Washington Capitals' Fate Rests On Young Defensemen

Sam SnyderCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2010

WASHINGTON - APRIL 28:  Karl Alzner #27 of the Washington Capitals skates against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Canadiens defeated the Capitals 2-1 to win the series.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After the Capitals' playoff collapse, falling to the eighth seeded Canadiens in seven games while blowing a 3-1 series lead, questions arose. The vast majority of questions were directed towards the blue-liners and Semyon Varlamov.

Can Varlamov be a number one goalie? Should Mike Green be traded? Do the Capitals need a stay at home defenseman?

The answers are maybe, no, and yes. However, the Capitals may not need to look far to answer that last question. The answer could and probably is right there in the organization.

I'm talking about John Carlson and Karl Alzner. If they can turn into the players the Capitals are hoping, then they won't need to look outside, or sacrifice other top-notch players in trades.

Take the fans' favorite scapegoat, Mike Green. Green has been labeled as just another forward calling himself a blue-liner. His plus-39 rating certainly says differently, but plus/minus is a flawed stat.

What he needs is someone to balance out his offense. Green can put up monster numbers, but isn't nearly as good at defense as he is offense. Jeff Shultz, his partner, led the league in plus/minus with a mind-boggling plus-50.

That is a combined plus/minus 89, but Shultz and Green clearly aren't as good together as the numbers would suggest, as plus/minus is only as good as the team he is on is.

Shultz is not a stay at home defender, and Green sure as hell isn't either. Karl Alzner, however, is. At 6'3", 206 pounds, Alzner fits the bid perfectly.

The Capitals were mauled in the playoffs by the Canadiens shot-blocking machine, Hal Gill. The Capitals should now know the importance of a stay at home defenseman. They need a guy who can get physical, shut down forwards, and block shots.

Alzner needs to fill that role, and John Carlson needs to step in as a more balanced Mike Green. We've all seen Carlson do work for the Capitals and the USA, he just needs to keep that up.

Carlson scored the game winning overtime goal, his second of the night, to beat Canada in the IIHF World Championship. He also scored a goal versus the Canadiens to tie the game with just under 90 seconds to go in Game Two.

Carlson was really the Capitals' best defenseman during their disappointing playoff performance against Montreal. If he can remain the best defender, and if Alzner can become a true stay at home defenseman, then that Capitals will have the balance they need to win a championship.