Photo credit: Bruce Bennett
As the first day of NHL Free Agency wound to a close, it seemed certain that the Caps would let July 1st pass without signing a single player. It would have been only the second time that would have happened since the lockout, but then around 10 PM, a surprise signing finally came: former Toronto Maple Leaf Joey Crabb inked a one year, one-way contract with the Capitals.
Crabb is undoubtedly a depth player, a third or fourth line right winger. But judging by his past performance, he may fill that role splendidly.
Crabb seems suited for fourth line duties on the Caps roster. That might allow Joel Ward to play the more aggressive deployments that McPhee intended for him. Crabb isn’t a slouch on offense either, shooting a very respectable 11.3% over the last few seasons. He’s a penalty kill mainstay as well, sucking up tons of PK time in Toronto and scoring 4 shorthanded goals to boot.
Hockey Abstract’s Robert Vollman classifies Crabb as a shutdown forward, taking on tough minutes (good quality competition with lots of defensive zone starts). Behind the Net‘s player chart for Crabb’s 11-12 season confirm that, but also tells us that he performed pretty well considering the assignment.
If Crabb and his line are assigned lots of defensive-zone starts against good competition, they can free up the more productive lines to do more damage in the offensive zone. Joey isn’t a liability in his own zone, and he may even generate some goals from time to time.
He is a hard worker who will chip in offensively and seems to be at least reasonably defensively aware and perfectly capable of playing on almost any line as an injury fill in as needed. I am not sure he is the kind of guy I’d write in as the permanent second line winger or permanent third line winger, but rather I’d continue to use him as he has been used the past couple seasons – the ideal 13th forward that actually plays a lot as he is the primary injury fill in regardless of which line the injured forward plays on though one could see him as a third line regular too.
Hoping that Crabb gets used as a fourth line winger, Johnson’s anxieties may not apply to the Caps. We may be looking at a dependable checking line forward, the kind of guy who doesn’t soak up the spotlight but sets up his teammates to do so. I’m excited to see what he can do under the Oates’ administration.
Crabb’s first goal as a Leaf, a 1-on-2 shorthanded goal
Crabb skates in 1-on-2 short-handed and scores on Ryan Miller.
Crabb uses a power move to score against the Wild
Crabb scores short-handed against the Islanders
Crabb fights Joe Corvo
Crabb drops the mitts with Wayne Simmonds
The Maple Leafs Year-End Sit Down with Crabb