Saturday, January 2, 2021

Caps Preview: John Carlson Jersey Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

The Washington Capitals have been a powerhouse for the better part of the last decade, with captain Alex Ovechkin proving to be an unstoppable goal-scoring machine despite the entire world knowing exactly how, where and when he will set up to shoot, almost every single time. He has the best release of all-time, and is the only serious contender for Wayne Gretzky's career goal-scoring record (because the season record of 92 cannot be achieved under current rules and quality goaltending). But the Caps are more than a one-trick pony, they're a recent Stanley Cup-winning team who has won its division for as long as I can remember on the strength of secondary scoring (Nicklas Backstrom, Jakub Vrana of late, Evgeny Kuznetsov before him), production from the blue line (Mike Green in the past, John Carlson in stunning fashion nowadays) and opportune elite-level goaltending. And just as Braden Holtby seemed to hit a decline, in came youngster Ilya Samsonov to save the day.

What makes their odds look good:
Ovechkin has shown to be a true leader on the ice; he can carry and inspire a team. It's just that his teammates shouldn't follow him into his off-ice adventures, because he is a unique physical specimen and not everyone is built to sustain his lifestyle that seemingly never includes sleep. The offensive depth remains as strong as ever, too, with T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller providing some appreciated stability while Tom Wilson has evolved from merely a trouble-maker to an actual point-producing threat. And say what you will about Carlson's lack of finish in his own zone, that's where Dmitri Orlov, Brenden Dillon, and Michal Kempny shine, and newcomer Trevor Van Riemsdyk can hold his own as well. Samsonv has looked solid between the pipes, although it's always dangerous to just hand the reigns to a young goalie.

Question marks:
Can Samsonov hold his own with no safety net? Also, count me among those who were unimpressed with the Caps' showing in last summer's playoffs. It was a dismal effort, and hopefully new head coach Peter Laviolette can keep his stars motivated.

Those are not many question marks, because this team remains stacked despite the departures of Holtby, trade deadline acquisition Ilya Kovalchuk, Radko Gudas, Travis Boyd and Tyler Lewington. I actually had them winning the division at first before I opted to put the Philadelphia Flyers slightly ahead, if only for a change of scenery up top.

Second in the East/Metro Division.

And we revert back to Carlson, who would have been my pick for the Norris Trophy. I understand Roman Josi and Victor Hedman are better all-round players (and Hedman made it especially clear in the Tampa Bay Lightning's Cup run), but what Carlson has accomplished for three straight seasons is the type of stuff that warrants recognition, and Josi will likely have at least another couple more cracks at it, whereas if Carlson couldn't win it after posting a 15-goal, 75-point season (in just 69 games) to lead the Capitals - of all teams - in scoring, then he never will.

Here he is wearing Washigton's red (home) Rbk Edge uniform from a decade ago on card #GJ-JO from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a white game-worn jersey swatch.

Internationally, Carlson plays for Team USA, with whom he won gold at the 2010 World Juniors (on a strong team that included Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan) but fell short at the 2014 Olympics and 2016 World Cup.

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