Brooks Orpik and what we know about 34-year-old defensemen
Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography
There have been no shortage of opinions offered on the Caps off-season signing of Brooks Orpik, including here at BrooksLaichyear. I’ve been clear that I think this is the wrong player at the wrong price. Others have said the deal will be fine for 2 or 3 years, and will only look bad for the last couple of years as Orpik inches closer to 40. Is this really true? What can we expect from Orpik as a 34 year old, which is the age he will be on opening night? To get a feel for how defensemen perform as Orpik’s age, I looked at all defensemen in the last 5 years who played 1500+ minutes in their age 33 season to see how their production fared the following season. Including Orpik, there are 14 defenseman who qualified.
To start, we’ll look at possession. Here are the 14 defensemen (Orpik included with age-33 numbers only, obviously) and how their FenClose Rel in their age-33 season compared to their age-34 season.
This is a little bit of a mess to make sense of, so here’s the average 33 & 34 numbers.
The group of defenders were about 3.5% worse, possession-wise, relative to their teammates, in their age-34 season compared to age-33. If Brooks Orpik were to see a 3.5% relative decease in his possession, he will have a FenClose Rel of about -10.5% next season. Ouch. It should be noted that 5 of the 13 defensemen did see an improvement in their possession in their age-34 season. But overall the possession numbers don’t bode well for Orpik.
So, how about minutes? Have players in their age-34 season been able to handle the same workload as the previous season?
This chart is a bit easier to look at than the possession one but a chart displaying the averages will still make the numbers easier to assess.
While history may tell us to worry a bit about Orpik’s possession, it appears that he can likely still handle the same amount of minutes, albeit not as well.
But what about the type of minutes? Based off of recent comparable players, is Orpik likely to receive minutes against similar competition?
While there were some individual differences in competition level faced, on a whole the difference was very slight. Players faced about the same competition in the two seasons, with a slight edge going to age-33 seasons.
Players faced slightly tougher relative zone starts in their age-33 season compared to their age-34, but the difference isn’t much.
Possession is the one area where there was a noteworthy difference between players in their age-33 season vs. their age-34. What this tells us is that players are less effective at 34 than at 33 but their deployment and usage are not yet being adjusted to their less effective play.
No doubt, Orpik will be a steadier presence on the Caps blue line than the revolving door of defenders we saw last year. And yes, this deal will handcuff the team even more later in the deal than now. But age has already started negatively impacting Brooks Orpik, age 34, in year 1 of a 5 year deal.
All stats from War on Ice. Search done on Hockey Reference