I like Matt Carle a lot and want him to stay a Flyer next year (at the right price, of course) but make no mistake about it, Matt Carle is no Ryan Suter. Here are their three-year stat lines:
To make it easier to read, lets look at the three year averages, side by side:
|Matt Carle||17.6||2nd pair||2nd pair||48.9||4.80||0.08||0.48||0.56||2.48||0.47||1.07||1.54||1.62|
|Ryan Suter||18.88||1st pair||1st piar||45.1||7.17||0.10||0.28||0.38||3.32||0.22||1.77||1.99||2.01|
The areas where they are both similar: They are both very-solid two-way defenders, I want to get that off the table. I love Matt Carle, I really do and can't emphasize that enough in this post. They both start in their own zone a little bit more than the offensive zone. They score even strength goals at about the same rate and Matty even doubles Suter in even strength primary assists. They both drive the play forward---which is a major factor according to the advanced stats community--- at a pretty consistent rate. In the last three years, Carle's never been below a CRel of 3.2 (this year). On the PP, Carle scores more than twice as much as Suter and they get comparable PKTOI stats. According to ESPN.com and their "real-time" stats, Carle even blocks about 30 more shots a year than Suter and has about as many hits on average (if not more). All of these statements prove that Matt Carle is near an elite-level defender and extremely undervalued by the Flyer faithful.
The reasons why Matt Carle is not Ryan Suter: For starters---lets look at the usage. Suter is a minute eater in every sense of the word. He's at 18.08, 18.95 and 19.62 of ESTOI/60 over the past 3 years. Carle's never been over 17.82 and that was 3 years ago (although he's right below that ever year). Suter takes the top competition every night. Matt Carle does not. Suter drives the play even more than Carle did, by over two shots per 60 minutes (not a huge difference, but 7 is better than 5). Even strength, I'll concede, there isn't much difference other than their roles. Suter is "shut-down" and Carle lead the league in ES assists last year. If you look at the playoffs over the past two years (where Carle has undoubtedly struggled) it's not easy to figure out why. His minutes. He's at 19.99, 19.19 and 20.07 over the past two years--- 2.5 minutes more than the regular season. Only in one of the last three years has his CRel been over 3 in the playoffs---and that's this year. Point being: Matt Carle has has his struggles in the playoffs due to what I believe to be him being asked to do too much or play over his head. Its not his fault, we've had a horrible 3rd pair in the playoffs every year---but if you want to compare him to Suter, he's got to play Suter's minutes.
So even strength in the regular season, they are very similar---if not damn near identical. However, hockey isn't only played at 5-on-5. On the power-play, Suter gets almost a minute more time per game and produces at a proportionate level. Carle scores more goals, but Suter's puck-moving ability while up a man more than makes up for it. Adding goals and primary assists together over the past three years shows Weber's production on the PP (2.74, 1.57, 1.66---averaging 1.99) is substantially better than Matt Carle's (1.94, 0.32, 2.37---averaging 1.54). On the PK the disparity between the two continues with this being the first year Carle's over two minutes per game. Shit, last year Carle played only 1.23 on the PK while Sean O'Donnell played 1.57.
As far as giveaways/takeaways are concerned, here's ESPN's numbers: Carle 55/18 this year, 59/33 last year, 64/34 two years ago. Suter: 42/37 this year, 37/33 last year, 41/38 two years ago. I don't know how reliable these stats are, but Carle averages about 60 giveaways per year with only about 25 take aways. Suter's numbers average to about 40 giveaways and 35 takeaways--- a minus-5 in perspective with a minus-35. Like I said, I can't validate these stats due to differences in how stats are kept, but those numbers are alarming.
Conclusion: Matt Carle is very good. However, Ryan Suter's ability to drive the play slightly more forward in slightly tougher situations at substantially more minutes per night PLUS his production on the PP and increased accountability in the defensive zone is just too much of a difference to say these guys are the "same player."