By Cara Bahniuk
As many star hockey players approach unrestricted free agency, they get excited about the big money and the even bigger opportunity that awaits them on July 1. But Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner is of a different breed.
As Alzner sat on a New York City-bound train Wednesday morning, he called in to Boomer & Warrener of Sportsnet 960 and opened up about his anxiety as a UFA.
“I am a little bit nervous about it just because there is a chance that I might have to go to a new team which is weird because it’s nice to be in a same spot for your whole career,” Alzner said. “It’s nice that I haven’t had to have any sort of move. I feel really comfortable in DC. It is a little strange to think that I might be somewhere else next year, but at the same time there is a little bit of excitement to maybe look around the league and have some options.”
While Alzner hasn’t come to grips of leaving the Capitals, it appears that he’s no longer in the team’s plans. In an interview Tuesday, general manager Brian MacLellan did not mention the longtime Capital in the team’s top-four next season. MacLellan also revealed that he thinks the team is only capable of signing one of its high-profile UFAs, which is rumored to be TJ Oshie.
In his conversation with Boomer & Warrener, Alzner also spoke about his year with the Caps and the team’s postseason struggles.
A transcript of the relevant bits is below.
Hello Karl! Good to see you! How are you? I understand that there was some concern about your phone coverage because you’re on a train. Where are you and whats happening?
Karl Alzner: “I am just on the train to New York City from DC right now. Just going for a quick day trip. I have a tattoo appointment that I have been trying to get to for a while and finally made it happen.”
What are you getting done? Like an anchor or a heart with a girls name on it?
Karl Alzner: “No. [laughs] I actually have a landscape tattoo that I have been working on for the last year and I am finally getting it finished by this guy. He’s pretty legit. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun to see it all come together.”
I want to ask you about your season. You feel bad bringing this up because its another one of those years and you don’t need to hear anymore about it but…another season that ends before round three. Was there similarities to years past? Was this year different? Was it more painful this time to bow out in round number two? How would you best describe the emotions and the feel coming out of this year’s, obviously too short, of a season?
Karl Alzner: “This was harder than the ones in the past. Realistically, this was the best chance that we have had, best team we have had, best situation we have had. Pittsburgh had a ton of injuries, too. We were coming into the series feeling really good and the fact that we still couldn’t find a way to get out of that, especially taking it to Game Seven. It was frustrating. It didn’t feel good, didn’t feel right, and we all understand the team is probably going to look different next year, too. It was a tough one to handle.”
I felt that this was the year that you guys were going to be the team to beat. That you kind of had it figured out. Tell me about Barry Trotz. It’s not his first year. It’s year number two, it just felt like you guys were ready to take the next step. What is it that Trotz has done, or maybe still needs to be done, to get you guys prepared or to get you past this hurdle?
Karl Alzner: “I think if we knew that answer we would’ve done it. We would have been able to get past it. I don’t think we know what the problem is. We feel like the team was ready and prepared, on-the-ice and off-the-ice. Mentally we were in a great spot. We still found a way to not get the job done. Obviously Pittsburgh is a great team, but in a way I think we didn’t quite do exactly what we needed to do. Everyone always talks about playing a playoff style of hockey and that is true, in a sense, but at the same time you should play the same way you played during the regular season where you had your success. We got away from that, especially in the first two games of that series. It ended up fighting us a little bit. We changed too much, we got too tight. We didn’t play the free wheel game that our team is known for and the reason why we had that success. It was a mistake on our part to get away from our game.”
You’re a free agent July 1st. Is this something you are excited about? Do you get nervous thinking about July 1. I guess a lot of guys approach it differently.
Karl Alzner: “I am a little bit nervous about it just because there is a chance that I might have to go to a new team which is weird because it’s nice to be in a same spot for your whole career. It’s nice that I haven’t had to have any sort of move. I feel really comfortable in DC. It is a little strange to think that I might be somewhere else next year, but at the same time there is a little bit of excitement to maybe look around the league and have some options. That is what everyone dreams about – to have teams come after them. Until the 1st, I won’t know if that’s the case. If there will be teams that are looking to sign me, or me trying to find a team. That is the part that is a little bit strange. I guess we will see when it comes. I really don’t know what to expect.”
Have you resigned yourself to the fact that you are going to be leaving Washington?
Karl Alzner: “Not quite. To be honest, I was pretty certain up until the end of the season. Like, ‘yeah, for sure, we are going to find a way to make this work in DC.’ Then the way the season ended, I don’t really know what exactly the teams direction is going to be. If they are going to try to keep everyone together…The past couple weeks I have been thinking about it more. There is a chance I might not be back. I like to still think it’s possible but they have to figure out a few other things with a couple guys. Obviously Kuznetsov is a huge signing. Oshie is the type of guy you don’t want to let go if possible. There are two for sure in front of me. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes down.”
On of the things players look for on July 1, or at least heading into, is an opportunity to win. It’s hard to think that there is a spot that would be ahead of Washington potentially. What else would you be looking for, if it comes down to it that you have to move on. What are the things that you would be searching for in a potential destination?
Karl Alzner: “There is really only two things on my list: to win, obviously and to be in a place that is a good spot for my family. If I look at it, hopefully, I get a long-term contract. Maybe there is something else after the deal is done if I am still healthy and can still skate out there and keep up with all the young guys. It could be a place that I end up living. By the time I am done playing, the kids are going to be around 7, 8 years old. They start making friends there and you don’t really want to move your kids away from friends. That is something I have been thinking about. That it could be a place, if not Washington, somewhere that I really enjoy living and could see myself retiring and spending the rest of my life there.”
Personally with your game, are you happy with the season you had? Do you have better years ahead of you? Where are you at compared to your best?
Karl Alzner: “I think I am where I am going to be. Obviously, you like to get better and better every year. I think it’s funny because this year I did not have the most points I have had before, which is one of the stats everyone looks at first. But, I by far had more scoring chances this year than I have ever had in my life. Not just scoring chances, but grade-A scoring chances. If I could find a way to put the puck in the back of the net, I would have had 5, 6, 7 goals maybe and that would have been a little bit different. I feel good about it. I feel that my defensive game is still there. I still feel that I am playing good against top lines and to players. I like where it’s at. It would be interesting to see what, if not Washington, what kind of system you would be apart of if it’s a different team. It would play a big key into how my game would evolve or what my role would be. I still think there is potential for some more upsides, but I like where my game is. I’m confident in my game.”
One guy that takes it right in the cross-hairs every time things don’t go well for the Capitals is Alexander Ovechkin. Did you see anything different out of him this year during the playoffs and is the criticism fair? He takes a lot of it – how much of it is deserved?
Karl Alzner: “It is tough when you’re the captain. It comes with the role. When you’re going up against the person everyone considers the best player in the league, and they are comparing you directly to him, that is going to make it even tougher. I think he gets it. He understands that it is always going to come down on him either way and I think he’s fine with it. I don’t think it’s a big deal. …. The nice thing about hockey is that everybody has to be on to win. He takes the brunt of it, but it’s on the team in the end.”
We talked to #Caps defenseman Karl Alzner this morning, who will be a UFA this summer. Should the #Flames try to sign him?
— Boomer & Warrener (@BoomerAndRhett) May 31, 2017
Photo: Cara Bahniuk
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