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. Next up John Carlson.
#74 / Defense / Washington Capitals
Jan 10, 1990
$845,833 cap hit in 2010-11; RFA after 2011-12
Key Stats: The only defensemen in the League with both a better +-ON/60 and higher quality of competition than Carlson at five-on-five were Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Zdeno Chara and Toni Lydman (and not one of those players scored more goals or points per sixty than Carlson)
Interesting Stat: Carlson was the only rookie in the League to average 18 minutes of even-strength ice time and two minutes on each of the power-play and shorthanded units, and didn't miss a game all season while doing so.
The Good: Carlson led all NHL rookies in ice time and blocked shots, and was fourth among freshman blueliners in points, third in assists, fourth in goals and third in plus/minus. But enough of the comparisons to his fellow frosh. To get a full understanding of John Carlson's 2010-11 season, we need a broader view. Locally, Carlson led all Caps blueliners in assists and points, GFON/60 and +-ON/60 at five-on-five, blocked shots and takeaways (those 60 takeaways, by the way, were the third-highest total in the League among rearguards). He led the team in ice time 21 times (including at the Winter Classic) and was on the ice for more Caps goals than anyone not named Alex Ovechkin. In fact, the 93 goals for for which Carlson was on the ice was 24th-most in the League among defensemen, and not one of the top 23 were on for fewer goals against and more shorthanded time than Carlson. To top it off, Carlson committed just 17 minor penalties all season, and just three in the last 38 games of the campaign (he and partner Karl Alzner took just seven penalties combined after January 12, while playing every game, usually against the opponents' top line).
That's a lot to digest, but the bottom line is that Carlson played against the toughest competition the Eastern Conference's best regular season team faced at even-strength and dominated. Not bad for a rookie.
The Bad: Despite tying a franchise mark for points by a rookie defenseman, Carlson's offense at this point might not be quite where some had hoped. For example, no Capital regular produced fewer points-per-sixty on the power play than Carlson (though everyone on the team struggled, it seemed, with the extra man), and he hit a bit of a rough patch from late December through mid-March, a span over which he scored just one goal in 35 games. He also finished the season in the top-10 in giveaways, a statistical category which (like takeaways above) is of limited value... but there were certainly times when Carlson made ill-advised plays (not just passes, but pinches as well).
Finally, Carlson struggled at times in the playoffs, in large part due to the hip pointer he suffered in Game 1 of the second-round, in part due to the slack he was forced to pick up on a depleted D-corps, and perhaps, ultimately, in part due to being a rookie, something we'll remind ourselves of here... since Carlson reminded us of that fact so infrequently on the ice during the 2010-11 campaign.
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: What should John Carlson's role be going forward? In what areas does he most need to improve? Did he actually kill Osama bin Laden on an off day, or did I just dream that? With a breakout 2010-11 season behind him, what will Carlson have to do to earn a 10 in 2011-12?