Grading the 2011 Philadelphia Flyers: Matt Carle

We continue our annual, player-by-player look at the 2010-11 Philadelphia Flyers. In no particular order, we'll analyze one player per day (or so) over the next few weeks. Up today, a member of the trade rumor mill, defenseman Matt Carle.

Matt Carle

#25 / Defenseman / Philadelphia Flyers



Sep 25, 1984

10/11 Salary: $3.5 million

11/12 Salary: $3.8 million

11/12 Cap Hit: $3,437,500

Partner: Chris Pronger (44.13%)

Depth Chart Ranking: No. 3 D

2010-11 82 1 39 40 30 23 117 2 157 2:18 21:59 33
Adv. Stats (key) TOI/60 CorsiRelQoC CorsiRelQoT Pts/60 GF/60 GA/60 OZ% Fen% Corsi% CorsiRel Sh% Sv%
2010-11 17.57 (1)
0.585 (4)
0.827 (4)
1.37 (1)
3.50 (1)
2.33 (4)
47.8 (5)
52.3 (1)
51.1 (1)
6.0 (1)
10.14 (2)
0.922 (4)

Expectations: While nobody would mistake Matt Carle for the #2 defenseman on the team, he was expected to face first and second line competition due to playing alongside Chris Pronger. From there, expectations would be that Carle outscore top competition while getting average zone starts, playing on - and contributing to - the power play, while chipping in some points. In other words, Carle was expected to be a two-way defenseman with an emphasis on offense (contrast with Coburn's two-way game, with an emphasis on defense).


There's a lot of disdain around for Matt Carle, and just about all of it circles around the perception that he's nothing without Chris Pronger. In his first full season in Philadelphia, he was paired with Pronger, and the two quite simply had a phenomenal year. Let's look back on what we said about Carle in his grade last year:

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.

The two are attached at the hip, and the general consensus is that without Pronger, Carle is useless. The playoffs went a long way towards proving that. We haven't quite finished our goal-by-goal analysis of defensive breakdowns in the 2011 postseason, but we do know that Carle was personally at fault for a lot of them. 

He looked lost, and a lot of folks will jump to the conclusion that it's because he's without Pronger. I even jumped to that conclusion at times, too. But a quick glance at Carle's numbers with Pronger and without Pronger (thanks, Eric T.) show that he was actually a slightly better player without Pronger during the regular season.

2010-11 Matt Carle Corsi% Goals For Goals Against Fen% Shot% OZ%
with Pronger 50.4% 32 24 44.5% 53.7% 50.5%
without Pronger 50.9% 50 33 51.6% 53.2% 44.7%

There's an uptick in all the offensive stats for Carle when Pronger leaves -- basically, Carle helped push the play up the ice more often without Pronger. It's a relatively small difference of just .5 percent - and is offset by a .5 percent decline on shots on goal, but what it does help to prove is that Carle isn't any worse without Pronger by his side, like so many of us (including myself) wanted to believe. And it all comes while Carle is starting in the offensive zone substantially less often.

When it comes to what we've grown to expect out of Carle, the 2009-10 season put some lofty goals in our heads. He's a two-way defenseman that chips in offensively, and while he only scored one goal on the year -- goals scored by Flyers defenseman were down across the board this season, from 32 to 22 -- he increased his point total from 35 to 40. Offensively, Carle's game was improved from last year.

Defensively, Carle saw his opponents shift from first and second line competition down to second and third line, mostly because Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen stepped up in Pronger's absence. Yes, Coburn and Timonen stepped up to fill the void. Carle still did a great job of preventing shots from reaching his goaltender, while seeing an average number go in. He's not the best defenseman on the team in his own zone, but he absolutely holds his own.

Grading criteria: We assign grades on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the best. We base our grades on expectations, execution on those expectations and a player's overall potential. A 10 means that the player had a fantastic, expectation-surpassing season. A 1 means that he was horrible and needs to go. Like, yesterday.

The Grade: Travis wrote most of this, then had to go. So he told us to "put a bow on it", but neglected to put a grade on it first. So what does that mean? A lack of parallelism in Travis' grades. Carle gets a 7, not because he exceeded expectations as much as Carter, but because two different people assigned the two grades. Maybe Travis puts his grade in the comments, or maybe he just changes this. Who knows.

While Carle didn't have a great year offensively, he did lead all defensemen in ES points by a large margin. The team could have used some of that on the power play, but he still produced offensively better than any other blueliner. He provided top-4 defense as expected, and he even performed as well, if not better, once Pronger went out with injury. Carle is continuously dismissed as a lightweight, but he also showed that he's an extremely underrated defenseman this year.

So how did Carle perform relative to your expectations?

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