From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2009-10 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up, John Carlson.
#74 / Defense / Washington Capitals
Jan 10, 1990
$845,833 cap hit in 2009-10; RFA after 2011-12
|Regular Season (NHL)
|Regular Season (AHL)
Key Stat: 7,423 - the number of days John Carlson has been alive. In more typical terms, that's 20 years, 3 months, and 28 days.
The Good: The AHL numbers (39 points and a plus-37 rating in 48 games) are dazzling, as are the eyewitness reports of what Carlson has done in Hershey. The World Junior heroics are already the stuff of legend. And then of course, there were the NHL playoffs, during which Carlson was arguably the team's best defenseman, inarguably a member of the team's best defensive pairing, tied for fourth in scoring on a team that sported seven guys who posted at least 50 regular-season points, and scored one of the biggest goals of Washington's postseason with his late, game-tying tally in Game Two. The result of Carlson's strong play was a whopping 20:14 of ice time per game, 3:10 of which came shorthanded - and an emergence that's probably the most significant silver lining of a postseason disaster.
The Bad: As great as Carlson was in the playoffs, he was just average during the regular season: his 5-on-5 GAON/60 was sixth among eight qualifying defensemen and his 5-on-5 +-ON/60 was fifth. But can that really be classified as 'bad', or is it more like 'not as shockingly good as his playoff performance'? As for actual negatives, there are probably only two: his questionable backcheck on the second Canadiens goal in Game Seven (though, in fairness, Carlson was probably exhausted from being put on the ice so often as the Capitals tried to force overtime, and nitpicking to this extent basically defines 'grasping at straws'), and the fact that he was credited with 34 giveaways in 28 combined regular season and playoff games. After that the biggest problem was probably the fact that his number 74 jersey was a little weird to look at.
The Vote: Rate Carlson below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: At this point, it's pretty obvious the sky's the limit for Carlson; the question is, how good will he be next year, and how good should the team expect him to be next year? Should Carlson have a top-four spot coming out of camp, or should he still be handled with kid gloves? Does how the team plans to treat him next fall have any impact on the decisions the front office makes this offseason?