Jeff Halpern at one point this season was the Washington Capitals’ second-line center. It looked like he was a Dale Hunter favorite, a grinder who could win faceoffs and kill penalties.
But by March, he was a mainstay in the press box and not in the lineup. That wasn’t easy.
“I’m not quite sure how I should have or could have handled it. I was unhappy and I wouldn’t expect anyone not in the lineup to be happy about that,” Halpern said. “At times you try to come to the rink, you try to have a smile on your face and support the guys as much as you can. I try to do that as best as I could. At the same times, especially the times I wasn’t playing down the stretch and in the playoffs, and those are the most exciting times to be playing hockey. Internally it was hard. I hope that I put on a good face. I hope that I did as much as I could to support the team.”
Halpern had been Caps captain in 2005-06, but his role was significantly reduced during his second stint in Washington. What didn’t seem to add up was his own assessment of his game and how Hunter and his staff used him. It sounded like the 35-year-old had played his final game with the Caps.
“As far as myself, and I’m probably one of the most pessimistic or hardest critics for my own play, I was pretty confident with how things went and kind of moving on,” he said. “I’ll talk to George [McPhee], I would expect. And I’m sure that we’ll be honest with each other in our year-end meetings and go from there. I was pretty happy up until a couple months ago with how I played. And whatever happens in a summer, you go through it and take it from there.”
One thing’s for certain: Halpern thinks there’s still NHL hockey in his future, even after a trying season.
“Well, I plan on playing next year. It’s kind of going into the summer when you’re a free agent at this time and go about it the same way as far as training, preparing,” he said. “It obviously wasn’t the finish of a season that I personally would have liked. The team was doing well, but as far as for my own personal career and future, you hope that there’s a lot of other opinions out there. I just prepare the same way.”