John Carlson is signed through the 2025-26 season, so going by current trends he will play approximately 69 thousand minutes before that deal is up.
|25.1||time on ice per game|
|51.8||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|48.6||5-on-5 expected goal percentage, adjusted|
|59.8||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 season. A short description of each chart:
For the second straight season, Carlson clocked more than 2000 minutes of ice time, ranking him among the league’s top ten of probably very tired guys. Those big minutes plus some big scoring (his 70 points were fourth highest among all defenders) gave Carlson some Norris buzz as a possible finalist for the league’s best defender, but he ultimately missed the mark. His struggle to slow down opponents was probably why.
We might want to chalk all those opponent goals up to team effects beyond Carlson’s control (kind of similar to how Burn’s bad goaltending from Martin Jones may cost him the Norris), but I’m not so sure. Here’s how opponents shot differently against Carlson compared to the rest of his team, by way of HockeyViz. Green means opponents take more shots from that place when Carlson was on the ice, purple means fewer.
The implication here is that Carlson is the nexus of Washington’s team-defense problems. I can assure you that’s not the case, but I can’t really make that case in full until we get to the K part of the alphabet in these season reviews. A short version: when Evgeny Kuznetsov and Carlson played together, the Caps allowed a startling high rate of chances from dangerous parts of the ice, and though Carlson’s impact on Kuznetsov was positive, it wasn’t strongly so — and Carlson still had some defensive problems even when apart from Kuznetsov.
Not remotely as bad, but still not great.
It’s weird. We know intuitively that Carlson, like the rest of the Caps, trades some defensive risk for offensive potential. And for Carlson, that’s has been very successful (goals were 92 to 62, so yeah, that’ll do), but I’m not sure how stable that result is. Carlson’s 103.1 PDO (the sum of his on-ice shooting and saving percentages) was the highest among full-time Caps defenders, and it required the team to shoot 12 percent to make up for a relatively low 91.1-percent goaltending. But that crummy goaltending wasn’t all that crummy; Caps goalies allowed 62 goals on 62.5 expected goals while Carlson was on the ice, which is a bit above expected. So I still consider Carlson somewhat fortunate on that side of the ice.
And that’s all the shortchanging of Carlson I can muster. Offensively, he’s remarkable. Carlson’s gaudy point totals are the result of excellent playmaking — 14 primary assists during five-on-five play and an additional 18 on the man advantage.
I suspect that being the setup man for the Ovi Shot for the Ovi Spot might have actually undermined Carlson’s Norris bid. People think it’s easy to be the guy whose job it is to send a pass machine-like to the same spot, but there’s some evidence that role has cost Carlson goals — his shot rate from the point on the power play dropped 19 percent from last season. He literally passed up individual glory in the best interest of his team.
And that’s sort of a theme with Carlson. He plays the kind of big, tough minutes that should wear a guy down, and yet Carlson missed just two games this season before nabbing five assists in the playoffs. His role on the team is massive, yet somehow understated. If the Caps make the move some expect them to make this summer and change up their top-four defenders, Carlson’s role may yet grow even further.
When Michal Kempny is back in the fall, should he be Carlson’s de facto partner? If not, who should be? And what’s the cap on Carlson’s ice time next season?
Read more: Japers Rink
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