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Despite leading the Flyers defense in scoring during the 2010-2011 season with 40 points (1G, 39A), Matt Carle still managed to attract the ire of many Philadelphia fans due to his inconsistent play, turnovers, and bad decision making. Some have gone as far as to say that Pronger is the only thing preventing Carle from a trip back to the AHL. But I have faith in Mr. Carle. Its a contract year for him.
Speaking in terms of pure talent, Carle is exceptionally good. He skates extremely well for a defenseman, has very good vision, excellent passing ability, and a good hockey sense. As a defender, Carle is usually in good position, he usually makes the right play, and he avoids physical contact whenever possible. The final trait is definitely one that loses him points with Flyer fans.
On paper, Carle should be a very good top-4 defenseman. He has everything most coaches look for in a two-way blueliner. But something has been missing from Carle's game. From my perspective, it seems that Carle has not yet become comfortable playing under a spotlight. When pressured, he tends to make costly mistakes, to blow assignments, or to take ill-advised penalties. For Carle to take the next step, he must overcome his aversion to the spotlight.
Generally, NHL defenseman are slower to mature than their forward counterparts. Last season, the Flyers witnessed the development of Braydon Coburn and Andrej Meszaros from talented young blueliner to legitimate top-4 NHL defensemen. This season, it's Carle's turn.
If Carle can improve his play under pressure while continuing to refine his game at both ends of the ice, there is no reason he can't be a 50+ point player in 2011-2012. He has the talent. He has a great situation. And he will have the added motivation of playing for his next contract. He's due.