Tuesday morning, the Washington Capitals published photos on their Facebook page of Steve Oleksy, Matt Niskanen, and Chris Brown getting in a skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. One of those photos seemed a bit odd to reader Matt, so he sent us a tweet.
@russianmachine Oleksy changed his number from 61 to 62? Looks that way from the pics on Caps FB page. Maybe we're signing Afinogenov
Once we get past the Alex Ovechkins of the world, we’re left with another tier of Ice Bucket Challenges acceptance videos, where B-list athletes we’re not nearly as excited about post vertically oriented videos. But that’s okay because in this third round of Ice Bucket Challenges (see Post 1 and Post 2 here), we’ve got toilet water, a four-minute short-film, and Nate Schmidt shirtless.
Of the 13 (!) defenders the Capitals used this season, Steve Oleksy outscored the opposition better than any of them, stayed about even in relative puck possession, and made everybody smile. So obviously he got put on waivers and sent down to Hershey.
On January 20, Steve Oleksy was waived by the Washington Capitals. He had been called up less than a year before, after years toiling away in the AHL and ECHL. In his first shot in the NHL, the minor league veteran became punching fan favorite and a serviceable third pairing defenseman. The Caps soon signed him to a three-year, one-way deal. He played 61 games, scoring three goals.
This year, though, the Caps have gone through 13 defensemen. Once John Erskine came back from injury, the Caps had no desire to keep Oleksy’s inflexible contract. Caps head coach Adam Oates said the team hoped, for Oleksy’s sake, that he would be picked up by another NHL squad. He wasn’t. On Sunday, Oleksy returned to the Verizon Center for the first time since being sent down. His Hershey Bears played the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL Showcase, an ostensibly neutral site game created to introduce the American Hockey League to big-league cities.
“The fans really showed me a lot of support,” Oleksy told me after the game. “To come back here and play in front of them was a great feeling. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. The guys were great to me during my time here.”
We all had a sad when Steve Oleksy was sent down to Hershey a few weeks ago, but maybe we underestimated the entertainment value of his and Michael Latta‘s friendship. They’re both adept at the Twitter and they both love to joke around.
Yesterday was Oleksy’s 28th birthday, so naturally Latta did something special for his broseph.
A few minutes past noon, word surfaced that defenseman Steve Oleksy cleared waivers. Binky, who scored 19 points in 61 games with the Washington Capitals over the last two seasons, reported to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. But not before tweeting out a special thank you message to fans.
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.