Oleksy as a kid. (Photo credit: Steve Oleksy)
When you examine the Washington Capitals roster and pore over every player on defense, Steve Oleksy feels like a name that belongs. After signing with the organization as an unrestricted free agent in 2012, Oleksy worked his butt off in Hershey and earned a call-up to the Caps in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
During that year, it appeared that Oleksy, receiving 17:16 of ice time per game, solidified himself as a solid third pairing NHL defender. When Oleksy was playing, he tilted the ice in the Caps direction. Plus, he was a physical defender that would stick up for teammates and even chip in with some clutch offense. Did we mention he was physical?
Even after getting sporadic playing time this season under Adam Oates, Oleksy still has better possession stats than John Erskine and Connor Carrick. Yet, we’re here.
Monday morning, Renaud Lavoie of Journal de Montreal broke the news that Oleksy was placed on waivers. At 12pm tomorrow, Oleksy could be claimed by another NHL team and gone from the Caps organization forever. That would be a total bummer.
In his short time in DC, Oleksy has managed to become a fan favorite. He showed heart on the ice with humility and humor off of it.
Here are some of my favorite moments.
The Hip Checks
After only a few weeks in the NHL, we knew Oleksy was a throwback, as he dished out hip check after hip check. My personal favorite was the one he laid on Mike Santorelli. Oleksy almost checked the big forward through the boards. So perfect, so painful.
After a tip from one of our readers, we sent Chris Gordon to get the scoop on Oleksy’s nickname. Oleksy confirmed it: his nickname was Binky. The story was fascinating. If you haven’t read it, you should do so right now. The best part of the story, however, was how thrilled Steve O looked when one of our readers presented (what I’m guessing to be) the first ever t-shirt honoring him to be signed. Look how happy he is.
From knocking out Vincent Lecavalier’s teeth to flipping his hair in a bout with Brandon Dubinsky, Oleksy could fight — with flair. He had six dust-ups in parts of two seasons with the Caps, and according to HockeyFights.com, his most impressive was his first NHL bout against Drayson Bowman.
The Flashes of Offensive Brilliance
Because Oleksy was known more for his fists, his offensive skillz were mostly overlooked. But he had surprisingly good hands for a pugilist and at times, won games with them. Consider his curl-and-drag before assisting on a Brooks Laich goal or his incredible three-line pass to Marcus Johansson that won a game for the Caps in the playoffs. His first NHL goal was a simple shot from the point and one of his recent goals was similar. Still, Oleksy wasn’t a liability offensively.
Off the ice, Oleksy became a fan favorite because of his sense of humor and a mastery of social media. No matter if it was him tweeting jokes after being caught on national TV picking his nose, poking his head out from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson, or publishing photos on Instagram of him playing baseball as a teenager, Binky kept us laughing and entertained.
Whatever happens to Oleksy tomorrow, I wish him the very best. He worked hard, he never complained, and he made the most of his opportunity. He deserves our respect. For a guy who was a minor league journeyman a year ago, he should sleep well knowing that he made a positive impression on thousands and thousands of Caps fans. He won’t be forgotten.
Oleksy playing goaltender as a kid. (Photo credit: Steve Oleksy)
Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.