Capitals' Top 25 impact players for 2014-15: No. 3: Brooks Orpik

Capitals' Top 25 impact players for 2014-15: No. 3: Brooks Orpik
August 20, 2014, 8:15 am
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(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

As part of our summer countdown series, Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals' upcoming 2014-15 season.

No. 3: Brooks Orpik, Defenseman

Age: 33

2014-15 Salary: $6.5 million [$5.5 million cap hit]

2013-14 stats: 72 games, 2 goals, 11 assists, 13 points, minus-3, 46 penalty minutes, 21:11 average ice time

Projected 2014-15 stats: 75 games, 3 goals, 12 assists, 15 points, plus-9, 50 penalty minutes, 21:50 average ice time

Analysis: The impact Brooks Orpik makes on the Capitals this season will not be measured in goals, assists and plus-minus. It will be measured in the corners and in front of the net and behind closed doors, where the soon-to-be 34-year-old veteran will hold everyone accountable for their actions. And it will be measured over the course of a playoff series, when Orpik’s hard-edged brand of hockey can make the difference between a team being eliminated and a team moving on. Make no mistake, when Brian MacLellan took over for George McPhee as general manager, the player he most coveted in free agency was Orpik and the dominoes fell from there. At 33 [he will turn 34 on Sept. 26], Orpik is no longer in his prime. His ice time has dipped from a career-high of 22:33 in 2011-12 to 21:11 last season. But he led all Penguins defensemen last season in hits [221], blocked shots [143] and shorthanded time on ice [2:56]. By comparison, Dmitry Orlov led all Caps defensemen last season with 75 hits, while John Carlson led all Caps blue liners in blocked shots [177] and shorthanded ice time [3:44]. Whether he is paired with Carlson, Mike Green or Matt Niskanen, Orpik will make his defense partner a better defenseman and that was something sorely lacking last season when Carlson and Alzner carried the load as the Caps’ No. 1 and No. 2 defensemen. Orpik’s career has probably reached its apex, but new Caps assistant coach Todd Reirden says his work habits on and off the ice are second to none and believes he will make a significant impact on the Caps’ younger blue liners. Will Orpik be worth the $5.5 million cap hit he’ll carry in the final year of his five-year contract at the age of 39? Probably not. But the Caps are convinced he will make a very big impact on this year’s club and make them a legitimate threat in the playoffs.