On Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens scratched Karl Alzner from their starting line up for their game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. The former Capital has four more years on his $4.625 million AAV contract that he signed in the summer of 2017.
The thirty-year-old defenseman will miss his first game since the 2009-2010 season, ending a 622-game iron man streak.
Alzner’s time in Washington ended anticlimactically with a second-round loss to the Penguins in 2017. The Canadiens offered stay-at-home defenseman a five-year deal in hopes that he would establish himself in the team’s top-four. Their plan had one flaw: Alzner is not a top-four defenseman.
Capitals Season 2016-2017
|Time on Ice||1310|
|Shot attempt %||47.3|
|Expected goal %||45.5|
|Zone start ratio||47.3|
Alzner controlled a slim 47.3 percent of shot attempts during his final season with the Capitals. Additionally, Alzner and his primary partner, Jeff Petry, were on the ice for 35 goals against and only 28 goals for. His numbers were not spectacular, and they did not warrant the contract he received over the summer.
Yet the Canadiens came with their offer, and Alzner’s tenure in Washington ended. In an exit interview, the defenseman said he was frustrated with the Capitals’ lack of postseason success, and he said, “I want to win. … It was frustrating to keep getting stumped in the second round.”
A season and two very different narratives later, Alzner fell out of favor with the Canadiens’ coaching staff. The defenseman had a rough time adjusting to his new role with the team, and his numbers suffered.
Given his salary, it's tough for Habs fans to see him scratched. It could be worse, though. He could be playing. pic.twitter.com/PBOgfrYbtA
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) October 3, 2018
Alzner ended the season with a negative penalty differential, almost no offensive production, and the Canadiens generated more shots and conceded fewer when he was off the ice. His huge contract kept him on the ice for all of last season, but this year, the Canadiens are focused on developing their prospects.
Karl Alzner played 591 games in nine seasons for the Capitals. He was a mainstay on the blueline, but a scratch does not bode well for a defenseman of his age. The reactions to Alzner’s scratch included the end of his iron man streak and the four years remaining on his deal $23 million deal.
Montreal has > 20 per cent of their cap tied up in Shea Weber, Karl Alzner, and Andrew Shaw.
Not this year. Long term. I mean it’s stunning.
— Travis Yost (@travisyost) October 3, 2018
Over 600 games in a row for Karl Alzner. His streak ends with a healthy scratch, just one year into a 5-year contract.
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) October 3, 2018
Karl Alzner being a healthy scratch on the Capitals’ Stanley Cup banner raising night is just a punch the gut while you’re recovering from that kick to the groin. I feel for the guy.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) October 3, 2018
Hopefully, Alzner can improve his game and earn a spot in a shallow Canadiens’ lineup. His career in Washington was surrounded by heartbreak, but he still has the capability to be a bottom pair NHL defenseman.
Alzner controlled 51.74% of shot attempts while playing on the Canadiens’ third pair with Jordie Benn. However, the two defensemen only played 144 minutes together because Alzner was primarily deployed on a top-four pair with Jeff Petry.
The main issue is Alzner’s massive contract. If the Canadiens somehow buy him out and then offer him a $1-2 million AAV contract, Alzner could be a solid fifth or sixth defenseman. However, the four years and $18.5 million remaining on his deal could spell the end for the long-time NHL defenseman.
Headline photo: Washington Capitals
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