Capitals logjam on the blue-line

After the trade deadline, the Caps have 9 defensemen on the roster. Currently, they are icing the corps of Alzner, Carlson, Schultz, Hannan, Wideman and Erskine while Sloan is a regular scratch and Green and Poti are hurt. Who plays and who sits when the latter two are healthy? We can look through their strengths and weaknesses to see who will be the ones playing and who will be sitting in the press box.

Player                   GP     ES TOI/G     SH TOI/G     PP TOI/G     TOI/G
John Carlson     68          17:42             2:19                2:25         22:27
Karl Alzner         68          17:03            2:05               0:22         19:31
Mike Green         49          18:23             2:21               4:26          25:11
Jeff Schultz         58          17:17            2:42               0:04        20:04
John Erskine      63          13:34            1:25                0:03        15:03
Scott Hannan     42          17:13            2:25               0:10         19:49
Tom Poti              21          14:27            2:32               1:21         18:21
Tyler Sloan         27          12:10            0:24              0:00        12:34
Dennis Wideman 66       17:28           3:00              3:45         24:06

Player              QUALCOMP    Corsi Rel QoC    CORSI REL    Ozone%    Fin Ozone%
Mike Green         -0.015              0.514                         7.2               52.0          49.6
John Carlson      0.045               0.956                        3.0               50.4          52.7
Dennis Wideman   -0.029         0.652                        3.0               53.1           52.8
Scott Hannan    -0.028              0.282                         2.7              48.2           45.4
Karl Alzner         0.047               0.982                        0.2               49.8           51.5
John Erskine     -0.032             -0.159                       -7.2               52.2          47.7
Jeff Schultz         0.017               0.691                        -7.3               50.8         47.7
Tom Poti            -0.025               0.562                        -9.7               51.2         49.3
Tyler Sloan       -0.003              -0.734                      -15.5              51.7        49.4

First off, Sloan is probably staying a scratch unless someone else gets hurt. Brutal numbers all around for him and he doesn’t contribute on the powerplay or penalty kill at all. He’s also ineligible to return to Hershey because he (nor Jay Beagle) were on the clear day roster so we’re stuck with him for the rest of the year. I also have to think that Tom Poti is likely done for the season since McPhee traded for Dennis Wideman. Wideman does just about the same thing Poti does as a mobile defenseman that can also kill penalties but he just does it better, especially from an offensive standpoint. This certainly doesn’t make Poti’s contract look any better, though.

That leaves seven d-men with six spots. Green will definitely be back in the lineup when he’s healthy. He’s too potent on the powerplay and we desperately need help in that area. It will be nice not to have him log ridiculous minutes with Wideman and Carlson contributing, too. At least I hope not. Speaking of which, I’ve heard people suggesting that we should give Carlson a few nights off because we’re giving him too big of a workload and I don’t think that’s a good idea. He’s been struggling the past few weeks but his play on the blue line has been consistent all year and him and Alzner have been the team’s “shut-down” pair and have been doing a damn fine job at it.

Scott Hannan has played well as a stay-at-home d-man so I see no reason to scratch him either which leaves us with Jeff Schultz and John Erskine. Schultz is definitely struggling. Whether it’s lingering injuries or not being paired with Green, something’s been up with him. Him and Hannan have shown chemistry on some nights and the two look like they can be a good, defensive pairing but there’s some other times where he’s looked horrendous. He may have an edge over Erskine, whose ceiling is a 3rd pairing defenseman. He doesn’t face great competition, gets offensive zone draws and doesn’t have great corsi numbers either. However, Erskine’s been a lot more physical than Schultz (2nd on the team in hits) and is a good shot blocker. He’s also one of the few players on the team willing to drop the gloves when the time is right. I think we might see Erskine scratched more than Schultz, though since Erskine’s game is a lot more physical and it has noticeably wore him down over a long period of time.

So, when everyone’s healthy, I think the pairings will look like this:

Green-Schultz

Alzner-Carlson

Wideman-Hannan

Erskine

I have to say, this looks to be a very impressive defensive corps (as it should be, it’s costing us a lot of money/cap space) and I definitely feel confident in it for the playoffs. Also, Copper & Blue also pointed out that while the Caps have a lot of injuries, they haven’t been that crippling because of how much depth there is here. An injury to someone like Mike Green would hurt a lot of teams badly and while it’s hurt our powerplay, the team is finding ways to win without him. The problem here will come in the off-season since we have a lot committed to our blue-line now and there’s a couple who have bad contracts (*cough*Poti*cough*) but I’ll address that in a later post.

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