As the offseason begins, we’ll take a player-by-player look at the year that was for the Washington Capitals.

Karl Alzner


Ht: 6-3 / Wt: 206
: 22
NHL seasons
: 1
Regular season stats
: 82 GP, 2g, 10a, plus-14, 24 pims.
Playoff stats
: 9 GP, 0g, 1a, minus-4, 0 pims.

Contract status: $1.675 million in 2010-11, restricted free agent this summer.

The year that was: In his first full NHL season, Alzner grew into a larger role than what might have been originally expected of the Burnaby, B.C. native. After two seasons of making the drive between Arlington and Hershey, Alzner was given the chance to stick in Washington. When he began to appear the most comfortable, however, was in late December, when Coach Bruce Boudreau began pairing him with John Carlson on a consistent basis.

Alzner settled into half of Washington’s shutdown pair with Carlson, providing the steady, stay-at-home half of the equation. He averaged 20 minutes per game in the regular season, more than 22 in the playoffs, and showed a calmness under pressure only created by one-on-ones against some of the league’s elite offensive threats. It’s a role Alzner has always wanted, but even he was a little surprised he had the chance so quickly.

“I never would’ve expected that in my first year – maybe get my feet wet a little bit here,” Alzner said on the Capitals’ breakdown day. “To be put in that situation, that means a lot to me from the coaches, that they respect me enough as a player and think highly enough that me and John as two young guys – 22 and 21 – can do that. I really appreciate that, because I think that’s really gonna help my development in the rest of my career.”

Looking ahead: Alzner showed he can carry a significant load as a top-four defenseman this season and it will likely be one of the Capitals’ top priorities to keep him in the fold for the future. The more-seasoned Alzner’s next challenge will be responding to the challenge of following up the breakthrough year.

Also, while Alzner has never been known for his offensive prowess, he could look tochip in more on the scoresheet.

Etc.:That Alzner routinely says entertaining or insightful comments is not a new development, but in the first round of the playoffs, the young defenseman may have topped himself with his earnest appreciation for shot-blocking.

In the first-round series against the Rangers, Washington blocked 32 shots in one game — a record under Coach Bruce Boudreau — and in conversation with Alzner, Joseph White from the Associated Press commented that shot-blocking likely isn’t the “sexiest stat” out there for hockey fans.

Alzner, who finished with 132 blocked shots in the regular season, immediately and sincerely responded: “It is to me.”