From Alzner to Wideman, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2010-11 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2011-12. First up, Karl Alzner.
#27 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Sep 24, 1988
1 (and parts of two others)
$1,675,000 in 2010-11; RFA this summer
Key Stat: Alzner was only on the ice for 1.90 goals against per sixty minutes at even strength during the regular season, fewer than any of the team's other defensemen.
The Good: After a tantalizing glimpse of what he could do in the 2008-09 season and a perhaps somewhat disappointing 21 games with the big club in 2009-10, Alzner slid seamlessly into the lineup to start this past season and quickly established himself as the team's defensive workhorse. Not only did Alzner lead Caps' rearguards in goals against per minute, he did it playing against tougher opponents than any other Washington defender, while paired primarily with a rookie, in addition to regular penalty-killing responsibilities and without hurting his team by taking penalties.
Alzner's pre- and post-All-Star statistics are indicative of how the young blueliner progressed this season. In short, the "sexy" statistics - goals, shots, and hits - all decreased, while stats indicative of solid, steady player - blocked shots, assists per minute, and time on ice - increased. In this case, the statistics matched the eye test; as Alzner settled in at the NHL level he pressed less often and became confident in his showdown role and with playing steady, simple, minimal flair defense.
The Bad: Alzner's offensive statistics this season were, to put it simply, paltry, with his twelve points placing him in a five-way tie for 133rd among defensemen. To a certain extent, that is mitigated by the fact he saw very little powerplay time, but nonetheless a player with Alzner's smart, poise, and hands has the potential to contribute more than a dozen points over the course of an 82-game season.
On the defensive side, what stands out most is Alzner's penalty killing. As mentioned above, he saw regular penalty killing time; the thing is, from a statistical standpoint, he just wasn't all that good at it. His goal against per minute in 4-on-5 situations was second-worst (only Scott Hannan's was worse), despite the fact that he saw mediocre competition and played with decent enough teammates. Again, it almost feels like we're nitpicking, given Alzner's age, position, and experience level, but at the same time, if you're looking for areas where Alzner wasn't quite as strong or parts of his game he could improve, penalty killing is right there.
The Vote: Rate Alzner 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: Alzner's a free agent, albeit a restricted one, and the team's going to want to bring him back - but what's he worth (dollars and years), now and heading into the future? Finally, what will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?