As the offseason begins, we’ll take a player-by-player look at the year that was for the Washington Capitals.
Contract status: $845,833 in 2010-11, $845,833 in 2011-12.
The year that was: It’s hard to know if anyone really expected John Carlson to take on the role and log the ice time that he would as a rookie, not to mention guess that much of that time would come against opponents’ top lines.
Early on, the Capitals tried to manage some expectations for Carlson, of whom Coach Bruce Boudreau said in October “we don’t want him to think he’s Ray Bourque yet.” But by New Year’s Carlson was in a regular pairing with Karl Alzner and the two rookies seemed unhampered by the pressure of being Washington’s shutdown pair.
Carlson’s 22:38 per game average in the regular season was more than any other rookie, regardless of position, and in the playoffs he led the Capitals and was second of all rookies (behind Montreal’s P.K. Subban) with 24:23 per game. His 37 points in the regular season tied a franchise record for most by a rookie defenseman. The 21-year-old blueliner also showed more than a fair amount of toughness playing through the wear that comes with those heavy minutes all season and the hip pointer that limited his movement in the second round of the playoffs.
Carlson wasn’t among the finalists for the NHL’s Calder Trophy, but that hardly diminishes his place in the team’s framework going forward.
Looking ahead: The biggest hurdle for Carlson, and all of the Capitals’ young players, is to continue to learn in successive seasons. After performing well in such a significant role, there’s no reason to believe Carlson can’t continue his rise and avoid a sophomore slump.
There’s one year left in Carlson’s entry-level deal, which gives the Capitals a bargain rate for the young defenseman. He’ll be due for a raise in his next contract.
Etc.: Of all the footage from HBO’s “24/7,” it’s hard to forget the image of the Capitals fist pumping to DJ Pauly D’s “Beat Dat Beat” after they ended their eight-game losing streak with a win in Ottawa in mid-December. The song caught on among fans.
But how did the Capitals come up with “Beat Dat Beat”? A D.C. Sports Bog investigation uncovered that Carlson helped turn it into the team’s postgame anthem, and the rest, including when several players met DJ Pauly D later in the year, is history.