitable for his skill set. That said, because of his high PDO, we could see a bit of a regression in terms of both defense and offense next year, which would not be a very good scenario. There are honestly few positives when it comes to Ward's situation in Washington unless he comes back a completely different player after the summer (not likely). Grade: C-
The next report card will feature winger Mike Knuble.
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