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 hitthepost.ca 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.