Brent Johnson picks John Carlson as greatest defenseman in Capitals history

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Mike DePrisco
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Brent Johnson picks Carlson as greatest defenseman in Caps history originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Is John Carlson already the greatest defenseman in Capitals history?

That question was the subject of a "Deal or No Deal" debate on Capitals Pregame Live Thursday night. While Alan May and Nick Ashooh went with two-time Norris Trophy winner Rod Langway, Brent Johnston went with a more complete D-man in Carlson. 

"You heard Alan say with Rod Langway, you heard him say, 'defensive defenseman,' Johnson said. "To me, it's just defenseman. Rod Langway was just exceptional playing D, he was incredible, but you kind of have to put that into perspective. 

"I say 'Deal' on John Carlson, and the reason for that is all of the things that he does. The smarts, his instincts, he keeps pucks alive at the blue line, he keeps plays alive. I mean, how many goals have [the Caps] scored off of Carlson just keeping the puck alive at the blue line?"

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The stats work in Carlson's favor over Langway. Entering Thursday, Carlson had 499 career points in 12 seasons, which is more than double Langway's 202 points in 16 years in the NHL. That's not to mention the key part Carlson played in the Caps' Stanley Cup run in 2018. 

"We can argue about that word 'defenseman' and what it means but if you look at the game all around, Carly has to be considered at the top of the list," Johnson said. "Not the tippy-top, but the top of my list I would think."

The argument for Langway is a strong one, however. Carlson has yet to claim a Norris Trophy during his career, let alone the two Langway won in back-to-back seasons from 1982-84. It's a reward reserved for the league's top defenseman for a particular season, and for all of Carlson's accomplishments, he's yet to reach that mountaintop. 

"I go back to the Norris trophies Rod won and that's one of the things John hasn't gotten yet," May said. "I just think more time under his belt, he's 31 years old now. By the end of this, we will be saying he's the best defenseman [in Caps history]. He is the best when it comes to points, but I think just right now, continued success, he's gotta win one of those Norris trophies."

At just 31 years old, Carlson has plenty of time to make a run at some more hardware.