Let’s kick off our season reviews with the 64-million-dollar man himself, defenseman John Carlson.
|24.8||time on ice per game|
|49.4||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|53.2||5-on-5 goal percentage, adjusted|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2016-17 season. A short description of each chart:
John Carlson‘s season was like the entire Capitals’ season in miniature. Despite setbacks in process stats and some serious concerns over play without the puck, Carlson and the Caps both racked up points and won a Championship.
Setting a personal best with 68 points (69 if you adjust for era), Carlson earned a lot of buzz for his offense, but his season was notable for more reasons than just the scoreboard.
With Niskanen sidelined early in the year to injury, Carlson stepped up with additional responsibilities during 5-on-5 in addition to his power-play work. Carlson and his partners did great in a pinch. In the process, Carlson was on his way to recording the biggest time-on-ice total of his career. Carlson played 2032 minutes, fifth highest in the league this season and surpassing his 2013-14 total of 2010.
But it wasn’t always a successful outing. Carlson was not immune from Washington’s seemingly systemic trouble in clearing the crease, so his opponent shot heatmap looked an awful lot like Brooks Orpik’s (his second most common D partner) for much of the year. That said, Carlson’s performance varied widely depending on his partner.
Carlson excelled with Djoos and Orlov, but his play with Orpik was brutal. Michal Kempny joined Carlson late in the season, but his benefit to the team largely showed up when he and Carlson were off the ice (we’ll talk about that later).
But that’s enough talk about even strength. John Carlson’s season soared on the strength of the Caps’ power play, for which he was the high man and therefore the setup man for an Ovi Shot from the Ovi Spot. That worked just as well as last season, but new wrinkles and more ice time helped Carlson get 15 more power-play assists than he saw last season.
At risk of being cynical, a lot of Carlson’s improvement this season was driven by power-play on-ice shooting jumping from 10.8 to 15.5 percent and Carlson getting a whole lot of secondary assists at all strengths. It’s unclear how indispensable Carlson is to the Caps power play.
But even without 68 points, Carlson was always going to get a marquee contract once his team-friendly, six-year contract ended in unrestricted status. Even without the PP numbers, he’s a productive, big-minute player who can read and create plays for teammates.
(Still, at the same time, he’s a player whose success has often depended on his underrated defensive partners for support, scoring forwards for finishing, and the cushiest gig in the league as the power-play pivot. Without the puck Carlson has some problems with discipline and crease-clearing, and his point total seems unlikely to continue without some very good fortune.)
This was probably a tough one for Brian MacLellan and company. Carlson’s deal is 8 years with 8 million per, making him among the best compensated defensemen in the league. Even if the Caps had found that price tag too high, their blue line depth chart didn’t suggest any obvious or simple replacements. So now DC is the Carlson clan’s home for most of the next decade.
What does John Carlson have to do to justify his $64-million deal?
Read more: Japers’ Rink
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk
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