John Carlson had a very bumpy 2015-16 season as he struggled with injury for the first time in his career as an NHL defenseman. Almost anyone at the start of last October would have told you that Carlson was the Capitals number one defenseman, but is that still the case now?
How exactly did this great American hockey preacher of all things good and free do this year?
|23.5||time on ice per game|
|51.5||5v5 shot-attempt percentage|
|58.6||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:
Coming into this past season, many, including myself, were excited to see if John Carlson was going to take the next step towards becoming a Norris Trophy caliber defenseman.
One problem with those plans is Carlson’s regular deployment next to possession black hole, Brooks Orpik, which has tended to negatively skew his numbers in the past. In 2014-15, Carlson had put up ridiculously good possession numbers with anyone not named Brooks Orpik, so when Orpik went down for half the season with a cracked femur, you would have expected Carlson to finally be free from his shackles and start dominating next to Nate Schmidt and friends.
However, a wrench was thrown into those plans as Carlson not only missed 20-plus games with a broken ankle/foot, but also probably played a large chunk of the season with lingering effects of said injury. It’s impossible to tell how much the injury played a factor in his season, but CFTC personally would like to think that it played a huge role.
Carlson had 51.5 percent score adjusted possession and minus-0.98 percent relative possession (according to War-On-Ice), ranking fourth and fifth on the team respectively, out of the 6 regularly played defensemen. Those numbers aren’t jump-off-the-page bad, but they do show that Carlson had some struggles during 5v5 play this year. A lot of those struggles, like any Capitals player this year who struggled at 5v5, were covered up by the fantastic play of Braden Holtby in net.
That being said, if we move onto just looking at the Capitals postseason, a time where it’s believed that Carlson was probably back close to 100 percent, his score-adjusted possession jumps up to 53.64 percent behind only Taylor Chorney (who played 7 games) for the team defensive lead, and his relative possession jumps up to 3.5 percent again only behind Chorney (Sidenote: Did anyone realize how good Chorney was?). Removing all of the fancy numbers and terms, I’m basically saying that John Carlson had a terrific postseason that only looks better if you add in the fact that he was a point per game player with 5 goals and 7 assists in 12 games.
On the topic of point scoring, if you adjust for players that played more than 250 minutes this season and weed out obvious outliers like Stefan Elliot, Mark Barberio, and Erik Gustafsson, John Carlson was behind only Erik Karlsson (no relation) and Brent Burns when it came to 5v5 points per 60 for defensemen. With his injury and Matt Niskanen sharing the power play QB burden this season, we didn’t see a regular-season point total from Carlson that we’d expect, but he’s still definitely an offensive powerhouse on the back-end.
Carlson’s 2015-16 season is definitely a weird one, but I don’t think it can be argued that the Caps aren’t a better team with him on the ice. A healthy John Carlson takes a ton of weight off Matt Niskanen’s back and if there is one guy in the defense that can help cover Orpik’s deficiencies, it’s Carlson. Here’s hoping that he has a great World Cup for Team USA in the fall and comes into 2016-17 ready to look past somewhat of a roller coaster 2015-16.
How much weight do put into Carlson’s injury really affecting his 2015-16 season? In your opinion, is Carlson still the Capitals #1 defenseman? Do you think that Carlson should definitely be the #1 power play blue-liner?
Read more: Japers Rink
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