August 11 2014 08:30AM
Jiri Hudler was Calgary's leading scorer last year, putting up 54 points for the Flames. It's the most points he's had in the NHL since 2008-09. However, he was a bit enigmatic, often playing invisibly and occasionally appearing and doing something cool in the offensive zone.
What can we expect from Hudler in 2014-15? It probably depends on how he's used.
|Season||Corsi %||Corsi Rel %||PDO
Historically, Hudler is a carryable player. He's not amazing possession-wise; he won't carry anybody to greatness, and he won't sink his line. Over the past four years, he spent two with Detroit and two with Calgary. Based on his Corsi % you can probably pick which was which, but if you ignore that his numbers look roughly the same across the board.
HUDLER'S 2013-14 NUMBERS
Jiri Hudler's 2013-14 season was spent primarily as an on-ice mentor for guys like Mikael Backlund, who eventually drifted away from his tutelage and turned out just fine, and Sean Monahan. Monahan and Hudler both gelled well together, inasmuch as Monahan also seemed to disappear for stretches at even-strength and then appear with great effect in the offensive zone. And both had crazy-high shooting percentages: Hudler shot 15.6% on 109 shots, while Monahan was slightly better at 15.7% on 140 shots.
In terms of stats, Hudler had a good year: he led the Flames in points, assists, even-strength primary points, even-strength primary assists, and he had the team's best even-strength on-ice shooting percentage (10.7% of all pucks on net when in for his line) and fifth-best on-ice save percentage (92.2% of all pucks on net were stopped by the Flames goalies).
Aside from playing primarily with Backlund and/or Monahan for most of the year, Hudler received a lot of sheltering. The only "regular" (quarter-season or more) forwards that started more often in the offensive end were Kevin Westgarth, Brian McGrattan and Sven Baertschi, but he was middle-of-the-road for quality of competition (on-par with Curtis Glencross or Paul Byron). His most effective line was when he was used with Monahan and Joe Colborne.
In short: Hudler wasn't Calgary's best possession player and he was given shielded deployments and decent line match-ups by coach Bob Hartley. Yet he produced way better than you'd expect him to given some amazing on-ice shooting and save percentages, and insanely strong shooting percentage in general.
Once again, Calgary has a trio of established centers in camp in the form of Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan and Matt Stajan, so most likely Hudler will be slotted in on the wing once again.
Two key questions fuel expectations for Hudler for 2014-15: will he be as shielded, and will he be as lucky?
The luck question is simple: no, probably not. But Calgary's goal-tending will be better in general due to Jonas Hiller joining the club, so potentially Hudler can maintain his PDO even with a decline in on-ice shooting percentage. And his career shooting percentage is 14.2%, so I wouldn't expect a massive decline, as Hudler's always been pretty opportunistic in the offensive zone.
In terms of shielding? Well, the 2014-15 wingers are likely to be David Jones, Mason Raymond, Curtis Glencross, Joe Colborne, Paul Byron, Brandon Bollig, Brian McGrattan, and probably some combination of Max Reinhart, Markus Granlund and Johnny Gaudreau. Who gets more shielding? Probably Bollig, McGrattan and Gaudreau. Everyone else probably gets rotational assignments based on performance.
In other words, unless Hartley completely changes how he coaches, I can't see Hudler's usage changing a heck of a lot next season. He'll probably get shielded minutes and be the on-ice mentor for the newer pros, potentially for offensively-gifted guys like Gaudreau or Granlund. As such, his zone starts will be tilted quite a bit towards the offensive end and he'll have more chances to be opportunistic with the puck.
And heck, with Mike Cammalleri - arguably Calgary's best pure sniper - gone to New Jersey, Hudler (and his linemates) could potentially get even more sheltered by the coaching staff than they were last season. I'd expect Hudler's numbers to be in the same general ball-park as last season, though a change in his puck luck could drag them down slightly.