Photo: Chris Gordon

As the temperatures outside reached the 90s, Caps prospects and free agent invitees gathered inside a freezing Kettler Capitals Iceplex Monday for the first day of the team’s annual Development Camp. Afterwards, head coach Barry Trotz met the media. After focusing on the young players who will be Arlington this week, the conversation turned to the recent signings of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. Orpik’s 5-year, $27.5 million deal has been much maligned, as Orpik is an aging poor possession player.

Last week, new Caps GM Brian MacLellan defended Orpik’s numbers, saying he is relied upon for tough minutes and defensive zone starts. Trotz’s rationale for the signing was a little bit different than MacLellan’s, but probably just as disturbing to the Twitter intelligentsia.

“The effect is not going to be in goals and assists,” Trotz said. “It’s going to be in culture and winning and attitude.”

That set off a mini-firestorm, so here’s the full exchange with Trotz on Orpik.

Do you like the signings of Orpik and Niskanen?

I really do. I know that [MacLellan] has taken some heat on that. One of the things you get that’s most common is everybody looks at points and says ‘Brooks Orpik doesn’t have great points and so why are you paying him that?’ The things that Brooks Orpik does you can’t put a value on. One of the things that’s been common is there hasn’t been a physical, net-front type of defenseman. Who does Alexander Ovechkin play? He’s one of the strongest, most dangerous players in the league and he plays against Brooks Orpik all the time. You need those players. Brooks is also, I think, a great role model for a team that’s really young. We’re not an old team. We’re probably in that window of just entering the prime of their careers and so he’s a really good compliment and a role model and he’s piece that we don’t have.

To me it’s a commitment of ownership and the team, saying ‘You know what, we’re in a good window here. Let’s get the players that we want instead of the players that we’ve got to settle for and get him because he can have an effect.’ The effect is not going to be in goals and assists. It’s going to be in culture and winning and attitude, and that’s what Brooks Orpik does.

I listen to some of the stuff and everybody has their opinion. They can have their opinion. It really doesn’t matter. It’s what we need, what we feel we need. It’s just like Matt Niskanen. We want to get more goals from the backend. We want Matt Niskanen and Green. We want a five-man attack. We don’t want just our forwards doing all the offensive work. The more you can get people active and use your skill level, you’re gonna be able to create some offense and be good defensively.

  • dylan wheatley

    oh deer

  • I feel like if you’re looking for some vague quality or personality type that can be turned into a hashtag (#atittude, #leadership), you should do it on a budget. 5 x $5.5M is wackadoodle.

    But Trotz doesn’t make the money decisions, and Mac was the one who made the numbers-based argument for Orpik, so whatevs.

  • Joe in SS

    We had the vague character/leadership guy. His name was Matt Hendricks.

  • Alex

    Hunter was kinda like a Diet Trotz. He had the right mindset and philosophy, but he wasn’t able to fully realize its potential and translate it into total domination over the opponent and instead had to settle for winning by a hair (see: conference quarterfinals). I think Trotz will produce a winning formula that’ll finally give the Caps the inertia to push themselves over the hump and possibly into the promised land (or at least I hope)

  • Seth

    Guys, I think an intervention may be needed soon.

  • John M

    I don’t know what I think of Orpik’s character when he extorted a team that wanted him way too badly for $5.5 million per year and a 5th year on the contract. If he was really that great a guy, he would have taken a little less money for fewer years to give his new team a better chance to compete.

  • :(

    But we haven’t complained about his Corsi enough yet!

    In all seriousness we get it. Maybe instead of crucifying the guy before he even puts on a Cap sweater we should focus on how the team has improved defensively and Holtby is now número uno. But nah, let’s just s*** on this Orpik guy.

  • bill

    “Trotz’s rationale for the signing was a little bit different than MacLellan’s, but probably just as disturbing to the Twitter intelligentsia.”

    “Twitter intelligentsia”…now there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

  • Alex

    Well the contract is for 6.5 in year one, 5.5 in years two, three, and four, and 4.5 in year five, so that fifth year isn’t quite so bad, I guess, sorta, maybe… Plus it was his agent that extorted us, not him per se. Remember, those guys get a cut of their clients’ income, so it’s in their best interest to get as much as they can for them. I may be wrong but that’s how I THINK it works…

  • Can you show me literally one thing where in this story we are crucifying Orpik? The only thing I see is this:

    “Orpik’s 5-year, $27.5 million deal has been much maligned, as Orpik is an aging poor possession player.”

    Which is an inarguable fact. The national media has ridiculed the deal and Orpik is a poor possession player and always has been.

    Then Chris says this:

    “Last week, new Caps GM Brian MacLellan defended Orpik’s numbers, saying he is relied upon for tough minutes and defensive zone starts. Trotz’s rationale for the signing was a little bit different than MacLellan’s, but probably just as disturbing to the Twitter intelligentsia.”

    Which is a joke making fun of people on Twitter crucifying the deal.

    Then on top of that – Peter writes about how the defense will be better next year two posts ago. I really don’t think it’s us who is complaining.

  • Ha, it’s tough to say no to an extra $1.5M or so. Profit motive is strong, and I don’t begrudge him making money.

  • on a budget!

  • Hunter did not have the right mindset. He had a hot goalie.

  • You may be mistaking criticism of the player’s contract with criticism of the player himself. If he were making 3 mil for 3 years on the 3rd pairing, this would be a different story.

    It’s not like we’re gonna boo the guy.

  • Steven Lemmeyer

    Probably referring to that first day of free agency where the Caps community went ape doo-doo over the Orpik contract. But I get it, context does matter 😉

  • dude I’m standing RIGHT here

  • Steven Lemmeyer

    Honestly, I have absolutely no issue with anything Trotz has said here. He’s the coach and doesn’t deal with the money side, just the hand he is dealt. I have been saying since we signed Trotz that this man would bring an attitude and discipline to their ENTIRE game. I’m excited for the new season and a better defense.

  • hopeless

    This is why I’m starting to look past the money (the Caps get none from me directly), and I’m actually with Barry on this one. Also, I can’t do anything but wait for the season to start, so until then, whatevs.

  • BorntoHula

    Where do I find these possession stats? Because relCorsi has me believing that Seidenberg, Emelin, Hjalmarson, Regehr, Girardi are terrible dmen.


    It’s usually best to use relative and absolute possession in concert– along with deployments and understanding of linemates/teammates.

  • BorntoHula

    Thanks for the link.

  • bill

    Listen, it’s your site and you can obviously post whatever you want, as often as you want. I just wish we could talk about the good Niskanen signing a bit more and the positives it’s going to bring to the team’s overall defense. He was the prize jewel of the UFA defensemen and we got him.

  • Matt McNeely

    Will say again that Dale Hunter makes perfect sense to me. The team did not have the defensive talent on the roster to play regular defense. The stifling, conservative, boring hockey they played was as valid a solution to that problem as any. Seems like Boudreau did the opposite thing to solve the same problem. Mac is now trying to solve the same problem by upgrading the actual roster through free agency. I have no issue with this. It’s the correct problem to address. Nothing else has worked. The price is what it is. Those guys would have gotten similar deals wherever they signed. I’m not going to poo-poo these signings without seeing the on-ice results first. If it turns out to be a mistake… at least it’s a new mistake.

  • I wrote about that this morning.

  • leaveittobeagle

    and a damn fine suit

  • Jonathan Cribbs

    I willing to consider all the budget-related criticism of Orpik anybody’s got, but no rational person would equate the leadership quality of Hendricks and Orpik.

  • DashingDave314

    Great that we finally have a coach who actually defends our players instead of banishing them to playing with Jay Beagle and selling them out to the media!

  • DashingDave314

    So you’re telling me if your company offered you $5.5 million, you’d say, “Thank you, but I’ll have to decline because I want to be paid less?”

  • DashingDave314

    What Hunter did was basically attempt to hammer square pegs into round holes instead of adjusting his game plan to fit the players that he had. Trotz has shown that he can adjust.

  • Well, I suppose I agree that Hunter diagnosed the problem correctly, but there isn’t one aspect of the Caps’ game that season that he improved except save percentage.

    Not shots for. Not shots against. Not the PK. Not the PP. Not the top line. Not the bottom line. Nothing.

    (Okay, maybe some inconsequential stuff like hits and blocked shots.)

  • Sasha Liles

    You must be a paragon of virtue, to never be tempted by the spoils of money and always looking out for your fellow man. I’m sure you tell your bosses every time they try to pay you a bonus that the money would be better spent to improve your team. Because like, character yo.

  • Sasha Liles

    I honestly wouldn’t expect anything less from Trotz on this move. I mean, it’s not like he’s going to call this trade horseshit. That said, I’m hopeful that the good qualities he noted are in fact worth what we paid for him. If he can help this team get to a Cup during his reign here, I’ll be happy.

  • JenniferH

    Hot goalie. Mmmhmmm. You can say that again! 😉

  • Matt McNeely

    At least he had a comprehensive and consistent approach that made sense… cough Oates cough. Trotz will be light years better than last year’s debacle. If he’s more like Hunter than Boudreau, I am totally fine with that, but I really don’t think he will be. The team will be way better.

  • Scott Mallon

    Let’s talk about puck possession and Brooks Orpik some more! Even though those two concepts are complete opposites.

    “Orpik is an aging poor possession player.”

    This just in, everyone is an aging player. At 33, Orpik is the oldest defenseman in the lineup besides John Erskine, who will probably become a WWE wrestler before this season is over. Orpik’s age will be a non-factor, in my humble opinion for the first three years of this contract. He may slow down physically, but if the same guy who was coaching Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and Roman Josi is in charge of my team, I really wouldn’t pull my hair out over it ladies. I’m sure he will be coached to his strengths just fine and complement the team.

    Complete shutdown defenseman with no offensive upside are needed in this league and generally don’t produce good Corsi/Fenwick scores. Just because they don’t generate shots for when they’re on the ice, which is crucial in calculating puck possession scores, doesn’t mean they aren’t good players in their own end. It’s about keeping the puck out of the net and making it difficult for the other team to get second chances and instilling that compete level throughout the entire core. Not to mention Orpik’s defensive starts and the match ups he sees, why you would even look at a number like Corsi or Fenwick to gauge Orpik’s value to a team (us) who until recently had a crippling defense resembling greenhorns on “Deadliest Catch,” I have no clue.

    Let’s move on now bros. We get it, we overpaid, the contracts bad, GMBM said he knew he was overpaying and the whole organization was on board with it because he is what we need. So yeah, we had the luxury, much like the Yankees often do, of spending more money on players than we should because it’s what we need to attempt a deep playoff run.

    And the coach isn’t going to sit there and say “Hey yeah we shouldn’t have spent that much, he’s really not that great,” if you were expecting that, I don’t know what to say. You defend the player you went out and got because it was the type of player you needed, and you want him to feel comfortable.

    Its seriously so cut and dry I don’t know why everyone is beating this issue to death with a stick. We can all have our opinions, but there is no doubt we needed some experience and someone who can actually punish people, yet can actually play hockey, unlike Erskine. I love Erskine, but he should be in the stands fighting drunk penguins fans, not on the ice trying to defend them, I’d much rather have Orpik.

  • Pat Magee

    I trust Barry. If anybody knows how to handle defensemen, it’s him.

  • John M

    Well, I’m not, but my company didn’t say that my value wouldn’t show up in terms of my actual performance but in terms of my character! But really, as Peter picked up on, I was kind of joking. The point is that the Caps’ brain trust decided they *needed* Orpik and at that point he could get a deal from them that most intelligent observers think is excessive.

  • Phil Owen

    @Peter – you get what you can get when you can get it. Did we overpay for Orpiskanen? Probably. Were there lower priced options who brought equivalent or better hockey skills and intangibles? Maybe (but I would really like to see the analogs people feel are better than the pair we signed). The national media (who’s opinion seems of tremendous value to the newlywed) has dumped all over the length of the contract for Orpik. Who cares? He makes us better today and probably for the next two or three years. 2018 is fiction. Doesn’t exist. What can we do now to improve? If 21’s groin doesn’t decompose and if 92 can live up to most of the promise we’ve seen, we will be a nasty team to deal with. And that’s before you consider the likely regression to the mean (in a massively positive direction) for team shooting % and the non-fuckery going on with Holts. We are SIGNIFICANTLY better today than on July 7, 2013, and I’d enjoy hearing anyone willing to argue that point. Just my opinion.

  • Sasha Liles

    Good point. Sorry for my initial sarcastic response!

  • CapNMac

    Alternate article title: Coach Trotz bitch slaps no-nothing twitter twits!

    For clarification- Twitter intelligentsia is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. If you articulate your random thoughts continually in under 64 characters and goofy gifs, and update people on the burrito you had for lunch daily, you are the walking embodiment of Idiocracy.

  • Austin

    LOL This picture is too much. Gold.

  • Austin

    I think that’s the point of why he said ” twitter intelligentsia” to make fun and be sarcastic, but maybe I’m wrong.

  • CapNMac

    Yeah, I removed that part as being unnecessary piling on.
    (I am just an old guy who hates Twitter regardless.)

  • not sure if satire or….

  • CapNMac

    Nothing personal. I just hate Twitter as part of the dumbification of society.

  • Ha. Then follow different people! The platform itself isn’t any more stupid than email or telegrams or IRC– it’s just the spheres of people within it that get silly sometimes.

  • CapNMac

    Maybe I am just too old for it.

    First Myspace came out and you could write a thoughtful blog post and people would post thoughtful comments and discuss it. then Facebook (which I hate as well) came out and you could only write a paragraph or 2, and people just liked it, or posted a few words for reply. Then when that became TLDR (too long Didn’t read) Twitter came out and gave you only 64 characters, and everyone loves that! (I am sure in the near future everyone will just communicate with Gifs.)

    Now on forums if someone writes more than 2 paragraphs posters act like they had to suffer through “War and Peace”.

    / old man rant.

  • Pete


  • RESmith

    I still have nightmares of that game against Atlanta late in that season where they tied it up late in third with two shots from center ice and then won it overtime.

  • pixiestix

    Diet Trotz sounds like the worst soda ever.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    Nasty may be the wrong choice of words. Better than at this point in time last year? Certainly, but we are far from the way I view nasty. Is that 4th line going to have ALL physical players? Do we really have a true enforcer in addition to that, especially one who will need to cover Orpik’s ass when he goes to lay out the opposition? The guys at the top need protection and the guys on the blueline need space and that doesn’t happen if we can’t correctly assemble the 3rd and 4th line.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    Yep. The problem was that the Caps never brought in a true enforcer (and the one decent one they had in Volpatti they barely played) and therefore, made lightweight energy line guys like Bradley and Hendricks become the league’s punching bags, preventing them from playing their true game. A shame, I really liked Hendricks.

  • sara

    I’m a Pens fan, but I like reading RMNB because you guys are funny and I really like Ovie. Anyway, about Brooks: once upon a time, he was great. Now he isn’t so much.

    As for “It’s going to be in culture and winning and attitude,” well, the frustrating thing about about everything Brooks would say to the Pens media after things went wrong was always things like “People need to hold themselves accountable in this room and stand up,” or “Guys have a huge responsibility to this team to step up and take charge,” etc etc he we was always about asking guys to hold themselves accountable and take responsibility even if if his play was getting worse and worse and he never acknowledged that himself. Like, “Oh it’s everyone’s fault, not mine!”

    I will say though that other than not taking responsibility he does work hard at maintaining his fitness and eating healthy. He’s gluten-free, so I guess Caps fan can look forward to articles about him convincing Ovie to go gluten-free lol.

  • Seth

    No team needs an enforcer. That role is dead and needs to stay that way.

  • JoeA

    It’s the tone of these posts that comes from you guys that is grating on everyone. I get it. You hate the contract.

    Two posts ago was about how the blueline was better, but with the big caveat that a $5 million will have to play on the 3rd line. The tone of that post was even more griping about the contracts.

  • JoeA

    The damning by faint praise post.

  • SeminAllOverTheIce

    We already have a Brooks that does that. Guess Orpik will have to find something else to say to the media.

  • JoeA

    Now do you guys understand why comparing Trotz’s rhetoric to Hunter on Facebook was seen as a negative?

  • JoeA

    This is not how professional sports and free agency generally works.

    Why are you under the assumption that a team that missed the playoffs, fired its coach, and shook up management would be a destination worthy enough to play at a discount?

  • mspeer

    “I am sure in the near future everyone will just communicate with Gifs.”

    Exactly – Instagram & Vine

  • I understood when it happened that some people would read it (incorrectly) as negative. I, knowing who wrote it and his opinion on Hunter, knew it wasn’t negative at all.

  • Sara, thanks for sharing! #glutenfree #leadership

  • jp_daddi0


  • Shaun Phillips

    Judging from Oates’ “let every shot through” “system”, I’d say blocked shots isn’t inconsequential. 🙂

  • Troy

    Enforcer only role is dead, but the ability to command attention and take offensive eyes off the puck and net while still being AT LEAST better than the other D we had last year is not a dead role. While I understand Orpik is no great D man I still think he has a lot to offer to this D corps and does immediately make our defense better than last year, if that is saying anything. Also, the D corps of the Capitals should really be the least of the team’s worries with a man like Trotz behind the bench. I believe the Caps’ D wouldn’t be so criticized if the team’s lines could produce in a 5 on 5 situation/lift the puck off the ice on a shot ONCE (stares at Mojo, Brooks, Chimera, etc.)
    Yes the money was a lot, but I still don’t think either Orpik or Nisky were “BAD” signings and remember that something had to change. Clearly what GMGM was doing in the past was not successful so why knack on a new approach before we even get to see a single period?

  • Hockeynightincanada

    That role is “dead?” In what league?

    There is an absolute need for enforcers today. Guys who can bang and tango with the bigger badder NHL 4th liners. It helps create confidence, swagger, and space on the ice. It makes everyone else play a little bigger. If you don’t think intimidation is a part of the game still, tell that to the dozens of coaches/GMs out there on teams better than the Caps who understand the value of toughness and place enough of a premium on it that they “waste” a roster spot. Hawks? Kings? Bruins? All use enforcers.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    To enforce doesn’t mean just to fight. I don’t understand why people think it’s a dying breed. Many teams use em.

    Its not about “picking fights” like some people think it is.

    Its about heavy hitting, quick effective enforcing, providing energy.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    At some point during some games, you have to drop the gloves on occasion and do it with an IMPACT. Not a boring type of Matt Hendricks or Matt Bradley wrestling match where they were sacrificing themselves as punching bags because they had more balls than most of the team. So unless you want Tom Wilson having to take on heavies or Latta being outmatched by guys bigger than him, you need a heavy to respond in certain situations..

    How many games have the Caps been in where the other team’s 4th line has set a tone that has caused our guys to go into a shell and be on their best behavior?

  • Seth

    An enforcer is DJ King, Colton Orr, Brashear, etc. Those dinosaurs are extinct (unless you are the Leafs). If you can’t skate, score, or defend you have no place on an NHL team and are a waste of a roster space. I can’t think of a single enforcer on the Kings or Hawks, and the Bruins just got rid of Thornton and he could at least put up some points.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    You’re forgetting Brandon Bollig previously of the Hawks. Derek Engelland, McGrattan, Thornton.

    Teams carry these type of tough guys so their middleweights can throw their weight around without having to fight every team’s heavyweights, so guys like Brooks Orpik or Tom Wilson who are big hitters but absolutely suck at fighting don’t have to endure too much abuse out there.

  • Seth

    Great idea and all, but when does that ever actually happen? The instigator penalty killed that sort of thing, and the only non-staged fights you see anymore are with the smaller guys or the middleweights. The big goons just fight off of draws as a sideshow.