June 12, 2021

Washington Capitals 2015-16 Season Preview: Defense

When looking at the Washington Capitals’ defensive unit for the 2015-16 season, longtime fans will be quick to notice one name missing, rather than any new names on the roster.

After a decade with the organization, Mike Green left for Detroit on the first day of free agency. The Calgary native was known for his offensive firepower, especially in overtime, during his time in the District. However, his role had faded in recent years, and landed on his feet in Hockeytown.

With that in mind, here’s how the Capitals’ blue line corps will likely play out when all are healthy.

Brooks Orpik-John Carlson

Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt-Dmitry Orlov or Taylor Chorney

The top two pairings will, like last year, have a relatively young and longtime Capital matched up with a veteran former Pittsburgh Penguin. Orpik was a key cog in the Capitals’ playoff run this spring, using his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame to be the true stay-at-home presence that Washington had visibly lacked in years prior. Appearing in all but four of the team’s games from October through May, Orpik didn’t register a single goal, a stat which isn’t too worrisome considering his linemate, John Carlson, tallied 12 goals and 43 assists in the regular season. That balance between offensive skill and general defensive ability makes for an elite top-line defensive pair heading into the season.

Brooks Orpik

Brooks Orpik

John Carlson - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals hom

John Carlson

Alzner and Niskanen are a bit similar, but more under-the-radar in terms of their name recognition. While the two combined for a respectable 11 goals and 49 assists between 192 man-games played in 2014-15, their plus-50 Corsi numbers were strong for two of the four most-used defensemen last year.

Karl Alzner

Karl Alzner

Matt Niskanen

Matt Niskanen

Schmidt has been penciled in by head coach Barry Trotz as the team’s fifth defenseman. Having paid his dues through a couple years of on-again, off-again stints between the big club and AHL Hershey, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher had the highest CF% of all Caps defensemen last year, perhaps leading one to wonder if his place in the third pairing is just a sign of things to come in the future.

Nate Schmidt

Nate Schmidt

Orlov is finally back to full health after more than a year away from the Capitals with a nagging wrist injury that required surgery. It was originally thought that Orlov would be the team’s sixth defenseman and share ice time with Schmidt, but Chorney will have a chance to crack the opening-night lineup Saturday after questions remain whether Orlov is at 100 percent, according to the Washington Post.

Dmitri Orlov (center)

Dmitry Orlov (center)


About Eric Hobeck

Eric Hobeck is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Capitals. Eric contributes to high school sports coverage at InsideNova.com. He served as sports editor of The Rotunda at Longwood University for two years, where he was also the men’s basketball beat writer. He hosted a campus radio show for three years and called basketball and baseball games for the station’s award-winning sports team. You can follow Eric on Twitter @eric_hobeck.

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