John Carlson’s All-Star Snub Shouldn’t Diminish Resurgent Season

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Posted January 12, 2018

In the midst of a contract year that has seen him put up some of the best numbers of his career, it was widely expected that Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson would join Metropolitan Division captain and Caps teammate Alex Ovechkin in Tampa Bay in two and a half weeks for the 2018 NHL All-Star game.

Instead, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang will accompany the contingent of defenseman from the Metro Division while Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby will be the other representative from Washington.

Carlson, who turned 28 on Wednesday, has five goals and 29 assists in 43 games this season, seemed poised to make his first All-Star game after taking on a much increased role this season. After the Capitals lost a minute-eater in Karl Alzner, a flashy young defender in Nate Schmidt and late-season addition Kevin Shattenkirk from the defensive corps in a span of weeks last offseason, the Capitals needed several players to step up to keep the team afloat this season and beyond.

Carlson has provided a steadying presence this season for a new-look Capitals team (Caps Outsider)

Averaging 26 minutes and 17 seconds of ice time per game – a three and a half minute uptick from last season and a career high by almost two minutes – it is safe to say that Carlson has shouldered that increased role very effectively. Even more impressive is that this forward step in his career comes after two years in which he struggled with long-term injuries.

For the Caps, it has been a resurgence that has had a huge effect on their season. The roster overhaul this past summer meant that younger, inexperienced players would be stepping into multiple important roles. One of those players is Christian Djoos, a 23-year-old Swede who has stepped into a top-four defensive role during parts of his rookie year.

Many of those minutes have been spent with Carlson. In over 250 minutes of ice time, the duo has posted a Corsi for of 54.3%, showing that they are driving play when paired together. While there have been and will continue to be ups and downs as the young Djoos acclimates to the NHL, Carlson has had a very positive influence on his game this season, and the stability that he brings has surely done wonders for Djoos’ game, as well as for the team.

Carlson’s offensive numbers have been promising, and they’re coming in a year where he is seeing over 53% of his zone starts at even strength in the defensive zone. This comes on top of his role as the quarterback on the Capitals’ first power play unit as well as their rock on the penalty kill.

All-Star snub aside, the biggest storyline surrounding Carlson will continue to be his status as an upcoming free agent after this season. Especially after what Carlson has done this season, his price tag will be high, but he has further proven to be one of the cornerstones of this franchise with his stellar first half. With the team’s current salary cap situation, it is going to be tough, but not at all impossible, to work something out with Carlson to keep him a Capitals for many years.

While the recognition of being an All-Star would’ve surely been an awesome experience for John Carlson, his exclusion from the festivities should not in any way detract from the incredible season he’s having or the impact that he’s had on the Capitals this year.