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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Season in Review 2013-2014: John Carlson

John Carlson had a pretty cool year as far as 24 year olds go.  He took his talents to Sochi for the Winter Olympics, and though USA had a disappointing effort, Carlson played solidly, finishing with a goal and an assist in six games.  Then, he proposed to his longtime girlfriend Gina Nucci while eating pizza at his house.  Pretty cool year.

As far as his Caps season goes, Carlson had a decent one.  He's one of the main bright spots on the Capitals defense, someone who plays consistently at a higher than average level.  He generally buddies up with Alzner to play in the shut down defensive role.  Let's take a look at his accomplishments this season, and how that compares to last season.  All numbers are obtained from Extra Skater, numbers are for all game situations.

Season   GP  G   A   TOI/60   S  Pen  PenD  ShB  HitF  HitA
2013   48  6  16     22.8  97    9    11  123   59    69
2013-2014  82 10  27     23.9 208   11    14  177   64   108

A couple of numbers really stand out for Carlson.  It's great that we have a reliable defenseman who can play every game of the season.  It's also great that he fired off over 208 shots.  However, he was only able to net 10 of them.  He was rocking a 6.19 shooting percentage last season, with six goals on 97 shots.  This season, however, Carlson only had a 4.81 shooting percentage.  His shots blocked per game decreased as well, going from 2.6 to 2.16, but his 177 blocked shots was still absolutely
phenomenal, ranking him first on the team, and fifth in the entire league.  It is also amazing that a defenseman like Carlson is able to draw more penalties than he takes.  I would like to see Carlson throw his weight around a bit more next season.  The fact that he has less hits for than games played is not very good for a defenseman.  Carlson's a big guy at 6'3" and 212 lbs.  There is no reason he should rank `12th on the team and behind Aaron Volpatti.  I get that his game is a little bit more about finesse and technical play, but if he wants to be the a part of the teams shutdown pair, he's gotta get more fierce and physical.  Carlson did a great job on both sides of the special teams.  He played more on the power play than any other defensemen, playing 57.3 percent of the total time on the power play this season.  He also led the team in penalty killing time, appearing on the ice for 65.2 percent of the total time on the penalty kill.  Let's take a look at some of his possession stats, again obtained from Extra Skater, all numbers being in close 5 on 5 situations.

Season   CF   CA    CF%   C% Rel   FF    FA    FF% FF% Rel  PDO
2013  404  440   47.9%     -0.1%  293   313   48.4%     1.1% 105.5
2013-2014  713  849   45.6%     -3.1%  536   621   46.3%    -1.8%  99.0

Not very good.  Then again, no Capitals player is very good with these numbers.  When Carlson is on the ice, he's surrendering far more shots than what he and his line mates are generating.  His corsi numbers and fenwick numbers got worse this season in comparison to last, which, again, makes sense because of how bad the defense collectively was.  Did Carlson do worse this year than last year?  Probably, but by looking at how high his PDO was last year in comparison to this year, those numbers may be a bit to high during the 2013 season.  You also have to take into consideration the fact that Carlson played against high quality competition.  In fact, only Alexander Ovechkin faced tougher opponents.  That being said, Carlson did have the highest percentage against quality competition in the forwards department, meaning he did face the oppositions top lines more times than anyone else.  Carlson's zone time was almost split 50-50 for offensive and defensive zone starts.  Carlson played primarily with Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer, and his defensive partner was generally Alzner and Orlov.  No surprises there.

I think Carlson is an average to below-average first line defenseman.  His game doesn't really exemplify one that a typical shutdown defenseman displays.  While he and Alzner are clearly the best options we have at defensemen, I think Carlson would excel far more as a second line defensive pairing.  He is simply not physical enough to completely take out an opponent.  No player had more goals against this season than Carlson, who had 95.  Again, you have to take into account his quality of competition, but if you take a look at other teams top defensemen, they are doing a better job against higher quality of competition.  Duncan Keith only gave up 58 goals, had a much higher fenwick.  New York Rangers Ryan McDonagh gave up 50, and had a higher fenwick, with high quality opposition.

I'm nitpicking here, because obviously Carlson is a great defenseman.  He played a ton on the penalty kill, can play on the power play, can score some points, and can play respectable defense.  I just don't truly believe he is an effective top line defenseman.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as he would excel on the second line pairing.  Unfortunately, he will more than likely continue to see his minutes rise higher and higher, which will put more and more wear and tear on his body, as he is simply the top option the Capitals have on the blue line.  Carlson is signed through the 2017-2018 season, and it appears one of our best defensemen has truly found a home in DC.

Grade - B-

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