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End of season review: Dmitry Orlov

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End of season review: Dmitry Orlov

Throughout the coming weeks, CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Dmitry Orlov

Position: Defense

Shoots: Left

Age: 23 [turns 24 July 23]

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 210

Games: Did not play

Contract Status: 1 year remaining on 2-year, $4 million contract [2015-16 salary: $2.25 million; cap hit: $2 million]

Strengths: When he’s healthy, Orlov is a very effective two-way defenseman with a heavy shot and an ability to separate opponents from the puck with open-ice hits. In 2013-14, he averaged 19:36 in ice time, primarily on a second pairing with Mike Green. But a broken wrist suffered in the 2014 World Championships began a nightmarish season for Orlov, who developed an infection that required a second surgery and resulted in a lack of strength and flexibility in his left wrist. Orlov was assigned to Hershey on March 27 for a three-game rehab assignment and recorded three assists and a minus-3 rating for the Bears. He returned to Washington on April 2 but Capitals coach Barry Trotz did not have enough confidence in Orlov to put him in the lineup, saying he needed to improve handling the puck in tight areas. During the playoffs Orlov said he received a call from the Russian national team inviting him to play in the 2015 World Championships if the Capitals were eliminated. “I don’t want us to lose,” Orlov said, “but I was surprised the coach called me and I was excited the coach believe in me for the national team.”

Room for improvement: Orlov said he was healthy enough to play in the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs and does not anticipate needing any more surgeries on his wrist. “I watch games from press box,” he said. “I was mad at not playing because I wanted to be part of the team. But they play good. It was a hard season for me. Right now it’s all good. I just want to forget what happened, forget this year and be ready for next. It was a hard year not playing. I feel I can do what I did before. Every day I feel better.

I just want these few months to go fast and I look forward to practicing and playing.”

Memorable Moment: Two of Orlov’s three assists in Hershey came off booming slap shots from the point. He took six shots in those three games and appeared to have the same torque as he had in the first three seasons of his pro career.

Quotable: “You can’t practice, like, every day and not play. It’s hard emotionally. All hockey players want to play in games and not just practices. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s hard to be normal. I’m not being myself. I’m not doing what I can do.” – Orlov on Dec. 11, 2014

2015-16 Expectations: General manager Brian MacLellan said he plans on having Orlov and Nate Schmidt as the Caps’ third defense pairing next season but also sent up a warning flag by saying he does not know if Orlov will ever be 100 percent again. That means some of the strength and flexibility in Orlov’s wrist may never be fully restored. Orlov said his biggest problem was fending off opponents with his left hand while battling for pucks in the corners. If Orlov can continue strengthening the muscles around his wrist fracture he should be able to compensate and return to play a significant role with the Caps next season. But if Orlov cannot fully recover, next season could be his final one in Washington because of his contract situation.

RELATED: End of season review: Matt Niskanen

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This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

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Twitter/@PeachOmania

This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."

Shane got his Caps tattoo at the Helix Tattoo Lodge in Rising Sun, Maryland, by tattoo artist, Justin Holcombe.

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Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing a long-term contract?

Tarik: When a player has a career year and it coincides with the final year of his contract, the reaction from some fans and media is often a sarcastic, ‘Well, of course he did.’

And I’m sure there are some folks who wonder about Carlson’s breakout season and whether there was a connection between the uptick in his production and the potential of an enormous payday.

Indeed, the 28-year-old established highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68) and ice time (24:47). He was outstanding in the postseason, too, amassing five goals and 15 assists while playing solidly in his own end to help lead the Caps to their first championship.

The financial reward came a couple of weeks later when he signed an eight-year, $64 million contract to remain in Washington.

Which brings us to today’s question.

It’s obviously impossible to say for sure what’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had another big season. Why? A few reasons:

  • As good as he was, last year wasn’t a total outlier, either. Carlson racked up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 2014-15, which was tied for fifth best among blue liners that year.
  • He was at his best last season skating with trade deadline addition Michal Kempny. Kempny, of course, also re-upped, agreeing to a four-year extension. So, in theory, Carlson should be able to pick up where he left off.
  • Carlson has credited Todd Reirden with helping him take his game to new heights. Well, Reirden is now the guy in charge of the whole operation. How could that not help?
  • A major reason Carlson puts up so many points is his role on the power play. And that unit, which really hit its stride in the postseason (29.3-percent), returns all five skaters.
  • Carlson has also been pretty durable, which is critical to being productive. In fact, last season he skated in all of the Caps’ games for the sixth time in eight full-time seasons.

So, yeah, it’s all setting up nicely for Carlson to have a strong 2018-19.

To me, the only unknown is whether he’ll have the same hunger and determination now that he’s got long-term security and that previously elusive championship ring.

Again, that’s impossible to predict. But I can tell you this: Over the course of two decades in this business, I’ve covered lots of players who inked life-changing contracts. With a few of them, I had immediate concerns.

I have no such reservations about Carlson's ability to play up to his new deal, particularly in the first several seasons of it.

JJ: There's nothing wrong with a player being motivated by a new deal, but I am always wary when players have career years on the last year of their contract.

The issue is whether or not a player can continue to play at the level they showed when a new contract is no longer a motivating factor. After signing a new deal for eight years and $64 million, Carlson won't have to think about money or contracts for a long time.

When it comes to motivation, a lot of the questions surrounding the Capitals this year will depend on how they react to winning the Cup. Of course everyone wants to repeat, but psychologically will they come into camp more motivated than ever to defend their title or will they be satisfied with finally winning it all?

For Carlson, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Tarik went over a number of those reasons above, but the two biggest for me are Michal Kempny and Todd Reirden.

This season, Carlson will have Kempny as his partner to start, rather than a cycle of practically every left-handed defenseman on the ice depending on the situation. Second, what Mitch Korn is to goalies, Reirden is to defensemen. With him as the head coach, I believe the ceiling for Carlson will only continue to climb.

Let's also go beyond the numbers. Matt Niskanen suffered an injury early last season that forced Carlson into a primary role on both ends of the ice. He was playing nearly 30 minutes a night and, with two rookies on the blue line who Barry Trotz did everything he could to shelter, those were very hard minutes. Yet, Carlson excelled. The offensive upside was always there, but the way he played defensively was a revelation.

While Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen will remain a solid pair for the Caps, I believe Carlson will be the guy heading into the season which will mean more minutes and more responsibility.

Plus, despite what he meant to the team's defense and despite leading all defensemen in points with 68, Carlson was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game, he was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and he was not among the four defensemen named to the end of season All-Star team. His incredible season earned him no recognition at all other than his new contract. A $64 million contract is a heck of a consolation prize, but his season deserved more recognition than that.

You don't often see a player of his caliber enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but Carlson should have a fairly sizable one.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?
Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?
Has Evgeny Kuznetsov made the jump from really good player to superstar?