From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading the 2008-09 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2009-10. First up, Karl Alzner.
#27 / Defenseman / Washington Capitals
Sep 24, 1988
$1,675,000 cap hit in 2009-10; RFA after 2010-11 season
Key Stat: In thirty NHL games, Alzner committed one penalty - a minor for delay of game (he had just ten penalty minutes in 48 games at the AHL level this past season).
Interesting Stat: In 16 home games, Alzner had a plus-five rating, but was minus-six in 14 games away from the V.C.
The Good: Alzner was summoned from AHL Hershey in late November to plug a hole on an injury-decimated blueline, and despite not being eased in at all (he led all Caps' blueliners in ice time in his very first NHL game and topped twenty minutes in 13 of his first 17 games), he acquited himself incredibly well, posting a plus-eight rating in his first dozen games. The Caps as a team went 15-4-0 in Alzner's first 19 NHL games, including a 2-1 win in Toronton in which he scored his first NHL goal.
King Karl was third on the team in blocked-shots-per-minute-per-game (Tyler Sloan and Milan Jurcina were one-two), and Tom Poti and Sloan were the only blueliners on the team to face tougher competition at five-on-five. Alzner's Corsi Rating was second among the team's rearguards (Mike Green), and Caps goalies faced fewer five-on-five shots per sixty minutes when Alzner was on the ice than when any other defenseman was.
The Bad: Whether it was hitting the wall or something else, Alzner struggled after his strong start, and had a minus-nine rating and just one assist in his final 17 NHL games of the season. He ended up with the worst takeaway-to-giveaway and giveaways-per-minute-per-game ratios on the entire team and had the second-worst five-on-five GAON/60 (Poti) and the worst GAON/60 at four-on-five of any Caps defenseman.
Finally, Alzner has been sidelined recently in the AHL playoffs with what may be a concussion.
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: What role do you see Alzner playing on the 2009-10 Caps? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?