Proper Utilization

Robert’s article yesterday revolved around one of the remaining pieces from last year’s Dion Phaneuf trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs in Matt Stajan.  Along with Niklas Hagman, Stajan is one of the two remaining players acquired, with Tom Kostopoulos and Anton Babchuk loosely affiliated as well.  The other two players are heading into game six of a second round series with the Red Wings on Tuesday night, in Ian White and Jamal Mayers.  One of those two guys is having some rather nice postseason success.

Mayers has resembled the same player he was here in Calgary, a guy who can’t play anything higher than bottom three minutes, and a guy who isn’t going to contribute much on the ice.  In fact, he was scratched for Sunday’s loss at home to Detroit, so we’ll kind of skip in this article.  However, Ian White is a much more interesting case study.

I wasn’t really broken up to see White go when he was traded early this season along with Brett Sutter in exchange for the aforementioned Tommy Nonstopoulos and Babchuk.  White just wasn’t working as a member of the Flames, mostly because of how he was being utilized by Head Coach Brent Sutter.  The mobile and offensively inclined White wasn’t, and never will be, suited to play tough, shutdown type minutes, which he was doing a lot of.  In fact, Sutter had White penciled in beside Robyn Regehr for much of his time in Calgary, which just wasn’t a smart move.

Ian posted a career high 38 points last season split between the Maple Leafs and Flames, mostly because of how Ron Wilson used him in the blue and white.  Even with a marked change in duties upon his arrival in Calgary following the January 31st trade, White still finished the 2009-10 season with a 57.9% offensive zone start, which was the 10th highest number among regular defenders last year.  He was utilized in the same manner guys like Michael Del Zotto, Brian Campbell and Keith Yandle were, and he had success because of it.

You really couldn’t do anything but question the move to continue playing White with Regehr as the season went along, because while Regehr thrives in the toughest of situations, White barely treaded water on most nights in the role.  He was easy to move to Carolina, and the results weren’t much better there, and all of a sudden the tide seemed to turn upon his arrival in northern California.  In 23 regular season games with the Sharks, White posted ten points, and he’s put up six more in ten playoff games, earning lots of mainstream media talk along the way.  So why does it look like White is having more success in San Jose?  It’s simple…utilization.

White plays on the third pairing with favorite Nic Wallin, and both are fed high offensive starts, with White up over 58% to this point.  They typically see the softest of competition from the other side, and with a concerted effort from Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan to give his pending UFA defenceman favorable situations, he’s looked really good in the process.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, not one bit.

If you’ve got a guy who can thrive in certain situations, why not pander to his strengths?  That’s what Wilson did for 56 games last season in Toronto, and that’s what McClellan has done since White’s arrival in teal.  With blueliners like Dan Boyle and Doug Murray to carry most of the heavy loud in front, it’s a luxury that’s nice to have.  And yet, it wasn’t as if the Flames didn’t have the same luxury when  White was here.  With Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester available to shoulder a lot of weight, White could have done some nice things on the third pairing, and the team could have let his contract expire at the end of the season and part ways.  They didn’t, oh well…but there’s a reason why White is having a nice playoffs so far.  Whether it was Brent or Darryl Sutter’s decision to play White in difficult spots, it wasn’t one that set him up for a ton of success with the Flames.

  • Whether it was Brent or Darryl Sutter’s decision to play White in difficult spots

    Given what has been implied post-Darryl about the brothers relationship, plus the fact that Brent seems to have gotten a lot less stupid absent his older brother, I think we can safely say Darryl had some part on White’s utilization in town.

    • Makes sense. Darryl was going to show all of us that he was right. “You don’t like the deal, I’ll show you!” That’s why he paid stajan so much so quickly and that’s probably why White was given top minutes.

    • Makes sense. Darryl was going to show all of us that he was right. “You don’t like the deal, I’ll show you!” That’s why he paid stajan so much so quickly and that’s probably why White was given top minutes.

    • I wouldn’t. I’d still rather see the trade not happen, and I’d still rather see White’s money just expire scott free.

      I said it at the time, and as much as I liked TK and Babs on the team, who knows if Babs is back and Kostopoulos is 30+ with another year on his deal.

      Could have $3 mil in savings, instead you got $2 mil.

      • It’s impossible to know now, but I suspect if White was given Babchuk minutes during his time here, he would have put up somewhat comparable offensive numbers and not have been a dumpster fire in his own end.

        That said, Babchuk caught a great run of bounces when he arrived, so technically the Flames may have come out on top on the back-end as a matter of chance.

      • icedawg_42

        Good point re: White’s contract simply expiring, but I definitely have no problem with what TK brought to the table..and as long as they dont overpay Babchuck here, i’m ok with that too. I dont “dislike” White, but im not a fan either.

  • First Name Unidentified

    thanks for the shoutout.

    ps: wallin and white had a godawful game last night…. and from my eye, wallin was actually doing a pretty decent job of clearing the crease, which means white + forwards weren’t gettin’ it done.

  • icedawg_42

    I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaack! This time for real, so thank you to that poser from a few post ago. Really Flames fan? YOu have to pretend to be me, to get me back?

    ANyways looks for KING KES to win us the series tonight! Before Kent decided to block me for no reason, I TOLD You all how impressive Kesler is. BEST player in the playoffs this year bar none! Face it Flames you want him.

    Matt Stajan? Was Sutter drunk when he made that trade? I know 960 wont address it, so face the reality Flames fan. I have no proof and all there are is rumors, but DIon had to be moved. So Sutter pannicked and took the first offer he got. Are you telling me if other teams knew Dion was on the block, they wouldn’t have made an offer? Philly?

    Anyways Stajan is terrible! Nice contract too.

    GO VAN GO!

    What’s with all the green men bashing? Really classy. Those guys are the most entertaining thing I’ve seen in sports in a time. DOn’t you guys have a dog who’s been stale since 1990?

    Stop posing me as Flames fan and either join the Van nation or fix your team. DO you still have an “interim GM”? BAHAHAHA. WOW

    • Yup, Kesler is a great player and if the ’03 draft had been redone, I wouldn’t complain if he had been taken by Sutter (although Richards, Bergeron, or Getzlaf would’ve been awesome, too). We’re also all very aware of how awful the Phaneuf trade was, and still quite bitter about it, thank you.

  • First Name Unidentified

    AS much as I hated the Phaneuf trade, I was pretty OK about the White trade. I really liked the grit TK brought to the team (especially the one punch knock-out of Bieksa) and whatever Babs did on the ice, whether scoring on the PP or block shots towards the season-end. I would take Babs over White any day.

    The Sharks’ defence is terrible, made more evident by the Wings’ comeback wins last 2 games, back-to-back. Boyle, White, and Wallin are most of the times pitching into offensive zones as forwards. I think Vlasik is their best D. Anyway, my point is, White is playing with a new contract in mind. In the long run, he is just an average run-of-the-mill player. He would get destroyed if he had to play a playoff series against teams like Bruins or Flyers. We don’t need average players, we have plenty of those. In fact, barring 4-5 players, entire Flames roster is average to below average to terrible!