Every weekday for the next few weeks, we’ll be looking back at a different regular member of the Leafs’ season that was. Today, we kick things off with Connor Carrick.
Potential is a funny, funny beast. You want every player to be chock full of it but when they fall short of a preconceived mark, they end up becoming a disappointment. It’s a delicate balance.
Connor Carrick is still relatively young and given his track record should be finally coming into his own. He has great shot differential numbers but horrible luck when it comes to shooting percentage. He is a pretty good puck moving player, while having a touch of grit to his game as well. He is an amalgamation of a lot of hockey traits, yet, he leaves you wanting a little bit more.
It makes evaluating a player like him even more difficult. You know that he has more to give but at what point do you just accept the player for what they are?
As stated above, you have to love what he does with his shot differential. He is a net positive on all fronts. He has done a great job relative to his teammates as well. This goes all the way back to his first 34 games with the Capitals as well. When he is on the ice, the puck is normally on the offensive end of the ice. No matter how you feel about his output offensively, this is invaluable. Especially when you consider his amount of ice time, you can’t be too upset with his play.
While grit and jam aren’t as necessary in the modern NHL, Carrick can throw a hit when he has to and it is another element of his game that opponents have to account for.
Despite getting favorable zone starts and being in the offensive zone more than any other defensemen on the team, he doesn’t put up points. He only posted eight points on the season and only two of those are goals. He was a victim of a poor shooting percentage this year, yet you can’t blame that all on him. His PDO was right where it should be and it is tough to see where he can grow his game.
As the Leafs keep improving, surely his offense will go up. He needs to improve himself to get more ice time as well. It’s a chicken and egg type scenario. Mike Babcock can be picky at times when picking the defensemen he wants to play.
If his ice time remains stagnant, he isn’t going to score more. If he is trusted with more ice time, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to see him putting up 20+ points in a season. He just has to stay healthy first.
As the league and an analytically based team like the Leafs continue to grow, players like Carrick are going to be very valuable. Being stuck with third pairing ice time though doesn’t give him a chance to be more of a difference maker. It remains to be seen if he can be one but his shot differential numbers are encouraging.
It’s a tough scenario for him to be in, he is supposed to be in his proverbial “prime” yet nothing indicates that he is going to be an offensive dynamo in line with other players on the team. It may be time to adjust expectations offensively. His shooting percentage will rebound, it won’t change the thought process of the player though.
Getting Babcock’s trust is going to be the first step. After that, we may get a better idea of what he brings to the team in the long-term. Until then he’s a useful asset that brings just what the Leafs need with his ice time.