Capitals Player Report Card: Karl Alzner

Karl Alzner

Stats: 82 GP, 2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points, +14, 24 PIM
Contract Info: Pending RFA

Scoring Chance Percentage Ranking: 18/29
Defensemen: 8/10
Balanced Corsi Ranking: 6/29
Defensemen: 3/10

Last offseason GM George McPhee made a risky move to not make a move to sign a high-priced shutdown defenseman via free agency and put faith in his organization and their two former first round draft picks. One of those was John Carlson and the other is this post’s featured player, Karl Alzner. Caps fans were frustrated that Alzner couldn’t crack a roster spot his first two years (mostly due to cap issues and him struggling at the NHL level), but those two seasons in Hershey proved to be valuable as Alzner emerged as an extremely solid defensive player for the Caps this year and is already a fan favorite.

Like Carlson, Alzner saw the toughest competition among the team’s defense corps and performed very well against them. He actually had the highest corsi relative to quality of competition on the Caps.  That was with a majority of his starts coming in the defensive zone, too. Alzner established himself as one of the most defensively sound players on the team as he had the third most blocked shots and he had 98 hits, showing that he wasn’t afraid to get physical with his opponents either. I was really surprised that he stayed healthy for all 82 games considering the huge workload that him and Carlson carried all season. When ranking players by their corsi relative to quality of competition, it is pretty encouraging to see the Caps young pairing rank among some of the players listed. The Caps seemed to lack a strong defense pairing like this for many years now so it’s good to know we have one now.

One thing concerns me a little, though. As I mentioned earlier, both him and Carlson were healthy for all 82 games and they were defense partners in Hershey and thus, they were paired together more frequently than any other defenseman on the team. When looking at the graphs in my “Getting Defensive” column,  you’ll see that Alzner and Carlson’s trendlines basically follow each other in every area except the powerplay. What happens when one gets hurt? Whose making more mistakes than the other? I haven’t figured out how to do WOWY’s for this season yet so that will have to wait a little bit. I think very highly of Alzner but it would be nice to know how much his value is before he is signed to a new contract, which will hopefully be before July 1st or before he goes into arbitration because it’s clear he is a key piece to this franchise.

The one big issue I had with Alzner was that his play was pretty one-dimensional this year. I was hoping for a little more than 12 points from him this year considering I thought he had a lot more of an offensive upside. His play on the PK wasn’t the best either as he was on ice for 16 shorties this season. Still had a great relative corsi rate of 17.3 down a man, though so he could have been a lot worse. If he can work on the offensive part of his game during the off-season (and maybe learn to shoot the puck more than 64 times per year), I could definitely see him developing into a Drew Doughty-type player. Does the heavy-lifting on the team, can play the shutdown role and contribute offensively at the same time. If he can do that next season and in the future, then he will be pretty damn close to becoming my favorite player on the team. For this season, I’m giving King Karl an B+/A-. Exceeded my expectations defensively by a longshot but didn’t quite play that well offensively. Still teetering on what grade I want to give him exactly but he was a pleasant surprise for the Capitals in 2010-11 in a year that was full of disappointments to most fans.

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