Above: Daniel Winnik at Kettler Capitals Iceplex practice.
A month ago, NoVa Caps’ Michael Fleetwood did this excellent profile on Daniel Winnik. Here are some more tidbits on the Capitals left winger.
Sitting at nine goals, Daniel Winnik may hit ten goals for the first time in six years and become the 11th Capital to do so this season, a dozen if you count Kevin Shattenkirk for the goals he already scored as a St. Louis Blue. Tonight would be a perfect time for Winnik to hit that milestone. After a victory against the Anaheim Ducks last month, Winnik’s wry humor showed: “If I scored against every one of my old teams, I’d probably have a lot more goals.”
Tonight, the Capitals face the Arizona Coyotes, the team Winnik began his professional career with (when they went by the name of the state’s principal city, Phoenix). The Caps play them again, next Friday, in Glendale. A ninth round pick by the Coyotes in the 2004 NHL, a.k.a. the Ovechkin / Malkin, entry draft, Winnik continues to be a solid contributor over a dozen years later. Pretty heady stuff to start off your NHL career with Wayne Gretzky as your coach.
Part of Winnik’s success and longevity can be attributed to the work he puts in during the off-season. Early on, he worked with power skating coach Mark Ciaccio. This past summer, he completed therapy to recover from a high ankle sprain which he played through last season as well as worked on his mental approach to the game. Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post reported that he worked with a sports psychologist on keeping his cool. While Winnik scored four goals through his first 17 games played, his production has tailed off with only five tallies in the subsequent 46 games.
NOT A FAN OF PLAYOFF FORMAT
Winnik is also not one to wince words, which is refreshing, as he discussed the playoff format earlier this week: “It’s the stupidest thing ever. I don’t know why it’s not 1 to 8… Part of the point of it was to reduce travel, but it only reduces travel if you finish … second and third [in your division].” It’s apropos that Winnik joined the Caps for playoff runs. He’ll be ready to do battle regardless of the opponent the Capitals face.
Most trade deadline acquisitions, for teams making a playoff push, are usually for a maximum of four months; it just so happens that Daniel Winnik had an additional year remaining on his contract when the Capitals acquired him just over a year ago.
The trade for Winnik wasn’t a popular move among many Caps fans as out went two popular players, chiefly Brooks Laich, all-around great, genuine guy, hockey evangelist spreading the joy of playing and watching hockey, the Caps “heart and soul” who brought many a fan into the sport; and Connor Carrick, a skilled young defensemen who immediately stepped into a Maple Leafs leading role despite being slightly undersized. In the trade, the Capitals had to exchange a second round pick for a fifth rounder too. Brian MacLellan’s move was deemed shrewd, however, because it moved Laich’s $4.5 million salary off the team’s cap-strapped books. At the time, Winnik was overlooked by the fanbase but not so now.
At the beginning of this season, Winnik alternated with Brett Connolly, serving as a healthy scratch, as Zach Sanford played among the top twelve forwards. Winnik was also not selected for penalty kill duties for a brief period after some early season struggles in that department by the team. Winnik persevered through this frustrating stretch and soon it became apparent he would continue where he left off last season, offering a lot. Winnik brings strong forechecking, corner battles in the offensive zone and penalty kill and he can occasionally show a decent goal scoring flair.
Winnik has developed a keen partnership with Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson on the fourth line and solidified his pairing with Beagle on penalty kill for a team that now ranks top ten in the NHL. Winnik leads the Caps with two shorthanded goals, which is as many as the team had all of last season.
A look at Winnik’s career numbers:
TO BEARD OR NOT TO BEARD
On a lighter note, Winnik and his wife enjoy raising bulldogs, travel, politics and table tennis. He’s had an on-again, off-again relationship with facial hair; his wife tweeted earlier this week:
Regardless of whether Winnik gets a tenth goal this season, he’s contributing in many ways to this year’s team. Go win it Winnik!
By Tim Foisie Follow @12th_man_Tifosi