A Case For Cory Sarich


I’m not a huge Sarich fan. I think he’s capable enough when he focuses on the small things, but he’s slow, not very agile, and provides little to no offense. That said, the Flames should absolutely look into re-signing the blueliner.

A lot of Flames fans and writers seem to think Sarich is indicative of the problems that plague the Flames – this is true, to an extent. His cap hit is (or was) too large for what he brings (or rather, doesn’t) to the team, and that limits who Calgary can bring in to fill in on the blueline. He represents the classic Darryl Sutter style of management, which is to say "Bigger and harder hitting is better" regardless of skating ability. So while Cory Sarich is a fine example of these two basic problems, he’s hardly the larger problem itself.

As a UFA this year, the first issue is easily fixed: Sarich clearly isn’t in line for a pay raise and the Flames could probably have him for something in the realm of $1M. With the salary cap likely to go up again, can anyone really argue that $1M is way out of line with what Sarich should be earning?

The second issue, in a sense, was already fixed by the Flames last season. Sarich was given slightly tough zone starts (47.8%- sixth toughest on the team among skaters with at least 30 games) and slightly easy competition (8th easiest on the team). How’d he do with that ice time? Better than you’d expect: Sarich ended up with the second highest Relative Corsi on the Flames at +12.0 (his most frequent partner, Brodie, was first at +17.0, though in slightly easier minutes).

Bang for the Buck

So while it’s clear Sarich isn’t Nik Lidstrom in terms of longevity as a quality NHL player, he’s certainly not a liability in limited minutes. Still, there has to be a better defenseman for the bottom of the pairings, right? Actually, not particularly. There’s plenty of roughly "equal" players, but most of them will cost more and are less familiar with the team and the city.

Sarich, on the other hand, will almost certainly come cheap for the Flames. It’s also worth noting he’s not an "Anton Babchuk" bottom pairing defender either – he can play 16 minutes a game and not be an absolute trainwreck given his decent possession numbers. Babchuk, for the sake of contrast, began more often in the offensive zone and saw easier competition than Sarich and ended up with a worse relative corsi rate (-2.8/60).

The real reason to resign Sarich, however, is one of hockey philosophy. The Flames won’t gain anything by letting him walk to another team. Sarich on the Flames is not a question of rebuilding or not rebuilding he could likely be had for a cool $1M, which wouldn’t preclude the Flames from signing other players. If he stays, the Flames have a known quantity who’s not a complete liability for cheap. He’s familiar with the city, management, and the rest of the Flames.

Sarich isn’t a player hockey operations should expend more than a modicum of energy trying to re-sign, but if he’s happy to stay at a low cost, there’s more reasons to do so than not.

  • Some decent points. Allow me to counter though.

    First, Sarich doesn’t really fill a need on the team. Calgary is already swimming in bottom pairing defenders – TJ Brodie, Anton Babchuk, Derek Smith, Clay Wilson (one-way deal next year).

    Second, he’s at the age where performance for slow, physical defenders really starts to drop off. He turned 33 last August and will be 34 in September.

    He’s a dude that battles chronic injury every year as well.

    It wouldn’t be a terrible error to re-sign for one year for cheap, but…

  • jeremywilhelm

    Wow, Kent is a great boss 🙂 , calling out your work in a public forum in your first week. Kent throw your resume in for the head coaching job!

    Kidding aside, I would resign Sarich as the number 7 if the price tag is low and Babchuk is gone (also if they let Hannan go). If Sarich is sheltered properly, he could be of great use against deep offensive teams (ahem Vancouver).

  • CitizenFlame

    He is also one of the few players on the Flames defence last year that hit anybody. At least with Sarich teams need to recognize he’s on the ice. Calgary doesn’t have the element currently.

  • I agree with both you and Arik actually

    Depending on how free agency goes, if Sarich sits on the market a little longer there could be value there.

    What I worry about is attitude. There were some dust ups this season with Sarich sitting in the press box. I worry about jading some of our promising young players. I would hate for Baertschi to lose that swagger and Horak to lose his excitement level.

    Its tough to gauge how having a sour vet would impact other players, but its not something I want to test. If Sarich comes back, his role has to be well defined, as well as what he needs to do to win more responsibility. To have a meritocracy players have to understand it and where they fit in. I think the team has been missing that in recent years.

  • I think Clay Wilson takes Sarich’s spot as the 7th guy next year. Again this is now Feasters team, he has no ties to any of the players Daryl brought in. So beyond any reason than Sarich has been here for a long time we won’t be seeing Sarich back next season. He is very easily replaced by any number of younger more mobile players and other than nostalgia there is really no reason to bring him back.

  • BobB

    I agree with Kent, and I actually really like Cory. I don’t like his contract, but I do like his game.

    Unfortunately, that game is very limited today and I think that he’d be better suited in a environment that can use his skillset to less detriment.

    The Flames are not going to suffer not having Cory in the lineup, and if they do, it doesn’t really matter.

    I’d rather see the spot go to someone young who could either really fail, or exceed expectations.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Sarich is a dime a dozen player right now. If he could be had for a Mill, sure, sign him up, but honestly, his production and position on the team is easily replaced.

    That also of course depends on the coach, Sarich was little utilized on the PK, where, arguably, he should be utilized. But Brent didn’t trust him. Probably because he isn’t very mobile.

  • T&A4Flames

    I love Sarich; he is, as has been said, one of the only physical threats on the back end. CGY really needs that element. I don’t believe, like ‘Clay’ does, that he would have a poor attitude. If anything I think he would be the consumate professional. That said, like any other player, he wants to play, and it would be tough for him to sit. If he realizes that may be all he is going to get and he’s ok with that, then, yes, I would sign him for 1mil with hopes you can parlay him into a pick at the deadline.

    I would prefer CGY to try to get someone like Wideman 1st though. Perhaps a trade to aquire someone like Luke Schenn. What would we have to add to get Schenn if we took Komiserak as well? Babchuk, Smith + ? I know people don’t like the idea of bringing back another albatros of a contract, but getting a good young physical right shooting D man I think could be worth it. We are not winning the cup in the next 2 years, afterall and we have cap space. Short term pain for long term gain. Plus, if Komi finds his game alongside Brodie, he may just come close to his salary.

    Bouwmeester- Butler

    Giordano- Schenn

    Brodie- Komiserak

    Looks pretty good to me and we still have plenty of cap space left.

  • Arik

    Schenn is terrible. Never Schenn. Let Edmonton take (and suffer) him.

    @Everyone I’d hardly be broken up if Calgary didn’t re-sign Sarich, I just think at the right cost it’d be more prudent than a lot of the knee-jerking I’ve seen about him on Twitter would suggest.

    While the Flames have plenty of bottom pairing defensemen, they all tend to be cut from the same cloth- offense first, defense rarely. Sarich isn’t the most mobile, but he knows what’s what.

    Of course, I’m also assuming Babchuk is gone next year through the magic of amnesty clauses.

  • T&A4Flames


    Schenn had a bad year for sure but he is still very young and is big, physical and strong. He also has a good point shot. A change of venue may help. It’s the “buy low, sell high” concept that we always seem to be on the wrong side of. Schenn has that “P” word that get’s tossed around…potential.

    Besides, playing with Phaneuf couldn’t have helped his abilities a whole lot.

    • Schenn almost never played with Phaneuf this year. Dion was doing the heavy lifting. Schenn was pretty much a second/third pairing defender.

      His underlying numbers stink even though his circumstances weren’t bad. The only good thing you can say about Schenn is he is young and was picked high in the draft.

      Unfortunately, the Leafs signed him for $3.6M/year and his contract extends until 2015. That’s a lot of cake to bet on potential alone – particularly since his ceiling isn’t all that high given his lack of offense and two-way ability.

      No thanks on Luke Schenn.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    It’s because he’s replaceable that he won’t be back, regardless of the price. Put yourself in Feaster’s shoes who is trying to put his stamp on this team.

    I doubt he will use a roster spot to re-sign an aging ‘Darryl’ defender, when change & youth is the mantra in cowtown right now.

    Not saying it would be a terrible move at that price – just don’t see it happening – at all.

  • T&A4Flames

    @Kent Wilson

    Ok, fair enough. I wasn’t trying to key in on Schenn, it was meant more as an example. We have cap space for the 1st time in a long time. Instead of wasting it on high, costly risks in free agency, which doesn’t seem to be offering a lot this summer, I would be ok with CGY aquiring a poor contract that will be up in 1 or 2 years as long as that player is servicable and more importantly, brings in a good young player.

    There are a few FA that I would like CGY to go after but not many. To aquire FA’s you almost always overpay and in our situation, we would most certainly have to to get any quality.

  • Arik

    For those saying that Sarich is a Sutter guy and Feaster doesn’t want Sutter guys anymore, keep in mind that Feaster was on the Tampa Bay team that traded for Sarich in 2000 and re-signed Sarich in 2001.

    More importantly, Feaster himself re-signed Sarich in 2004.

    In other words, Sarich has spent more time on Feaster teams than he has on a Sutter team. Not sure how much that matters (especially since Feaster didn’t resign him in 06), but it’s worth keeping in mind.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Arik – very good points. I do have a soft spot for Sarich although I believe he is too immobile, takes stupid penalties and is not going to get any better.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing him back for ~1M. He can play 10-11 mins a night, keep his legs reasonably fresh and make those 2-3 big hits a night.

    Couple of points in his favor:
    1) He is a great locker room guy, very popular and a very good leader.

    2) He is one of the very few guys here who has a Ring. I still believe he is a pure playoff guy, and unfortunately he didn’t get to play too much in the playoffs here in Calgary.

    And please don’t even mention Schenn. He is pure terrible. I would take Carson (I hope he comes back healthy) over Schenn any day.

  • First Name Unidentified

    I didnt say he did have one, but this year on a couple of occassions where it was suggested (story that he asked for a trade, and several times he showed frustration when asked about playing time.

  • Graham

    I think you can make a case, and maybe a solid case for retaining Sarich at the right price (cheap).

    However, you can say much the say about all of our free agents, from Jokinen on down. The concern being that we actually do resign a bunch of the same guys…and by default end up with a similar looking squad to last year.

  • Counter-proposal.

    Let Sarich go, and pick up a 25-year-old who isn’t getting opportunities where they already are, and use the same 7th-D-man roster spot on him instead.

    If he works out – awesome!

    If he doesn’t work out – try another, knowing that Sarich (or someone comparable) will likely be available on waivers anyway.

  • everton fc

    True, Sarich is easily replaced. And I think you could give one of the Abby d-menaBut I’d re-sign him dirt-cheap, and keep him as a 6-7 option.

    As for Babchuk… Pray he goes to the KHL. Pray they can take him and his contract.

    Pray for this…

    Of course, Babchuk can always be parked in the minors, or waived. We could really use the roster spot.

    As for Stajan, seems we are sutck with his contract. So let’s “group prayer” for his turning into at least the player he was in T.O.

    As for Clay Wilson, I liked the things Ward has said about him during the tale-end of the season, right into the playoffs. He seems a pretty focused guy. Perhaps he has a shot at making the big-team next season.

  • MC Hockey

    @ Graham re: “I think you can make a case, and maybe a solid case for retaining Sarich at the right price (cheap).

    However, you can say much the say about all of our free agents, from Jokinen on down. The concern being that we actually do resign a bunch of the same guys…and by default end up with a similar looking squad to last year.”

    YES, EXACTLY….if you never let vets go, young guys don’t get a chance and then you get another Tim Erixon “I won’t get a real shot there” situation!! Here is my “please let them go for various reasons” list (mainly age and injury/surgery status):

    On defense – Sarich, Hannan (like him over Cory however). Replacements could be two of: Clay Wilson, Bret Carson (less likely), Chris Breen (very unlikley), or a UFA (praying for this one like Suter, Wideman, Carle, BJackman.

    At forward – Jokinen, Moss, Kostopolous, Comeau (just not impressed), and neutral on Stempniak (streaky). Replacements: OUR YOUNG GUYS!

  • jeremywilhelm

    Clay Wilson is much like any of the 6-7 guys, 10-12 ES mins and 1-2 PP mins a game, and thats it. He just isn’t that great of a Dman in his own zone.

  • T&A4Flames


    I heard the same story and saw some of the same frustrations. I just think it was blown out proportion and Sarich would remain professional around his teamates. I also believe that his teamates would understand his frustrations; he wants to play.

    It still goes back to him understanding that if he signs again in CGY, he will be a 7th Dman at best.

  • T&A4Flames

    I think you are overrating Sarich using the advanced stats as well. His 47.8% zonestart is not tough at all considering Flames defencemen with 30 or more GP were, on average, a 48.2% zone start. The fact it is under 50 should have no bearing on his CorsiRel.

    The CorsiRel is almost all attributable to the soft competition (5th out of Defenders with 30 or more GP).

    Even with 3rd pairing competition, he barely managed to get the ice on the right side of ice with a corsi percentage of 51%. So, soft competition and barely able to keep the play out of the Flames end of the ice. Brodie was 51.5% and Smith was 48.1% and they have much more potential to move up from there.

    I think Kent is right here, don’t even waste a million on him. Focus those funds on getting a legit 2-3 guy to either play with Bouwmeester or to allow Giordano to move up to the top pair.

  • MC Hockey

    @ JW re: “I don’t know how anyone could not like Comeau. It baffles me.” Well, he was drafted to score some and check too…don’t think he does well enough in either areas…that simple. If the Islanders waived him, there could be a problem.