April 08 2014 10:07AM
Most of you probably missed it, but the Carolina Hurricanes re-signed young defender Justin Faulk to a 6-year, $4.83 million deal at the end of March. That's significant because Faulk is a strong comparable to the Flames own T.J. Brodie.
And THAT'S significant because when Brodie was re-signed last summer, the length and amount of his potential new deal was a contentious point in Calgary. The Flames came out and said they were only interested in a short-term, bridge type deal. I came out and elucidated why I thought it would make sense to lock-up Brodie with a Roman Josi (and now Justin Faulk) like contract and was literally called insane by some of the, err, more legitimate media members here in town.
Less than one year out and a player the same age and with comparable (although not quite as impressive) results signs long-term for nearly 5 bills a year. It will only take a bit of a cap increase and another marginal step forward by Brodie next year to get him over that threshold.
So who is crazy now?
- I mentioned this comparable on twitter at the time and some balked at my mentioning Brodie in the same company as Faulk, but the truth is TJ is probably the better player. Here is each guy's pertinent numbers this year for example:
|Player||Points||ES ice||PP ice||TOTAL ice||rel corsi||qual comp||ZS%|
In the table: points, even strenght ice time per game, PP ice per game and total ice per game. After that we have relative corsi (possession rate) and quality of competition and zone start.
As you can see, Brodie has scored more, played more and played in more difficult circumstances than Faulk. The Flames youngster starts way more often in his own zone, plays less on the powerplay and drives possession to a greater degree.
This isn't meant to denounce Faulk, who is a pretty good player at 23 years old. It's just to show that Brodie's results are not only comparable but at least as good, if not superior.
- That means Brodie will probably be worth whatever he gets in his next deal anyways, so the news isn't terrible. Unfortunately, the club likely could have had him at a steep discount if they had been willing to take a bit of gamble on the kid last off-season.
- I'm not going to say much about the Maple Leafs collapse except this - those of you who sent me messages and comments talking about how Toronto had exposed the short-comings of possession-based analysis owe me an apology ;)
- Nominally connected to the Brodie discussion is this article from Tyler Dellow, looking at Dallas Eakins struggle to reconcile the old school hunger for big, tough defensemen with the emerging trend towards the more nimble, puck moving types (like Brodie).
I mention this because watching the Brodie and Mark Giordano become perhaps the best first pairing the club has seen since Lepold and Regehr, it struck me that this is the dawning of the age of the puck mover. Once upon a time the prototypical defenseman was the hulking behemoth (think: Derian Hatcher) who could clear the crease and put the fear of god into opposition forwards.
As evidenced by the Eakins struggle in the linked piece, that mindset still kind of exisits, but I think it is rapidly receding before mounting evidence. Duncan Keith might win his second Norris trophy this year. A glance at the best defenders in the league and numerous top pairings around the NHL almost universally yields players who can skate and move the puck. On the other hand, there are very few plodding "defensive defensemen" at the top of the rotation anymore. Even the few bigger bodies appearing atop the average total ice charts are also guys who can move the puck or score.
Which isn't to say tough or mean guys don't belong in the league anymore. It's just those can't be your only - or even primary - assets as a blueliner anymore.
- Finally, it's kind of hilarious that the Flames are trying to lose and their goalies are thwarting the tank job by standing on their heads. I don't mean the org is telling their guys to take a dive or anything, but the personnel decisions are clearly, um, more geared towards "player evaluation" than to icing an optimized line-up. The entire bottom half of Calgary's roster is below replacement level (rookies and enforcers galore) and last night I saw Brian McGrattan on the ice in the final minute of one goal game for the first time...well, ever.
Not that I'm condemning the Flames for their roster decisions. There's absolutely no reason for vets to be playing through injuries or for Hartley to shorten the bench given the incentives the team faces, but it's a bit of a cruel joke to see Ramo and MacDonald putting up first star performances when the games don't matter (and, in fact, wins are technically not ideal).
Oh well. The one bit of good news about this is that Ramo's numbers are starting to look at least like an average NHL starter. His ES SV% is now .923 on the season, which puts him right inside the top-15 amongst goalies who have played at least 30 games this year.
That said, Ramo has only seen about 700 shots at ES so far, which is still a relative drop in the bucket sample size wise when trying to nail down a goalie's true talent level. It's a good sign, however.