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Matt Carle is the player Flyers fans dislike the most on the blue line. Almost every article and comment I read concerning him is negative for a different reason. Some claim that Chris Pronger's presence mask many of Carle's flaws. Others say that Carle doesn't have the talent or ability to be a top-four defenseman at the NHL level. Still, others questioned his grit, toughness and will to win.
While all of those criticisms do have hints of truth, I do not believe a single one accurately portrays Matt Carle.
Carle is, at his core, a mobile, big-minute, offensive defenseman. His development, especially in the defensive aspects of the game, was stunted earlier in his career. Since his arrival in Philadelphia, he has gotten back on track and improved. I fully expect his development to continue next season and his decision-making to improve in his own zone.
When he's on his game, Carle is extremely effective at both ends of the ice. He is able to use his skating ability and smarts to read the play and react appropriately. When he's off his game, he's liable to misdiagnose a play, blow a coverage in his own zone or force a pass that leads to a turnover.
The key for Carle will be to play within himself, trust his hockey sense and be content to make the safe play. If Carle can do that, I believe he'll post very solid numbers next season.
2011 Stats: 82 GP, 1G, 39A, 40P, +30
Projection: 81 GP, 7G, 44A, 51P, +31