As the draft approaches on Friday, I figured it’d be good to get the final two pending Flames UFA’s out of the way. So far, we’ve covered Conroy, Higgins and Nystrom, with debate going both ways on each guy. I think the final two will have much less debate surrounding them, as we move to Jamal Mayers and Brian McGrattan.
One question needs to be asked before asking anymore when it comes to McGrattan: will the Flames coaching and management braintrust see a value in a one dimensional, enforcer-only role? If the answer is no, end of story, McGrattan can look for work elsewhere. If the answer is yes, I guess we can have a little bit more of a conversation.
Hockey wise, he won’t do much for you…if anything. Yes, he had the one game in the retro jerseys, I know. McGrattan averaged 3:26 of ice time in 34 games last year, and he got you four points. You can’t play him in anything but garbage time, and even then, he has to be managed correctly (over 70% of his starts came in the offensive zone). But this paragraph can be short, because he’s not signed by anyone to help your hockey team in that manner.
McGrattan is on your team to fight. And he did that last season. 14 times in 34 games McGrattan dropped the gloves, with virtually every heavyweight you can think of. He got his face messed up in November in a bout with Toronto’s Colton Orr, but then again, he KO’d Vancouver’s Darcy Hordichuk in October. According to HockeyFights.com, McGrattan compiled a 9-2-3 record in those fights…however, fight results are not what we’d call a counting stat.
Look, dude does his job. He had no use to the Flames past January 25th, and he didn’t get a sniff of game action in the final 3 months of the season. He was always the last forward on the drill list at practice, and even when injuries creeped in, he was the oddest of the odd men out. That leads me to believe the coaching staff doesn’t see a whole lot of value to him. If that’s the case, allocate the $500,000 elsewhere. I’m not getting into the debate on if the enforcer has a role…but if Darryl Sutter believes it does, knock yourself out, re-sign McGrattan.
For me, this is pretty easy. And, you’ll notice it’s a bit of a change in tune, going back to a previous article I wrote about what I liked from Mayers. However, he’ll turn 36 in October, he’s not going to do much offensively, and he can hurt you at times. His numbers last year weren’t pretty…he started 53.8% of the time in the offensive zone, yet had the second-worst rating when it comes to shots directed at the net, sitting at -11.37. Now, granted, some of that comes from 44 games with Toronto, but that rating would have put him second last among regular Leafs as well. If you don’t buy into those numbers, go back and look at Kent’s scoring chance data – Mayers was severely outplayed at even strength in his time with the Flames. The numbers are downright scary, and it becomes worse knowing that he wasn’t used in defensive role, and wasn’t playing against tough opposition.
His cap hit was $1.33 million last season and whoever signs him will surely do it at a significantly lower price. When you look at all the above factors together, it’s my contention that Calgary should not be the team to sign him. With ten forwards under contract for next season, the Flames have three lines and part of a fourth already complete. Add in the expected signing of RFA forward Brett Sutter and the prospect of re-signing one of the other UFA forwards, and I’m not sure how Mayers fits. I’d put any of Higgins, Conroy and Nystrom ahead of Mayers on the priority list.
It’s not say I don’t think Mayers has no good qualities. I like what he brings physically, as he’s not going to shy away from engaging with whoever he’s out against. He’s one of the first guys willing to drop the gloves, and he gives a team some toughness. But those qualities can’t balance out the fact that Mayers isn’t going to help you much, and probably hurts you far more often than you’d like. Even at a severely reduced rate, I think it’s the right move for the Flames to part ways with Mayers.
So, there’s the rundown of potential UFA players for the Flames. Now it’s full on to the NHL Entry Draft, as FlamesNation.ca will be on location filing reports, opinion pieces, and behind-the-scenes pictures.
It should be a lot of fun.
Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/