John Carlson: Still One of the NHL’s Best Defenseman

John Carlson is a key component to the Washington Capitals’ success. He has become an elite defensemen in the NHL with a history as a two-time AHL Calder Cup and one-time NHL Stanley Cup champion. The defenseman was invited to the All-Star Games twice (2010 and 2019) and in the 2017-18 season he held the League record for the most points by a defenseman in the regular and playoff season.  Carlson is one of the most experienced and capable players on the Capitals roster.

The Capitals signaled their commitment to Carlson in June 2018 when he signed an eight-year $64 million contract with the team. That same year he was the top scoring defenseman in the league and was putting up record numbers of minutes on the ice. He was the first player the Caps signed last summer as the team made new commitments to bring back the winning squad. And this season he continued to prove he is worth every penny of that contract.

Another season of spectacular numbers and many believe the NHL writers missed the mark again. The nominations for the Norris Trophy- for best defense player were announced without acknowledging Carlson. This year he had a career high in overall points (70) with 13 goals and 57 assists. Even when he had the best numbers in the league, the writers who vote skipped the nomination. This season he ranked fourth in the defenseman category in points, second in assists, and 15th in goals. When it comes to time-on-ice per game, Carlson is eighth compared to other defensemen and first with time on the power play. A record to be proud of.

Evaluating his own performance in the 2018-19 season, Carlson told reporters Friday: “I think I had a good year. I think I could have done a lot better job in the playoffs.” And no, he doesn’t care that he wasn’t one of the Norris finalists.

The Caps returned to the 2019 playoffs with a promise to go all the way to win the Stanley Cup again. Although GM Brian MacLellan said he was disappointed in the performance of many of his top-line players, John Carlson was not one of them. It is hard to compare his stats against last season’s production; however, Carlson certainly seemed on track to match or even better his previous seasons statistics.

John Carlson is among the most professional players on the Capitals roster. For example, three seasons ago Carlson was on his way to claiming the Iron Man title for the team when he was injured in December 2015 and missed 12 games. He then missed another 13 games following corrective surgery for a broken ankle. It was the first time he missed any games in his six seasons with the Capitals. Washington Post reporter Isabelle Khurshudyan wrote at the time that Carly used his recovery time to work with Associate Coach Todd Reirden watching video and  taking notes for the team to help keep his head in the game while off the bench.

John Carlson is committed to winning with the Capitals. It doesn’t matter if he goes to the All Stars Games or makes it on the Norris Trophy nomination list- he just keeps showing up to do his best. He had some hiccups when he returned from his injury a few seasons back; however, his commitment to self improvement eventually led him back to the top performing player on the blue line.

Since joining the Capitals in 2009, Carlson has played 688 games, scoring 70 goals and assisting on another 313 for the team.  He has 25 power play goals to his credit and a total of 151 career power play points. This past season he ranked fourth on the team for overall points (90) and first for assists (57).  When it comes to the playoffs, Head Coach Reirden had faith in him; he had the most time on ice per game (26.14) carrying a lot of the load for the team in offensive/defensive play. Carly ranked second on the team when it comes to plus/minus (0) topped only by Tom Wilson with a +1 in the limited one-round series.

As he departed for the summer break, Carlson met with the press to discuss the completion of the Caps playoff participation. He spoke about the disappointment they all feel now that they know what winning the Cup means. Although the defense was down a man with Michal Kempny out for an injury, he felt the defense, with the addition of Nick Jensen, overcame the hole he left. He gave credit to all the D-men for their play, demonstrating his leadership and positive attitude on and off the ice.

With the possibility that Brooks Orpik won’t return to the lineup in October, that leadership mantle will likely pass to Carly. He spoke about Orpik as the “pillar everyone has looked up to and everyone has tried to follow along withhe has been a force for all of us to gain knowledge from and to help better understand certain parts of the game; what it takes.” Carlson will have some big skates to fill but he has gained from five years of the Orpik influence and certainly sounds ready to be that guy in the locker room.

John Carlson could be heading to the IIHF World Championships which begin 10 May or he might just spend some valuable time with wife Gina and his two boys. One thing we know is he will be back to fight the good fight once again.




Author: Maggie Marcum

Managing Editor for Friends in Cold Places.

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