Karl Alzner played in every game this season and had huge success as long as you don’t count scoring, which he is really terrible at. But appreciating Alzner’s 2015-16 puts us in conflict with ourselves: how do we explain a player who enjoys great outcomes (goal differential) without good process (puck possession)?
Let’s kick off the 2015-16 player reviews right now.
|21.3||time on ice per game|
|50.5||5v5 shot-attempt percentage|
|54.7||5v5 goal percentages|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2015-16 season. A short description of each chart:
Karl Alzner clocked 1744 minutes for the Washington Capitals during the regular season, second most behind his D partner, Matt Niskanen. Alzner also holds the iron man title for the Caps for most consecutive games played, not missing one since entering the league full time in 2010. That’s remarkable; Alzner is the Capitals’ constant, their foundation on the blue line, playing big minutes every night. That alone holds tremendous value for the team, but we should pay as much attention to how those minutes went.
With 50.3 percent possession and minus-2.3 percent relative possession (measured by shot attempts, weight by score state), both team lows among full-time D-men, Alzner struggled during 5v5. That struggle was obfuscated by a team-high 93.9 percent on-ice save percentage (thank you based Holtby).
In the past I’d vigorously mitigate Alzner’s possession trouble by pointing to his deployments — mostly in the Caps zone and mostly against top opponents — though the literature has mellowed on using deployment as exculpation for getting shelled.
At least I still have the refuge of shot quality. Despite the high opponent shot rates, Alzner (and Niskanen) have been among the best on the team at limiting scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances. As much as it bothers me to say it, Alzner really does seem good at “keeping shots to the outside,” which betrays value in the player not evident in his corsi scores.
(I feel dirty writing that.)
Alzner has all summer to recover from the barrage of injuries he suffered this season, which is good because his duties will only increase in 2016-17. As Brooks Orpik is asked to do less as he ages and Carlson and Niskanen take big power-play shifts, Alzner may have even more to do during 5v5. I think he’s up to the task. Here’s to the next 82.
How do you reconcile Alzner’s low possession scores — do deployments and shot quality matter to you? Do you think Alzner will another 82 games next season? And will he ever score more than 5 goals a season?
Read more: Japers Rink
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