The new coaching staff was upstairs at Washington’s practice facility, another morning preparing for the upcoming season. His teammates were on the ice for another offseason skate session. Rookie camp will begin on Sept. 11, training camp one week after that, and around that time too comes John Carlson’s wedding. And yet the 24-year-old defenseman felt something resembling stasis, a certain calm as the season looms.
“Seems like it’s almost pretty normal compared to other times,” Carlson said Wednesday.
Sticking around the area during the offseason afforded Carlson an in-person head start on meeting Coach Barry Trotz and the new regime, who all reconvened at the team’s practice facility this week.
“Very detailed from what I’ve heard, from the summer camp to what he wants to carry over and stuff like that,” Carlson said of Trotz. “He’s very good with that, very directional, very detailed. I think our team could use a lot of that.”
Slowly, the players have trickled back into town, too, and by Wednesday morning a lively scrimmage and skate workout featured Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Chris Brown, Steven Oleksy and Stanislav Galiev.
Inked this July for seven years, $40.25 million, Niskanen briefly met Carlson when he came for an introductory news conference after signing with the Capitals, and the two have been skating together for the past several days.
“I think we could really use him and obviously he’s a little more of a veteran guy in the locker room and has a lot of talent,” Carlson said, when asked about Niskanen, a fellow right-side defenseman. “He’s going to do a lot of good things for us.”
Trotz hasn’t yet revealed his ideal blue-line combinations, but management has hoped that adding Niskanen and Brooks Orpik will inject a measure of stability – or at least leadership — into what was a tenuous, revolving-door situation.
“It’s nice,” Carlson said of Washington’s offseason acquisitions. “I think we could’ve been better there last year, myself included. This year, they obviously addressed that and did what they needed to do. It’s been a good offseason. Busy. Now we’re ready to get it moving here.”
An ironman of sorts of the Capitals, Carlson hasn’t missed a game in four seasons, counting the 2012-13 lockout-shortened year, and his 25:31 average ice time led Washington last season. With a cap hit just south of $4 million, he tallied 37 points in 2013-14 (10 goals, 27 assists) while primarily paired with his close friend, Karl Alzner. Carlson’s advanced metrics (47 percent Corsi-for at even-strength) were pedestrian on a poor puck possessing team, but both he and Alzner were better together than apart.
During developmental camp, Carlson’s new positional coach, Todd Reirden, said the Capitals might be inclined to trend toward familiarity in their blue-line pairings, but stressed the importance of splitting up during camp to test different combinations. Regardless, as Carlson left the ice Wednesday, a pack of admiring youth hockey players at his back, he thought about a new season ripe with chances to forget about the disappointment of Washington’s first postseason absence since 2006-07.
“Looking forward to a fresh start,” Carlson said. “Our team needs to do a lot better than last year, so I’m looking forward to it.”