Now obviously it would be at least semi-reasonable to throw a blanket over everything with something like a D+ grade for everyone, and I’d probably get very little in the way of argument from anyone who watched this team for 82 games. It wasn’t, to put it lightly, a pretty season.
But not EVERYONE had a bad year. No, no, it’s true. Not everyone did. Odd though that may seem. So today, let’s go through the defense and goaltending to make sure each and every performance is given its due, good OR bad (mostly bad).
(Please note that all players are listed alphabetically, and that each had to have played 33 games, or 40 percent of the season, to get what I consider a fair grade, relative to expectations. Except in the case of goaltenders and players traded to the team, in which case they’re all getting a grade because I don’t care.)
Player: Anton Babchuk
Stats: 65 games played, 8-19-27, plus-18
Summary: Before we start here I have to say that I really liked Anton Babchuk when he was with the Hurricanes. Not irresponsible defensively and he can shoot the puck through a wall. Calgary got a pretty good amount of that outta him as well, as he led the team in plus-minus (a dubious stat because they kind of sheltered him, but what the heck?) and was pretty much exactly what you want out of an offensive D-man who floats between the first and second power play units.
Player: Jay Bouwmeester
Stats: 82 GP, 4-20-24, minus-2
Summary: I get it now. Jay Bouwmeester is being paid too much, not because he’s a bad defenseman, but because he was brought in to play a role that he can’t play. He’s not the great two-way defenseman he was advertised to be. He is, however, one of the best shutdown guys in the league and he devours minutes like Pacman eats white dots. I love Jay Bouwmeester, but I just wish he could score goals half as competently as he’s paid to do.
Player: Mark Giordano
Stats: 82 GP, 8-35-43, minus-8
Summary: One of the very few ultra-shrewd moves Darryl Sutter made was signing this guy long-term for Robyn Regehr money, because he’s a slightly less defensive version of what we all thought Bouwmeester would be. This guy is unreal. Can’t say enough good things about his play, particularly in the offensive zone, and all over the ice as well.
Player: Robyn Regehr
Stats: 79 GP, 2-15-17, plus-2
Summary: You know what’s realllllly crazy? This is almost the exact same season, statistically, that he had last year. Same goals, assists and plus-minus. Almost the same number of shots. Almost the same shooting percentage. Nine seconds short of having the same average TOI. That’s crazy. But at the same time, he also improved his defensive game considerably, at least in my estimation, from a down year in his own zone. And so where I gave him a C- last season, this year I guess I have to bump that up a little bit more than I would have expected. This is exactly the Robyn Regehr we’re going to want to see going forward: not exceeding expectations but definitely meeting them.
Player: Cory Sarich
Stats: 76 GP, 4-13-17, plus-11
Summary: A much better season from Sarich than I think anyone expected. He was never glaringly bad for especially long stretches (though the cry of "What the HECK, Sarich?" was known to escape my lips more than a few times during the course of the season, only it was appreciably stronger than "heck"). He didn’t look completely incompetent in the offensive zone. He kept embarrassing, ECHL-level turnovers to a minimum. He’s still massively overpaid, but we already knew that.
Player: Steve Staios
Stats: 39, 3-7-10, plus-6
Summary: I know I’ve given out a lot of surprisingly good grades here, and… well, I’m about to do it again. I know, I know. Staios, like Sarich, wasn’t a glaringly awful blight on the blue line this year. As with Sarich, he didn’t play nearly as well as his terrible contract stated he should, and he’s just old and slow, but at least he was reliable, which is more than you can say for last year. I mean, $2.7 million should buy you a lot more than this, but at least only like 65 percent of that money was completely flushed down the toilet this time around.
Player: The Rest (TJ Brodie, Brett Carson, Brendan Mikkelson, Adam Pardy and Ian White)
Stats: Pardy almost made the cut with 30 games played.
Summary: None of these guys were especially good or bad. I actually thought Brendan Mikkelson deserved more of a shot than he received, but apparently that view was not shared by a Mr. B. Sutter. I will say this, though: the Ian White experiment was one of the worst things about this season. He was embarrassingly bad, and there’s a reason he’s been on three different NHL teams this season. Again, I know plus-minus is a weak stat, but you almost have to go out of your way to be a minus-10 in 16 games on a team that’s even slightly better than the Oilers. There’s also a reason that the team defense got immediately better after he was shipped out of town.
Player: Miikka Kiprusoff
Stats: 71 GP, 2.63 goals-against average, .906 save percentage
Summary: Those numbers don’t look like they deserve the grade I’m about to give him, but as with last year, if Kiprusoff is even 10 percent worse in any area this season, we’re talking Custer’s Last Stand levels of ugly, unmitigated disaster. He had an awfully bad team in front of him for the first third of the season at least. He’s still very good, but you wonder what the season would have been like if he had one or two fewer ugly nights at the office.
Player: Henrik Karlsson
Stats: 17 GP, 2.58 GAA, .908 sv%
Summary: Pretty good rookie season for the kid, even if he is 42 years old. Unlike last year with McElhinney, you never white-knuckled your way through one of his meager few starts, and people who know a lot about goaltending seem to think he’s a perfectly capable backup going forward as well. If he’s only going to start 10 or so games a year anyway, it can be him, and that’d be fine.
Later this week: forward grades, which won’t be as nice. Then a little after that: coaching and GMing, which will be even worse.