For a team based in America’s capital, the Washington Capitals haven’t had a lot of American players in recent years. That changed in 2014-15, when the team’s number-one defense pairing happened to be same one that played together for the American Olympic team in Sochi: Brooks Orpik and the subject of today’s review, John Carlson.
Carly rules, and these colors don’t run. USA! USA! USA!
|23:04||Average time on ice per game|
|51.9%||Shot attempt percentage during 5v5|
|52.1%||Goal percentage during 5v5|
Carlson’s on-ice shot-attempt percentage in 10-game running segments, according to War on Ice:
You really can’t talk about John Carlson’s season without talking also about Brooks Orpik. Barry Trotz kept them together for 85 percent of one another’s 5v5 time, which is a lot. They were the primary “shutdown” pairing, assigned to take on toughest competition the opponents can muster.
And they did… pretty okay, I guess. They got outshot just barely during 5v5, and Carlson got 38 points during even strength, but I emphatically think that was not the best way to use those players.
Consider this: when Carlson got away from Orpik, his possession jumped from a pedestrian 49.7 up to a stellar 59.1 percent. (Carlson’s second most common D-pairing partner, and this will surprise you, was Nate Schmidt at just 74 minutes.) When Carlson played with forward lines who were less likely to play against top competition (i.e. the fourth liners), he put up amazing numbers (56.9 with Latta, 53.3 with Wilson). It seemed like every time Carlson got away from his chief duty, he did splendidly.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Shutdown defensemen are always going to do better when they play against lesser opponents. That’s not my point (and, really, this is less a “point” than a suspicion, like, an open question). Here’s the question in my mind: Are there other players who could do the shutdown job better? Consider this: When Matt faced some of the East’s best forwards (Stamkos, Crosby, Bergeron, Tavares), his numbers were slightly better than Carlson’s.
Deep down, we all know that Carlson is an offensive defenseman. He’s got more in common with Mike Green than Brooks Orpik (hence the PPQB overhaul in the spring). If Green is truly gone, maybe it’d be nice to free Carlson of his burden and let him do the offense thing a little more.
Two more notes of lesser importance: When John Carlson took the point on the power play, the Capitals generated more shots and more dangerous shots than when Mike Green was there. But once we hit the postseason, Carlson’s power play failed to leverage Alex Ovechkin– to its peril. And Alex Ovechkin is the Capitals power play. Carlson ought to spend his September mastering the set-up pass to the Ovi Shot from the Ovi Spot.
One final note, and this is also important. John Carlson played a full 82-game season. He hasn’t missed a game since he joined the league full-time in 2010. Despite his protestations, that’s some superhero stuff right there.
We know Carlson’s good, the question is in what role do you want him to be good? Do you want him shutting down the best opponents during 5v5 and taking the high man position on the power play? If not, where would you like to see him? What does the perfect John Carlson season look like to you?
Read more: Japers Rink
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