Trying To Make Sense Of The Hunter Shepard Snubbing

Photo: Providence Bruins

Let’s face it, we love Charlie Lindgren, but he has struggled this season (.898 sv%, 3.05 GAA). In fact, I don’t think anyone would be completely shocked if the Washington Capitals take a look at other potential options for the backup role this summer. It can’t hurt to look.

Enter Hunter Shepard, who currently leads the American Hockey League (AHL) in goals against average (2.05) and is third in the AHL in save percentage (.920). He’s been at the top of the leaderboard in both categories all season. He certainly seems to be a candidate for consideration in Washington, right? Not so fast.

The Capitals recalled Shepard on December 5 after Darcy Kuemper pulled himself out of a game against Calgary on December 3. Shepard headed west and met the team in Edmonton, but as fate would have it, saw no ice time in the Oilers game. In fact, he saw no ice time for the entire two weeks he was with the Capitals before he was returned to Hershey on December 19. His NHL debut would have to wait. But what are we waiting for?

Shepard’s December callup and the inability to get a game is understandable. The Capitals were still in the postseason hunt, and trying to do what they can to win games. But the fact Shepard hasn’t got another look, in an actual game, is where things go of the rails for me.

It’s one of the many head-scratchers for me this season. A player primed for a look at the next level, only to be denied. I can only surmise that the Capitals saw something they didn’t like in the two weeks Shepard spent with the team in early December. That’s a huge leap in assumptions to make, a leap that makes me very uncomfortable, but what else could it be?

Like I said, I’m trying to make sense of it.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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32 Responses to Trying To Make Sense Of The Hunter Shepard Snubbing

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s damn travesty is what it is.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Logan Thompson 2.0 if we let him walk

  3. Anonymous says:

    I feel like back in December, Shepard was called up so that Hershey didn’t lose their starter in Fucale, and to reward Shepard’s good play. I don’t think that the caps ever intended to play Shepard unless Lindgren got injured. And now it’s hard to call up Shep because the Bears need all their players to be healthy for the Calder cup playoffs, And 5 string Stevenson has an ECHL playoffs to win too. If Bjorklund were playing it might be a different story but he isn’t so we’re stuck in this situation.

  4. Anonymous says:

    With hcpl tendency to run veterans into the ground there was no way Shep was getting a start. If he could have strapped kuemper to the net he would have lol

  5. KimRB says:

    I think I can solve the puzzle, Pat

    “2-4 inches”

    Hunter is 6 feet even. Most teams these days want their goalies to be 6 feet 2 inches, or larger. That extra 2 to 4 inches can mean the difference between a toe save, and a goal

    The days of 5 foot 8 goalies like Don Beaupre and Arturs Irbe are WAAAAAYYYY in the past, and the days of 6 foot goalies may soon follow them.

    • Mark Eiben says:

      Unless he’s Juuse Saros of course…;)

    • racingmoose says:

      Yep, his size doesn’t fit the prototypical goalie these days. Also, his style is unconventional by today’s standards. Unfortunately, those things have an impact on the decisions but I’d love to see him get a game or two.

      • Anonymous says:

        Shepard is 6-1, Lindgren is 6-2. Your saying that inch is the cutoff?

        • KimRB says:

          The AHL website says Hunter is 6 feet exactly. Wikipedia says it’s 6 feet 1 inch. Since user edited Wikipedia is often rife with errors, I’d trust the AHL to be accurate.

          And yes, 2 inches can be a lot. Ever see a goalie make a toe save? That two inches might mean the difference between a goal, and a save.

        • racingmoose says:

          It does make a difference. And never did I say that 6 ft was some sort of cutoff. And Lindgren has shown some struggles and has yet to prove himself as a solid NHL goalie. Don’t be surprised if the Caps do a little looking around for another backup or someone to compete for that backup job.

    • Anonymous says:

      Shepard is 6-1, Lindgren is 6-2

      • KimRB says:

        Did you get that 6-1 from Wikipedia?

        Search again. The AHL says he’s 6 feet even. If you believe Wikipedia, I have a few acres near an active volcano to sell you

        • Zr2pilot says:

          Elite prospects has Shep and Lindgren both listed as 6-1. Going back to old rosters South Carolina (ECHL), UMD(NCAA), and his high school had Shep as 6-1.

          Given conflicting reports…I’m gonna guess the guy is something like 6′ 1/2″ or 3/4″

  6. KimRB says:

    Here’s an interesting story. The Chicago Wolves are ending their affiliation with the Carolina Hurricanes, and will be the first fully independent AHL team in almost 30 years. I wonder if Carolina will get another affiliation, or share:

    • novafyre says:

      Darn, beat me to it. I do not believe that there is another AHL team available. They’re playing musical chairs and one chair has just been pulled. If the Canes work a deal elsewhere, some other NHL team will be without a partner.

      Version I read (The Athletic) said the dispute was that the Canes wanted their AHL club to be strictly focused on development and the Wolves wanted to combine development AND winning. Apparently the Canes wanted to loan and recall players strictly based on their needs while the Wolves wanted to also satisfy their fan base.

      Have to say I come down on the side of the Wolves on this one as I’m rooting for the Bears to do what is necessary to win the Calder and the Stingrays to do what is necessary to win the Kelly.

      • KimRB says:

        Speaking of which: since Chicago is now taking loans, I wonder if a Cap property or two is headed there eventually. We’ve had a ridiculous logjam all season, which isn’t fair to some of the kids. Julian Napravnik is an excellent example. He goes on a 4 game point streak, when the team was in a scoring slump, but gets benched when injured players came back. What more does the kid have to do, to earn ice time? If we can clear some of that bottleneck, so much the better for everyone. Might help if we have too many goalies next season too.

        • novafyre says:

          Actually, loaning to other AHL teams is a common thing. Not frequent, but not rare. Some AHL teams (such as the Wolves) have even been affiliated with two NHL clubs which is how Canes might go again. Canes said today that they will have an AHL affiliate next year and might end up sharing.

          An AHLer was given up by St Louis in the Vrana trade. Detroit sent him right back to St Louis’ AHL team — guy didn’t have to pack.

          Wolves GM Young told The Athletic “some organizations are development only, but we think if we have development and win playoff games, guys learn how to win, which you’re trying to do all the time.”

          Can’t get back into The Athletic article and the others don’t have all the quotes. But the original article mentioned that Young had already heard from some players playing overseas.

          Fly in the ointment might be that 13 of 18 players must have played 260 pro games or fewer.

        • Bill says:

          I agree about Napravnik. I see a lot of bears games and think the kid deserves a sweater more.

  7. GRin430 says:

    They should play either Shepard or Gibson for the last few games here. Whichever isn’t starting for the Caps can play for Hershey, whose games are also irrelevant until the playoffs start.

    To me this makes it very clear that Laviolette is completely uninterested in the Caps’ future.

    • KimRB says:

      Can’t play Gibson, he’s on an ATO. Against the rules, as Denis Lemieux would say. He can only play in the NHL, on an emergency basis.

      • novafyre says:

        Yep. Hasn’t this already been covered? “An ATO is a very common practice near the end of the professional seasons as they go deeper into the year than college or junior schedules. In the NHL, an ATO may only be used for one day on an emergency basis, with no pay or compensation for skaters, per Exhibit 17 of the CBA. Proof of the existence of the emergency conditions including the incapacity shall be furnished to the Commissioner of the League upon request made by him.”

        I guess one of his teammates could slash Darcy or perhaps he could develop long COVID suddenly.

  8. Mark Eiben says:

    I mean Jon, in December maybe Bmac saw the two week trip with the big club as a reward and opportunity for HS to get a big taste of NHL life. The nice travel, the practicing with other vets…Maybe he gets a serious look at training camp to unseat CL next season.

    • hockeydruid says:

      And another screw job for future players by PL. Both Fucale and Shepard are UFA after this season and to be honest I hope and wish that both players enter the market and receive offers from teams where they get offers to be in the NHL just to rub it in the face of GMBM.

    • Anonymous says:

      The point is not a reward to travel with the team. HS is playing well enough to get a chance to play.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Somewhere in Hockey Heaven, Max McNab is laughing. So is Milt Schmidt

  10. Anonymous says:

    Just another unexplained mystery. Bigfoot, UFO’s and the Capitals use of developing young players.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s downright criminal Shep hasn’t played an NHL game after the last two seasons he’s had.

  12. jonicap says:

    When Lindgren started a few games in a row when Darcy was down, His gaa was fantastic. I don’t think it’s a good idea to get rid of him. Remember he really doesn’t have that many NHL games under his belt before we acquired him. He’s shown that he could dominate.

  13. novafyre says:

    I agree with Anon above. The Bears are in the Calder Hunt and Rays are in the Kelly Hunt. Caps are going nowhere. Do you really want to mess your two successful teams up and irritate their fans so that their best players can play meaningless Caps games? Especially if the coaches are going to change.

    • This is also how I feel. It’d be great to get guys like Shepard, McMichael, Lapierre, etc. some NHL action this season, but it’s probably better for their development to compete down the stretch in Hershey and try to win another Calder.

      • KimRB says:

        The problem with that, is that Shepard is UFA, after this season. He may have been developed by us, only to think he can get a better opportunity in another organization. Like Charlie and St. Louis. Developing players doesn’t help, if it’s for someone else. At least, playing Hunter now would show him the organization has him in its longterm plans. If I were him, I’d have my agent sounding out other teams, right after the Bears are eliminated. It’s a business.

        • Anonymous says:

          Any team that looks at signing Shepard will be doing so for their AHL team and hoping he can be a 3rd goalie if needed. I agree about some players getting away, but Shepard is a top tier AHL goalie and potential fill in at the NHL level if needed. The Caps may consider him and Fucale for the same role, but they will be looking around for someone to compete with Lindgren.

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