The 2011-12 season was a breakout year for Joey Crabb. Ten years after he was a seventh-round selection by the New York Rangers, the Alaska native earned a regular spot in an NHL lineup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And on Sunday, Crabb signed the first one-way contract of his career when he agreed to a one-year deal worth $950,000 with the Capitals. While Crabb, 29, didn’t have the most direct route to the NHL, he believes he’s a better player for it.
“You always just got to keep a strong work ethic and keep working hard,” Crabb said. “I was always confident in my game and confident I could play in the NHL and obviously, I would have liked there to get there a little earlier with a couple different turns and a couple different situations I might have been. But I think it’s made me a bit of a stronger person. It’s helped mentally.”
Crabb was part of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program as a teenager and he went on to play four years for Colorado College. When he turned pro in 2006-07, Crabb signed with Atlanta and spent the next four seasons playing primarily with its AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
After appearing in 29 games with the Thrashers in 2008-09, Crabb didn’t get back to the NHL until two years later after he had been traded to Toronto. He split the 2010-11 campaign with the Maple Leafs (48 games) and the AHL’s Toronto Marlies (34 games) before finally emerging as daily contributor at the NHL level last season.
Comfortable after his previous stints in the league, Crabb averaged 13:27 per night in 67 games with the Maple Leafs in 2011-12 and recorded 11 goals and 15 assists.
“I was really happy with the season, the way it went,” Crabb said. “I was going into the year with confidence and expectations of good play.”
Crabb is a self-described “energy guy” who likes to get involved on the forecheck and prides himself on contributing to the penalty kill.
Depending how the rest of the offseason shakes out, Crabb will likely spend the bulk of his time on the fourth line for the Capitals but could potentially move up if circumstances warrant it. That would slot Crabb along fellow Western Collegiate Hockey Association alums Matt Hendricks (St. Cloud State) and Jay Beagle (University of Alaska) most of the time.
For Crabb, one of the most important factors in selecting Washington was the team’s lofty goals. After spending his entire career up to this point with struggling organizations in Atlanta and Toronto, he wanted to be a part of a potential contender.
“I’m just excited for a chance to win some games,” Crabb said. “I’m just excited to get in there and get on a team with a real good chance to win and high expectations for them. I haven’t really played on teams in the past that have had this high of expectations for winning and it’s going to be fun to be playing for a team like that.”