As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals' upcoming 2014-15 season.
No. 10: Karl Alzner, Defense
2014-15 Salary: $2.8 million [$2.8 million cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 82 games, 2 goals, 16 assists, 18 points, minus-7, 26 penalty minutes, 20:32 ice time
Projected 2014-15 stats: 82 games, 5 goals, 20 assists, 25 points, plus-10, 30 penalty minutes, 19:20 average ice time
Analysis: Following his introductory news conference Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan chatted about his blue line and wondered if Karl Alzner and John Carlson were forced to carry too much of the load last season while the team rotated 14 different defensemen in and out of the lineup. “Maybe we played them too much,” MacLellan said. This season, the Caps are hoping Alzner can give them more while playing less. Since arriving in Washington full-time in 2010-11, Alzner has been the Capitals’ top shut-down defenseman, mostly playing alongside Carlson. That could change this season with the arrival of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. By all indications the Caps will open training camp by pairing Orpik, a classic stay-at-home defenseman, with the more mobile Carlson. That leaves open the possibility of Alzner playing alongside Niskanen, who set career highs last season with 10 goals, 36 assists and a plus-46 rating. Alzner has been Mr. Reliable since joining the Caps full-time, playing in 294 straight games over four seasons, but he has never managed more than two goals and 16 assists in a single NHL season. That could change under new assistant coach Todd Reirden, who helped turn Niskanen into a dominant defenseman in Pittsburgh. Alzner may never reach double digits in goals, but there is room for improvement in his all-around game. He can play with more of an edge in the defensive zone and with some extra work on his shot, he can be a little more productive offensively, especially if he’s paired with Niskanen. If those tweaks take place Alzner can have a breakout season without anyone outside of Washington even noticing.