|2009 - Matt Carle||80||6||29||35||19||16||2||1||137||23:23||137||4.4|
It really is amazing what Chris Pronger can do. Yes, this will be Matt Carle's season review, but since you can't look at his season without mentioning - maybe even crediting - Pronger, let's just get it out of the way. Pronger helped Carle go from an above average defenseman into a stud.
Now, none of that is to take away from what Matt Carle did this year. While Pronger gets a lot of credit, he doesn't just wave a wand and give Carle 35 points. No, Carle had his best year since his first full season back in 2006-07. He played more minutes than he ever has before in his career and set a personal best in plus/minus. It's safe to say Carle had a pretty good year.
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Really, there is not much to say about Carle that can't be seen in the numbers. He played over 23 minutes a night, two minutes more than he's ever played per game in the NHL. He saw a drastic increase in the strength of his opponents as well as teammates, and he stepped up his game accordingly. No one was on the ice for more Flyers goals this year than Matt Carle, and his GFON/60 was tops on the team. On the flip side, only Blair Betts, Dan Carcillo, and Chris Pronger had a lower GAON/60.
On top of that, consistency was a pretty big part of Carle's year. While he had a 13-game stretch from the end of November to the middle of December where he failed to finish with a positive plus/minus in any single game, that was more than twice as long as any other stretch for Carle.
In the end, though, the most important thing about Matt Carle's season was what cannot be measured in stats. Yes, I said it. He was once looked at as a bust (before coming to Philadelphia, that is) who was overpaid. Now, he's a top-pairing, two-way defenseman who is spoken of in the same sentence as Pronger and Timonen. His contract expires after the 2011-2012 season, but at just under $3.5 million a year, he's a bargain.
For proof, one can start with his penchant for scoring big goals. Look no further than his tying goal against the Rangers in the 82nd regular season game. One could also look at his first period goal against the Devils when the Flyers desperately needed a win after losing 5 in a row and 6 of 7 at the end of March. But his Game 4 against Boston was pretty impressive too: 4 assists, plus-5, and the great feed on the game-winning, series-saving, season continuing goal. Yes, that play deserved all of those adjectives because when he did it AGAIN, this time in Game 3 of the Cup Finals, it was even more impressive.
Looking forward, Carle has gotten better each of the last three years and will now have a second full-year with Pronger. It will be really difficult to top this year, but even with a slight decline, Carle is suddenly becoming an integral part of this team. Beyond the next two years, what happens with Carle will largely depend on what happens with Braydon Coburn. And while it is sad to say, when Kimmo Timonen's contract expires at the end of 2012-2013, Carle is on track to be as close to a Kimmo clone as one can get. Having both of them on the team should be a treat to watch next year.