Rabid Habs

Who is Karl Alzner? A talk with Caps fans

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute, Habs fans. We don’t know much about Karl Alzner. We can read his HockeyDB page and look at his HERO chart, but stats are only half of the hockey card. You’ve gotta see the guy play.

As rumblings of Alzner’s interest in Montreal got louder, I decided to go to the Washington Capitals subreddit to see what they thought of the newest Hab.

1. Stay-at-home guy

I think most people knew this, but our Caps friends have validated it. User gilbs8247 says “He was a great, unsung, stay-at-home defenseman for a while for us.” TheThunderDragon goes into more detail, adding:

He may not be the fastest or most complete player out there, but he has the potential to shutdown an offense. If Alzner ends up signing with you guys, you could learn a lot about his upside by watching some of our 2016 playoff games. He was on the ice quite a lot and the line of him and Niskanen completely shut down a lot of offenses, killing almost every penalty with ease.

Seems somewhat promising, as Claude Julien gets another quality penalty killer to play with. Another phrase thrown around with Alzner was “unsung hero,” as some Caps fans like TxAg70 thought Alzner played above his perception from fans and analysts.

2. Injury plagued?

There wasn’t a ton of chatter about Alzner’s injury history, but it seemed to be common knowledge among the Caps fans I talked to. I’ll let them explain.

Gilbs8247 adds ” Then he injured his groin, had surgery, and wasn’t quite the same. IMO his decision making is fine but he’s lost a step when he wasn’t fast to begin with. He can’t catch up to anyone or even transition quickly.”

And another hit from TxAg70 “… he had a groin injury and it really seemed to slow him down. His possession numbers fell across the board last year, but he also played against high quality opponents much of the time. With some more recovery, he may turn out to be a solid choice for the Habs, considering the lack of options in the FA pool this year.”

There seems to be some hope that he can recover from a significant groin injury, but the injury has taken a noticeable toll on his play. It probably wouldn’t be wise to lean on Alzner for the better part of the season.

3. Maybe past his prime

At 28 years-old, it seems odd to say that he might have already played his best hockey. Some of the insight I got from Caps fans hinted at this.

Mdkss12 had this to say:

He rarely makes “mistakes” but will get “beat” by quicker/more athletic players (i.e., his positioning and decisions are good, but he’s just not physically able to make the play)

He also lacks the puck handling skills to be able to drive play offensively – what this means is that he’s great when he starts in his own zone at defending and deflecting shots, but he gets stuck there an awful lot because he doesn’t break out very well.

It seems like his main skillset, his defensive play, does not translate to an ability to contain offenses. Alzner seems to have a little of what Josh Gorges had; great shot-blocker, great stick-check, but he doesn’t transition well. Maybe an Alzner – Petry pairing could benefit Alzner’s type of play.

Joshottas was not as optimistic about Alzner, adding, bluntly, “A younger Dan Girardi – take that for what it’s worth.” Not exactly the most attractive comparable, considering the recency of Girardi’s buyout.

Some, like JerBear81, think Alzner can still chip in defensively, saying “He can still make big plays defensively… such as shot blocking, and getting the puck out of the defensive zone on opposing PPs and setups.” Over the course of this contract it will be interesting to see how he ages.

4. Great guy

Character, no matter how great, is probably not worth paying millions of dollars for. Still, when you can get a quality person on your team, it should be a bonus. That seems to be the case with Karl Alzner. A Reddit user aptly named Backstrom had this to say about Alzner, the person:

What I’m more interested in talking about is his personality. He’s a great team player and will always say the right things. He has a great head on his shoulders and should help any defense corps on the mental end. You will certainly like cheering for him. On the ice, he will know what he’s supposed to do. Off the ice, he will be a positive contributor to the locker room and the community.

Habs fans like to roll their eyes at the talk of the character of players, but it’s hard to read this in a negative light. Alzner should be a good locker room guy.

5. General Thoughts

The Caps fans I connected with seemed to have a common vision of Alzner; not the fastest player, but a smart defender who takes care of his own end first. He’ll block a ton of shots, but will need to play with a transitioning defenseman in order to be successful. Seems like the second coming of Josh Gorges, cap hit and all.

Also, “dffdfdfd” (great name, by the way) wanted me to tell everyone that he loves lamp.

Thank you to the r/caps for your insight! See you on October 7th!

Follow Ian on Twitter @BoisvertIan, and follow @Rabidhabs for more updates!