How Barry Trotz defends the Brooks Orpik signing

How Barry Trotz defends the Brooks Orpik signing

The Washington Capitals signing Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik has been widely panned as the worst move in this summer’s NHL free agent frenzy.

It’s obviously up to Orpik to hold up his end of the deal on the ice, to justify the 5 years and $5.5 million annually that’s been handed to him. But before that happens, it’s on people like Capitals Coach Barry Trotz to sell the move to a skeptical fan base.

At Capitals development camp, Trotz said he likes the Orpik addition as well as the signing of Matt Niskanen to a 7-year, $40.25-million deal.

“I really do. I know that [GM Brian MacLellan] has taken some heat on that,” he said.

“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.”

Did anyone evaluate Brooks Orpik by looking at his point totals? Like, ever?

So what are the intangibles Trotz is extolling here?

“One of the things that’s been common [in Washington] is that 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. And you need those players,” he said.

That’s true: Orpik and Paul Martin faced the toughest competition for the Penguins last season. That contributes to Orpik’s struggles in puck possession metrics, although it doesn’t excuse them.

Trotz then went to that place that makes advanced stats acolytes start throwing things.

“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,” he said.

“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, not the players we 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," he said. "They can have their opinion. It really doesn’t matter. It’s what we need, what we feel we need. “

Trotz said there’s a disconnect between the reaction from the media and fans and that from his peers, a.k.a. “hockey people.” That includes coaches that played against Orpik with the Penguins, and those who played against the Capitals that evaluated what their areas of need are.

“The hockey people have been giving me real positive messages,” said Trotz.

“I got a lot of texts from hockey people. Hockey people don’t care what a guy makes. I got a lot of texts from my counterparts who said, ‘Now you’ve got five really good defensemen.’”

So there you go. The Hockey People like it. Not the ones on NHL Network, mind you, but the ones that text Barry Trotz. So the Capitals and Orpik have that going for them.