Washington Capitals 2015-2016 Season Preview: Karl Alzner

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner entered the 2014-15 season with a lot of questions about his future. Coming off impressive seasons under Bruce Boudreau, Alzner declined under Dale Hunter and Adam Oates. That isn’t to say that he was bad, but the Washington Capitals defenseman was clearly trending in the wrong direction.

Perhaps no Washington Capitals player benefited more from the hire of Barry Trotz than Alzner. For the first time since Boudreau was coach, Alzner was encouraged to be active all over the ice. It showed in his stats, as Alzner had a career high in goals (five) and points (21). All 16 of his assists came at even strength. 

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A popular myth is that Alzner responded to Trotz by shooting more often. That is false. Alzner shot the puck 23 less times in 2014-15 than he did in 2013-14. He also shot the puck less often, as his shot per game rate last season (0.88) was lower than his rate in 2013-14 (1.16). It was worth noting, however, that Alzner played over a minute per game less last season than he did in 2013-14. I wouldn’t expect Alzner to repeat his offensive production last season for the Washington Capitals in 2015-16 unless he shoots the puck more. Considering how bad he is at shooting the puck, perhaps he shouldn’t do so. 

Alzner saw his biggest improvement on defense. Defensively, Alzner did precisely what he was supposed to do: suppress shot attempts (note: having a negative number is good in shot attempts against). He formed a strong second pairing with new partner Matt Niskanen after having spent over 50% of his even strength ice time from 2011 to 2014 with John Carlson. Niskanen and Alzner were also extremely efficient on the penalty kill.

The NHL has largely moved on from stay at home defensemen like Alzner. Puck moving defensemen are now the NHL’s preferred currency. However, guys like Alzner still have value because they can suppress shot attempts and take on tougher minutes, opening things up for the puck moving defensemen to face weaker competition. He’s awesome on the penalty kill and he doesn’t hurt the team too much offensively.

The next two seasons are important for the Alzner, as the Washington Capitals must evaluate Alzner and determine if he’s worth keeping when he becomes a free agent after the 2016-17 season. He’ll have two years with Trotz, which should provide a far more accurate reading of his value than the past three seasons since two of them were spent with Adam Oates. Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov will both be fighting to prove that they should be promoted to take over Alzner’s second pairing role, while Alzner will fight to prove that he’s still the Washington Capitals best left-handed second pairing option.

Will Alzner Repeat His Success On Offense For The Washington Capitals?

I think that we’ll see Alzner get over 15 points again, but 20 points is pushing it. His shooting percentage tripled in 2014-15 and until last season, he was well known for having a comically low shooting percentage. Was last season a fluke, or was last season a sign of things to come? That’s going to determine how successful Alzner will be in 2015. If I were doing an over/under, 16.5 sounds like a pretty good number. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he hit the over, but the under is certainly realistic as well. Even if Alzner brings nothing to the table on offense, he is efficient enough at suppressing shot attempts that he deserves playing time.

What do you think, Washington Capitals fans? Will the Washington Capitals mustache expert get at least 17 points next season? Let me know by voting in the poll!

As I stated, my over/under for points that Alzner will score next season is 16.5. Are you taking the over or the under?

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