In late October, it looked like Jay Beagle's season would be measured by Arron Asham's right fist and the ensuing concussion suffered in a fight. By mid-May, Beagle's season was the shining example of what worked for the Washington Capitals with Dale Hunter hockey.
In between was the learning process of Beagle's career.
"Obviously, I set out this [past] year to establish myself as a role player that can play in tight situations and be a guy that the coach can count on to throw out in defensive situations, especially penalty-kill; that's a huge part of my game," he said Friday when discussing a new three-year deal worth $2.7 million. "It was obviously a tough start to the year. The finish was what I was looking to do all season. I'm hoping just to build on that and keep it going on in the next season here and just to continue to get better as a player and help my team."
Beagle's next step is trying to get back to being that crucial role player after suffering a broken foot late in the playoffs. The 26-year-old center blocked a shot from New York Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman in the second period of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, played through it and tried to lace up his skates for Game 6.
But his season, which amounted to a total of 53 games, was over, and the operation to repair the fracture in his left foot was completed before the Caps were eliminated. In retrospect, that will help him moving forwad.
"The surgery was probably the smartest thing I could've done because it allowed me to heal up properly," Beagle said. "Those couple days when I was trying to play right after it happened and trying to walk on it and stuff, it just was getting a lot worse. The surgery allowed it just to kind of stay in place and be able to put weight on it after a week and start doing light exercises to just kind of maintain a lot of that, a lot of your strength."
Beagle only needed the aid of crutches for a week, and he's already putting substantial weight on the foot and well into offseason workouts.
"It feels good, so it hasn't really affected me. Going into it, into the summer, I didn't know how long it would take," he said. "But I basically started up on my lower-body workouts the same that I would have. I started a little earlier last year, but I still feel like I'm progressing where I want to be with every workout. This time last year I feel like I'm staying on pace, and that's a good thing. I'll continue to push harder to try and get better."
Beagle, who had four goals in the regular season and one in the playoffs, is still on pace to be ready for training camp. He plans on starting to skate next again next week.
"Yes, definitely, yep. The foot's healed up completely; I have no problems with it. Flexibility and everything on my foot and ankle, everything's come right back to normal," he said. "I see no reason why this should slow me down at all. I think I should be able to hit training camp like I did last year and try and be in the best shape that I can be in as possible."
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