The Capitals have seven defensemen ─ not including an injured Tom Poti ─ ready to compete for ice time this season. That means there will be plenty of speculation as to what the blue-line pairings will be.
John Carlson and Karl Alzner, a right-handed/left-handed combination, played together for much of last season. Both of them played strong, steady defense and, when on the ice together, routinely shut down the opposition's best talent.
Assuming they can repeat their success from last year, there is no reason why Carlzner shouldn’t make up the Caps' top defensive pairing for a second straight season.
“You’ll have to see them play together to see how they mesh," Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the Capitals signed Hamrlik on the first day of free agency. "I mean, right now it sounds like a really good combination, Green and Hamrlik, but only time will tell.”
But why wait when we’ve got fancy stats to give us an answer now?
Hamrlik is a three-time NHL all star with a solid two-way presence. He finished second in points, first in blocked shots and third in time on ice per game among Montreal's blueliners last season.
The majority of Hamrlik's even-strength time in 2010-11 was spent with two defensive partners: Jaroslav Spacek and James Wisniewski.
Spacek employs a more traditional, stay-at-home style of defensive play while Wisniewski, who tied for fifth among NHL blueliners in points during the 2010-11 season, is an offensive defenseman similar in style to Green.
Scoring chances lead to goals, which turn into wins. A scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area – loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots. When Hamrlik was paired with Wisniewski, the Canadiens saw more 5-on-5 scoring chances go in their favor than when he was paired with Spacek.
Wisniewski was also much improved, showing that Hamrlik's age and experience could augment Green's skating and puck-handling ability.
“I think hockey wise, I stay back and try to play better defense and I know P.K. [Subban] or Mike [Green], they can enjoy better offense and they have a chance to create something,” Hamrlik said last month.