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2009-10 Canes Country Exit Analysis: Brett Carson

Hurricanes' rookie defenseman Brett Carson (#27) works for the advantage against an Ottawa Senator forward in a game March 4, 2010 in Raleigh. (photo by LTD)

Of all the young players who were called up from the Albany River Rats this year, Brett Carson was the only defenseman who stuck for the duration. Called up in December when Joe Corvo's lower leg was slashed by a skate, that marked the last time the Albany fans saw this 6'-4" 24-year-old from Saskatchewan. By April, Carson had 54 NHL games on his resume, with a respectable plus/minus of +5. Though certainly a defense-first player, here's one of the sweeter moments of his season, from a game during the Canes' run in March, a late goal to tie it up against the Caps. (The Canes won in OT that night, 4-3.)

Always humble and soft spoken, he quietly established himself as a reliable and responsible worker with size and skating ability. Many Canes fans were troubled when the team decided not to make a qualifying offer to Carson (as a RFA) in June and he went out on the free-agent market. And the corresponding cheers were heard when Carson was re-signed two weeks ago, with a league-minimum contract that provides a two-way option if assigned to play with the AHL affiliate in Charlotte. However, Hurricanes' GM Jim Rutherford made it clear that he will be reluctant to expose Carson to the risk associated with waivers:

"He’s going to play a lot of the season, or all of the season, with the Hurricanes," said Rutherford.

After the jump a look back at what the rookie accomplished for the Hurricanes this past season.

First, the numbers. Missing from these stats are the average ice time of 17:22/game, meaning he wasn't perpetually at the bottom as a third pairing either. After Tim Gleason couldn't play with a broken bone in his foot in March, Coach Paul Maurice had Carson on the ice an average of 20:17 the last 10 games of the season.

Also take note Carson was called for only six minor penalties in 54 games, the best PIM per game of all Hurricanes blue-liners not named McBain (who took no penalties in only 14 games). That seems to confirm the perception that Carson can skate to stay in position and uses his body, not his hands and stick illegally, to defend the zone.

2009 - 10 Brett Carson 54 2 10 12 5 12 0 0 0 0 42 4.8

Because of his quiet "Western Canadian farmboy" personality, we didn't hear much from Carson off the ice this year. It looks like he'll be with us for much of 2010-11, so I've got his exit interview from April, with his repetitive focus on working hard and developing his game and with it, the confidence that he belonged in the NHL. Is this a preview of the mood we can expect for the 2010-11 season with so many other young players working to stay in Raleigh?

The Good: In April, Canes Country's readers voted Carson as the team's Rookie of the Year. Coming in at a very difficult time in the room, as the Hurricanes were struggling to crawl back from the horror show that was the first 2 months of the 2009-10 season, Carson was part of the infusion of youth that changed the chemistry and saw that amazing run in January and February that had a lot of us sipping the kool-aid.

It's always difficult to find stats that quantify the value of "stay-at-home" defensemen, but I wanted to find some evidence that, now in hindsight, might confirm the perception that Carson is worthy of the fans (and Rutherford's) confidence.

  • Carson was plus/minus of +1 for December and January and +4 for March and April. That's definitely going in the right direction, and over the season may be the most important stat to look at.
  • Carson blocked 89 shots in his 54 games which, at 1.65 B/S per game, is better than Niclas Wallin (1.45) or Jay Harrison (1.21), though not quite up there with "broken foot" Gleason (1.86) or Aaron Ward (2.03)
  • For hits credited to defensemen, Carson's sheet lists 77 on the season, or 1.43 hits/game. Except for Joni Pitkanen (.93) and Joe Corvo (.56), all others showed bigger numbers. Specifically: Harrison - 1.76, Gleason - 2.44, and Andrew Alberts with a whopping 2.87. In isolation this is not the best way to analyze a hockey player, but I still found it interesting to see what he is and isn't doing out there.
  • Returning to the penalty stat, I ran some numbers considering Time-on-ice and only counting the minor penalties. Carson was near the least penalized with Corvo; both were called for about one minor only once for every eight times of "twenty-minutes played" (for three D-pairings, twenty minutes would be one game) - so let's say one minor/eight games. Tim Gleason was next lowest at one minor penalty for 4.6 games. Pitkanen got 2 minutes for every 2.7 games, and A.Ward shows up at one trip to the sin bin for every 2.0 games played.

The Bad: It wasn't all sunshine and roses, and there was one particular OT goal in Tampa that may well haunt Carson for awhile. When the Canes were still mathematically in the playoff race in March and needed every point, Martin St. Louis showed some high-skill veteran moves and made Carson look every bit the rookie he was. Shall we chalk it up as a "lesson learned"? Afterward, goalie Manny Legace also took some of the blame for not stopping the puck, but still:

As Carson was quoted in the N&O's recap

"We battled and I got beat in overtime," Carson said. "It's obviously disappointing. ... I made a bad mistake in OT and it cost us an extra point."

The Money: Last season, Carson also had a two-way contract, at the NHL level earning $522,500, according to As we discussed when the signing was announced last month, he will earn less than that for 2010-11, with a contract of just $500,000 this year.

To see the previous 2009-10 Exit Analyses click here.

Time to grade Carson. Given this mix of information on his performance and your expectations,