NAME: Matt Carle
Regular Season Statistics: 80 Games Played – 6 Goals, 29 Assists, 35 Points. +19.
Analysis: This season marked the coming out party for the former Hobey Baker Award winner at the University of Denver. Matt Carle was undoubtedly the Flyer that benefited most from the team bringing in future Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Pronger last off-season. Carle was paired with Pronger for the better part of the regular season, and as a result, submitted his second-best statistical season of his five-year NHL career, but best season thusfar as a member of the Flyers. He provided speed to Pronger’s brute strength as well as an offensive edge, which made the two of them a pretty strong defensive pairing not only on the Flyers, but across the entire NHL. It’s hard to explain unless you watch it unfold live, but there is a strange sense of calmness whenever Carle and Pronger were out on the ice together – almost a feeling that the Flyers simply couldn’t be scored on when that pair was on the ice. The extreme elevation in Carle’s game this year is a big reason why he brought himself into the upper-half of the NHL’s defenseman this season.
Postseason Statistics: 23 Games Played – 1 Goal, 12 Assists, 13 Points. +6.
Analysis: Carle’s worth was truly proved during the Flyers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final. He was unbelievable for the Flyers night after night, being asked to log nearly six minutes more a game than he had in the regular season, yet still being a consistently effective player for the Orange and Black in the playoffs. It was the longest playoff run of Carle’s career, and thus he posted career numbers across the board when competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His lone goal came in the 5-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final that evened up the series at the time at two games a-piece. Carle was able to steal a clearing attempt off the stick of Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjarlmarsson and deposit the puck into the empty net to make the score 2-0 Flyers at the time. Although the Flyers would go on to lose the Final in six games, Carle was hardly at fault. He had a sensational playoffs, building off an even better regular season.
FINAL GRADE: A
Reasoning: I like Matt Carle. A lot. He’s a very strong defenseman who will only get better under Chris Pronger’s watch. I know many of you will look at that “A” and say that it was very generous and believe me, I see where you’re coming from. But understand this: Carle was arguably the Flyers’ second best defenseman in the playoffs – if not in a deadlock tie with Kimmo Timonen – and he is still growing as a player. He offers the lucrative combination of being a significant offensive contributor on the blue-line, while also battling hard in the defensive end and not getting caught out of position often. Not to mention, Carle plays disciplined hockey: he tallied only 16 minutes of penalty time in the regular season and 8 throughout the entire playoffs. There’s no doubt about it in my mind: Carle is an exceptional piece to the Flyers’ core for the future and it’s my hope that he’ll be in Orange and Black for a long, long time.