Dmitry Orlov has been a mainstay on the Capitals’ blue line since the 2015-16 season. Orlov is one of the more, true, two-way puck moving defensemen in the league, and is known for his penchant for open ice hits.
Overall, the crux of the criticism of Orlov’s play is that when he makes mistakes, they’re often catastrophic, which has resulted in many Capitals’ fans feeling that Orlov is dispensable.
That criticism, plus his relatively expensive $5.1M cap hit, has resulted in Orlov’s name popping up as one that a fair percentage of Caps’ fans believe should be traded. In this piece, we’ll take a look at his performance this season and determine if the criticism is truly warranted.
Overall this season, Orlov has been playing above replacement level at even strength. His best aspect so far this season is limiting Corsi shot attempts against over 60 minutes.
None of his metrics point to elite performance, but overall, they’re solid. On the right side of the above graphic (from Evolving-Hockey) is his power play performance. It’s hard to gauge his performance on the power play after the Capitals signed Justin Schultz this past offseason. Schultz became the de facto point quarterback of the second unit of the power play, which is where Orlov had previously played.
So, we’ve seen how Orlov’s performance has stacked up to the rest of the league, but how does he stand up against the rest of the Capitals’ defensive corps? Let’s take a look at the graphic below:
Interestingly enough, Orlov comes in second in the Capitals’ defensive group in expected goals above replacement, but sixth in actual goals above replacement.
There’s a huge contributor that can likely explain the drop-off in xGAR to actual GAR performance, and that’s outlined below:
A huge part of the xGAR evaluation of Orlov is even strength offense. His xGAR even strength offense metric is measured at 4.3, but his actual performance is coming in at -.04.
The likely main contributor here is actual point production during 5-on-5 play, where he has three goals and an assist in 26 games played. Based on expectations that account for quality of play, Orlov should be contributing more here.
It’ll be interesting to see if Orlov’s offensive contributions see an uptick here based on the quality of chances. It’s more concerning that he’s not playing at a level on the ice that correlates with his expected goals above replacement metrics.
Here’s a quick summary of his play, courtesy of JFreshHockey:
Overall, Orlov is a solid, top four defenseman in the NHL. He’s been a solid contributor for the Capitals for over half a decade, and was a huge part of the Capitals’ Stanley Cup team in 2017-18.
He was on the best defensive pairing for the Capitals with Matt Niskanen during that run. Most Caps fans know what he’s capable of, and would like to see a bit more production from him.
By Justin Trudel