John Carlson Struggles Are Not (Entirely) His Fault


Through the Capitals’ first 16 games this season, normally productive defenseman John Carlson has only seven assists. And while some people have been highly critical of the 26-year old blueliner, his struggles have not been entirely his fault. 

The problem is not Carlson’s play, he’s still fully capable of playing solid defense and producing offensively, but who his defense partner is. After playing primarily with stay-at-home defenseman Brooks Orpik for the majority of the last two seasons, the offensive-minded Carlson has been paired with equally-minded Dmitry Orlov this season. And while the pair have looked good so far, it’s not as great a match as it first appears.

With Orpik, Carlson had the ability to jump into the offensive rush without worrying about sacrificing defense, as Orpik’s solid defensive play was something of a safety cushion. In Carlson’s first full season with Orpik as his primary partner, Carlson recorded a career-high 12 goals and 55 points. The problem with Orlov is that he too is firstly an offensive-minded blueliner and is willing to jump up into the rush as well. This is forcing Carlson to take on more defensive responsibility and serve in the same role as Orpik did for him.

While Orlov’s production has benefited from playing with Carlson (one goal, four assists), Carlson’s production has taken a hit from playing with Orlov. Some may argue that Carlson has a chance to garner some goals in the power play, and while that is true, the first and second power play units’ playing time has seemingly been more balanced than in years past.

If Carlson or Orlov were paired with more defensive-minded partners, there’s no doubt that both players’ production would increase. While both have played well together overall, the problem is that arguably, the Caps’ best defenseman is not producing at the level he should be, and for a team that has relied on offensive production from the blueline in recent years, that is going to be a concern come playoff time.

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. Michael joined the NoVa Caps team in 2015, and is most proud of the growth of the NoVa Caps community in that time. An avid photographer, Michael resides in VA.
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6 Responses to John Carlson Struggles Are Not (Entirely) His Fault

  1. DB says:

    I argue that his play with Orpik also hid his average defensive play. There is a difference in his determination in the playoffs compared to the regular season. He need to bring more “playoff” Carlson consistently to his game!

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